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Adventures in Home Learning

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The battle between home and school

Now clearly homework shouldn’t be a battle for anyone.  OK, who am I kidding?!

Improving attitudes to homework throughout our school community has been on my remit for a couple of years now.  In that time I’ve done a lot of reading of books and web articles, talking to children, looking at parent questionnaires and leading staff discussions.

I haven’t found THE answer – and if I had then I’d be shocked – and maybe rich…  But I think I have found out a lot of useful answers.

1. You will never please everyone
Some of our staff think children should be given lots of homework; some feel that children should be able to enjoy their free time and family lives. Always in questionnaires we have some parents complaining there is too much homework and others too little.  Some children enjoy the opportunity to continue their learning and others are just not interested, or too busy, or disorganised.

2. Be clear about the purpose of the task.
I am working within Y3 at the moment.  Children take home a task sheet in a folder each week.  This term I have taken to explicitly writing the purpose of the task at the top of the sheet.  Not only is this helpful for parents, it also ensure that the task I set HAS a valid purpose.  If it doesn’t, then it shouldn’t be sent home.

3. Allow flexibility
Since the purpose is explicit, it now means that children can undertake a different task of their own devising that achieves the same purpose.  Sometimes I will set one very structured task with an option of one or more open-ended tasks and let the children choose.  It is always made clear whether or not an alternative task is acceptable – and so far this term it always has been.

4. Different children/families like different things
Just because I think an open-ended project is the most exciting form of home learning, doesn’t mean it will fit in well with a busy family schedule.  This is why I have taken to ALWAYS setting a straightforward structure task as an option each week.

5. Reward don’t nag
In the past I have always spent ages chasing up missing homework or sitting in at lunchtime with children who haven’t done theirs.  This term I haven’t really nagged at all.  We use house points in my school so I’ve rewarded children with those as follows:
Bring it in the next day – 3HPS
Bring it in early – 2HPs
Bring it in on time – 1HP
I then award house points for different aspects of their task – ideas, effort, thoughtful presentation, extra tasks – and I’m always explicit as to what they have received each point for.

I have had almost 100% return rate this term.  A couple of children who don’t have the support have asked if they can do their tasks the lunchtime of the day that they’re set with me – which is fine.

6. Give parents enough information to help them support their child
At the end of each task, in Y3 we now have a ‘note to parents’ paragraph.  This gives any useful context to the task, reminds them about speaking with us if there’s a problem and reemphasises how long the task should take and the fact that children can spend longer but shouldn’t be made to; that the task can be completed in a different way and that use of a computer is always allowed!  Interestingly, my colleagues and I have received far fewer queries about home learning this year.

7. Ensure parents are at least seeing their child’s task
As a school we set up a home school record sheet that the parents sign each week so we know that at least the child has tried to share it with someone at home.  It also includes space for a comment if parents wish to make one.  I always initial this when I mark so the parents can see I’m acknowledging their commitment and aways respond to comments – even if it’s only an exclamation mark or a ‘thanks’.

8. Really focus on the fact it’s learning rather than work
Over the past couple of years as a school we have gradually moved away from referring to homework and used home learning.  I am much more comfortable with this, after all, continuing learning at home is what we’re trying to encourage, and it’s a natural thing to do.

I haven’t mentioned the use of our Learning Platform, for the simple reason that although we encourage its use for home learning (and it is well used by most of our school community), it’s not suitable for blanket policy as not all our families have Internet access and of the families that do, some of our children hardly ever get a look in after parental and older sibling use.

In an ideal world, there would be no ‘home learning’ or ‘school learning’, there would just be learning.  In making the formalised tasks we set as purposeful and enjoyable as we can, I hope that we are beginning to remind our school community of that fact.

Categories: Home Learning
  1. November 14, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Brilliant list! you have certainly covered all the bases here. It is about learning & not bragging!

  2. November 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks! I believe it's such a powerful way of building home school links and supporting parents to realise all they need to do is support their children's learning – not do it for them or turn it into a family fued!

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