Homework in primary school should never be a burden. The Oxford English Dictionary defines burden as “something that causes hardship, worry or grief.” We are discussing children here who are in Grades One through Six, between the ages of six and eleven years. These are the peak childhood years, the years of growing, of developing interests in music, sports, of socializing with peers and exploring the world.
There is so much learning and growing to be accomplished by our children during these vital years, that it can be convincingly argued that Homework should have no place at all in their lives.
Their bodies are growing: they need movement and exercise. They need to develop muscles by participating in sports, both as part of a team, and for sheer pleasure. Through participating in these active pursuits with others their age, they develop a sense of fair play. Ideally, they will eventually choose a sport, or perhaps several, with which they will continue. These will contribute to health and fitness throughout their adult lives.
Children in primary classes have minds which are growing: they need real-life experiences in a variety of environments. They need to experience rain, snow, wind, fog and other weather conditions by actually being out in them. They need to walk, play, maneuver in each, to find out for themselves the advantages and disadvantages, and exactly how each feels on exposed skin.
If the young people are going to appreciate the fine arts later in life: music, painting, dance, or drama, they should be introduced now. If they possess innate talent in any of these areas, this is the time to discover it. Would they like lessons? If so, in which discipline?
They should also have experiences with different age groups. They should spend time with grandparents, and hear stories about life in the past. They need to become familiar with babies, toddlers, older and younger cousins, aunts, uncles, and pets of all shapes and sizes. There are many people and things to discover which cannot be found in books or within the structured environment of the classroom.
Children between the ages of six and eleven are growing socially. Some of the friendships they form now will be lifelong. These are the years of birthday parties, sleep overs, summer camp, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, 4-H clubs, and other vehicles to encourage healthy character development. The social skills they develop now will contribute to the success and stability of their adult lives. If they learn to interact successfully with others now,it will be natural to continue on the prearranged path as they mature.
Bear in mind that the young people are in school for five and one-half hours a day, about one hundred eighty days a year. They sleep about ten hours a day. This leaves roughly only half of their waking hours to accomplish all of the essential, developmental tasks described above. Is it wise to rob them of any of this important time with Homework which may cause “hardship, worry or grief”?
I submit that it is wrong, and even harmful to assign school Homework in the primary grades. Each child should always have an interesting book to read during his leisure time. Other than that, his Homework should be to play, explore, socialize, discover and spend time on extracurricular activities. There will be plenty of time in the higher grades for formal Homework assignments. In primary school, the children’s most important tasks should consist of becoming familiar and learning to feel comfortable with the people, creatures, objects and elements with which they share the world.
Come to think of it, that’s an exceptionally demanding task for any of us, even in our adult years.