Homework should be banned – it's taking over my kids' lives

‘What do you have to do tonight?’

That’s the first question I ask my two kids, aged nine and 14, when they get in from school. Not how they are, or how their day was – but, inevitably, what homework they’ve been given.

It’s not something I like asking, but it’s necessary so I can plan each evening. Still, hearing how much they’ve got to fit in before bed makes me feel stressed and on edge.

Recently, I was flicking through a newspaper when I saw Kirstie Allsopp of Location, Location, Location fame uttering hallowed words about her distaste for the after school activity.

She said that one of her ‘greatest regrets’ was making her children do homework when they were growing up – and she wished she’d let them off.

‘The tears, the time together lost, for many families [it] causes real, daily unhappiness to no good end,’ she added.

And I agree with her.

My kids do eight hours at school for five days a week, with a 40 minute commute. From the moment they get in, it’s ‘quickly eat, then we can do your homework.’ There’s no time to chat over dinner in my house, or spend quality time together.

For my nine-year-old, it’s not so bad: reading, spellings. But my 14-year-old seems to have bucketloads of the stuff. Once he’s eaten, finished his schoolwork, prepared for the next day and practised music, it’s 10pm. There’s often no down time for him.

Both of my kids have already been to school for a full day of learning, so is homework really that necessary?

Weekends are no exception, with me often sitting down with my daughter to go over her maths and English in more detail.

Julie and her daughter

Those who extol these assignments say that they instill a sense of discipline; teaching children how to manage their own time and schedule properly. Others say it robs kids of their free time, causes rifts in families and is of no use whatsoever when most students are only assessed in exams anyway.

In my household, homework makes my stomach churn. I worry I am missing out on normal things like chatting about their day.

I don’t see what it achieves that reading a text, or a book each night instead, could not. I think this would be better than lots of individual tasks across a plethora of subjects.

After a long day, homework is often when done exhausted, hungry or just tired – and does not glean the best work. The effort might be there, but certainly not the quality. How is that a fair representation of talent?

And how can homework really ever be fair? Some children are supported at home by their parents, who perhaps know a thing or two about certain lessons, some aren’t.

Some live in quiet households where it’s conducive to homework, some live with noisy siblings.

Some live in homes where they’re fed and told to get on with it; others are young carers, having to make their own meals. Some even come home to an empty house, with their parents at work.

I can’t complain about my kids’ school – they’re amazing teachers who work so hard. But sending my kids home with such heavy burdens takes its toll.

I’ve lost count of the number of times my son has said: ‘Can I go swimming? Can I meet a friend? Can I watch this TV programme?’ and I’ve had to say no because he has homework to do.

I try to help where I can, of course. English and history, I’m fine with. But maths? I’m as good as a chocolate teapot.

I even asked a few friends who are teachers what they thought of homework and many agreed that it was a waste of time, adding that they already assess kids enough in school with classwork, coursework and exams.

‘It really is unnecessary,’ one told me guiltily. ‘It really doesn’t count for much.’

I’d like to see a total ban, or if not that, a steep decline in the sheer amount given.

So, next week, as my kids get in, drop their bags and head for the fridge – I’ll try to bite my tongue. Instead of my usual first question, I’ll ask them about their day. Instead of telling them to wolf down dinner to get to the books faster, I’ll encourage a slower meal and a chat over the table.

Because, as Kirstie Allsopp said, we can’t get these years back.

Our kids are only young once, and for so long. Their days are packed with learning and their home should be a haven where they can unwind, and leave school behind.

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