Monday, 26 September 2016


Phew!  Got in less than a year since my last post!

Which is a real shame on Henry, as it has been an awesome few years but it is very difficult to prioritise this as four-year olds are exhausting.  Really exhausting.  Parenting is considerably harder work than I ever realised it would be.

The big recent change is my awesome boy has started school now.  All grown up!  We are very lucky and he skips happily into his class each morning without a backward glance, but does give his adult (whoever opens the door that morning) a big smile.  He has also come back with positive reports every evening so all in all we are delighted with him.

But here's the rub.

At the end of his first full week in school he has been set homework.  And something in me wants to scream and shout about this being ridiculous and a sign of how our education system has drifted from things that matter!  Four year olds should not be getting homework - they should be getting memories and play and attention, not phonics and writing.  It doesn't happen in [insert name of probably Scandinavian country] and the children there are happier than Charlie after he finds the golden ticket.

But before I do all that shouting I have taken a couple of breaths and attempted to think about this rationally.

He has not actually been asked to do anything that I would not want to be doing anyway.  A bit of practising his letters and some reading with a loose notion of him identifying any letter sounds that he knows.  Nothing too onerous and the kinds of things I'd want to do for him.

(A brief interlude - I am a huge fan of phonics.  All the reading research shows us this the best possible way to help children learn to read, provided it is offered within the context of adults continuing to read to children, develop their vocabulary and a high level of verbal interaction.  If those things are in place you cannot go wrong with phonics.  If they are not, there are probably bigger concerns)

So it got me to thinking about how fortunate Henry is in comparison to other kids.  A relatively stable home, with two parents who both work but are fortunate that one is only part time so he does not need to do breakfast or after school clubs.  A nice house in a nice area.  Plenty of food (perhaps too much for me). People who want to spend time with him and do not believe that much is learnt through computer games or television programmes.  So many children do not have this and I wonder if schools think that they need to compensate for this and do so by instructing parents how to provide an environment that supports their efforts.

Sadly, my visceral reaction to this would suggest that the approach is not necessarily the best one.  I think a number of teachers and schools could learn by adopting the policy of Brandy Young.  Homework has only been shown to support educational progress in a rather limited way, most of which is not supported by the kinds of homework that seem to get set.  Spending time together, sharing books, playing and getting to bed at a good time is all easier in a household that is not stressed from having to comply and feeling judged by your child's class teacher.

Unfortunately, for Henry I am British.  So I have grumbled to anybody who would listen about the pointlessness of the situation and then sat down with him and practised his writing after dinner and read his school book twice.  I don't want to be the parent that gets talked about in the staff room.