Christmas is upon us once again and the children are all excited that their schools will soon be closing. It's a wonderful time for spending time together as a family; Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, writing letters to Santa, playing Trivial Pursuit and lots of Turkey, stuffing and chocolates. So a popular debate at this time of year is "should children be doing homework during this fun-filled time or should they be allowed to forget about school-work and enjoy their time-off?"
There are a lot of interesting opinions in regards to this debate and today I am going to explore those different opinions and also give some of my own personal opinions as both a teacher and a parent. I have chosen to speak mainly about Primary school children because a Secondary school child will have their own opinions and work-loads in regards to various types of exams they may need to sit.
How many times has your child come home on the last day of term with a massive project they have to complete in-time for the first day back at school? And how many times have you sighed and thought better get that out of the way so they can actually enjoy their holidays and get some rest? Some parents however may react slightly differently. There have been times when my children have broken-up for the holidays and not been set any work to do. Of course, it's nice that they will have the time to rest and forget about school work for a couple of weeks, but shouldn't they do a bit of extra work? Some reading? Some Maths? And as they haven't actually been set anything to do, we parents have the added chore of trying to devise some work for them.
So should we be encouraging children to consolidate their learning with extra projects to do at home? An interesting debate on netmums asked their members whether they think children should have work over the holidays to keep up with their school-work or whether they should just be left alone to enjoy their holidays. Some members were not happy with homework during the holidays. One wrote:
I hate it. I want to do what we want to as a family, not be told what to do or where to go. I make sure my kids do their homework every week in term time but expect to be left alone during holidays.
And another replied:
For 2 week hols or less the kids can be set a bit of reading each day. For the summer reading and dip into maths as and when just to keep in the loop (up to them though). Otherwise forget it and let the poor kids chill out - way too much pressure these days on kids...
Whilst another member pro-homework for the holidays wrote:
I personally like getting some homework for the holidays as we have more time then to do it, or other projects than in our busy term time days when we struggle to cram it in what with extra curricular activities and me working.
And one member commented:
I don't have a problem with it. Children have short memories so once they've gone back to school after a week most of it's forgotten if they don't have a bit of homework. TBH it depends on the age group, reception children don't really need it but secondary school definitely do and besides it doesn't hurt them?
The general opinions in this survey were definitely mixed. Some members stated that they may like to go on holiday during that time and don't want to have the stress and worry of making sure their child does a project. Whilst others insisted that having a bit of extra work to do over the holidays was a very good thing.
The truth of the matter, in my opinion, is that children of primary school age should not be set large projects to do over the holidays and should definitely be allowed to spend the time relaxing and laughing and expressing themselves in any way they feel comfortable. However, children should also consolidate school-work during this time with some reading and some simple Maths or Science that can be done in a fun and interactive way.
An interesting debate on debate.org asked whether students should have vacation homework. Only 15% said yes whilst a staggering 85% said no. One member pro-homework wrote:
It helps you consolidate the student's learning at school. Students nowadays forget what they learn in school over their holidays as most of the time is spent on relaxation. As a result, it is easy to forget information learnt in school and after the holidays, it is likely that they are not going to do well in the tests and examinations given by the school. It also helps you spend your time in a useful way since for students, their job is mainly to study.
This is actually a very good point. Although children shouldn't have so much work to do over the holidays, a little actually goes a long way and reinforces information they have already learnt so that they are prepared for the next term and ready to take-in new information.
On the opposing side, one member said:
The question answers itself. A vacation, is a period of time when you relax and do whatever you want. If you have homework, then how will you be able to enjoy yourself during the vacation? You could suggest revision to the students - people do forget without practice, but otherwise no 'homework', it is like putting a bird in a cage, let the students be free during this period of time called 'vacation'.
This seems to be quite a general opinion. It seems parents are not entirely opposed to children doing some kind of revision work over the holidays; they just don't want children to have the pressure of doing large projects and sometimes meaningless heaps of work to bog them down during their time-off.
This debate can also boil down to the fundamental question of the value of the homework that is set. If your child comes home with a massive project to do with no real essence or relevance to anything they have learnt it kind of defeats the purpose and becomes a chore without value.
An article I particularly liked in The Telegraph by Richard Harman, Headmaster of Uppingham School stated:
Here are my "three Rs" for the school holidays: Rest, Revision and Recreation - all underpinned by a "fourth R": Re-connecting with each other and with some Christmas traditions.
He goes on to explain that holidays are a time for families to spend quality moments together and build memories. Children should have the chance to relax and play with a little bit of revision in between.
The important factor of this debate is that children do need to have some contact with building their academic skills over the holidays. An article in TeachMyKids states:
Many teachers notice a dip in the academic abilities of children after the summer holidays. The Maths and English level children are at prior to the holidays, may not be the same at the end of the holidays. Many children are assessed again, when they enter their new year groups, to give their new teacher a good idea of where the children are in their learning after the long break. There is often a noticeable difference in many areas including handwriting and reading.
So, by encouraging our children to do a little bit of reading, some creative fun writing and some fun Maths problems is an effective way of making sure they are keeping up with their academic skills. The same article also states:
In fact research suggests 30 minutes, 3 - 5 times a week is a very effective way of helping children catch up, maintain or even excel in their academic abilities, especially if they are given one to one input.
Many parents also seek the help of a private tutor over the Christmas holidays. If your child is struggling with a certain area of their academic syllabus acquiring the help of a tutor can help your child fill in any gaps and catch-up in time for the next term. A private tutor can also help your child do any homework they have been set and as this will probably only be a couple of times over the Christmas period so it won't interfere with their time to relax.
Primary school children do not need to have the pressure that some schools put on them over the Christmas holidays; although children should be encouraged to do some homework during this time. This does not mean to say that children should be given tons of work to do set by their teacher. The schools could simply provide a guideline of suggestions for some work the children could do during their time off. Simply reading a few chapters of a book each day, keeping a diary about activities they do a couple of times a week and playing games that involve helping the children solve simple Maths problems will benefit your child and make sure they are keeping up with their peers.
Post By: Anna Michaelidou
Anna has been a private tutor of both English Literature and English Language for fifteen years having taught all levels from nursery school right through to university level. She has a BA (Hons) Degree in English Literature & Modern Languages, is a writer, content marketing executive and a busy mother of four lovely children.