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Our 4 year old daughter recently started school in London, and started getting homework for the Weekends. We are not really happy with both the type and the quantity of work that she is supposed to do: the tasks (e.g. writing letters and drawing pictures of things that start with that letter) seem to be inadequate for her age. Continuing with this example, she can't really write the letters properly, as if she was not explained the direction, etc. She can't really name things starting with a letter either. Hence in effect the homework is more for the parents, who are supposed to do the schools job and teach their child to write letters. We don't think that kids should spend so much time learning to write at this age, because there are so many different things (also in the curriculum) to learn, like arts or social skills.

Moreover, we often go away for the weekends and she is supposed to hand in her homework on Mondays. Hence a couple of questions:

  1. What would be the consequences if we just ignored (part of) her homework regularly?
  2. How would you deal with this situation?
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At age 4? Ridiculous! –  Dave Clarke Sep 23 '13 at 19:48
    
@DaveClarke, welcome to England! –  Grzenio Sep 23 '13 at 19:48
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Let children be children. I didn't even go to school until I was 5 1/2 – and look at me now! –  Dave Clarke Sep 23 '13 at 19:49
    
While I'm not a big fan of homework (as a parent and former student :) ), I do see value in them to 1) engage parents 2) push the kids forward 3) allow the schools to detect kids a bit behind and those who can be pushed a bit forward. Not that you should necessarily always be "pushing" kids, and should indeed let them be chidren as Dave mentions above. (cont'd...) –  haylem Sep 24 '13 at 21:48
    
However, something puzzles me in this question: to me, it would seem that such a homework is very much a game to most kids. Maybe they won't feel like doing it right on the spot if want to do something else at the time, but it's pretty much drawing. I'd worry if a kid is really averse to it: it'd mean there's already a dislike of school and things that relate to it, and I'd rather fix THAT, if that's the case. In general, it'd be easy to tell a 4yo "hey, wanna draw something with me?" and have them follow a guideline (w/o caring about the quality of the calligraphy, which isn't the point :) ) –  haylem Sep 24 '13 at 21:51
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3 Answers 3

Hence in effect the homework is more for the parents, who are supposed to do the schools job and teach their child to write letters.

That's not that far off base. For young kids, homework is very much about parent/child interaction.

What would be the consequences if we just ignored (part of) her homework regularly?

That's a question for you to ask your child's teacher.

How would you deal with this situation?

Be honest. Share our thoughts. Try to find a compromise.

Worse case? Escalate the issue to school management. Maybe switch classrooms. Maybe consider an alternative school.

Personally, weekend homework is not something I feel young kids should have to deal with.

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If the homework is being assigned at the start of school, it may be that the assignments are more intended as assessments, rather than actual lessons at this point.

Particularly at age 4, it seems unreasonable to expect every child to be able to properly form letters and identify words starting with that letter without a significant amount of practice/studying, but not unreasonable to check to see how many kids can do this already.

Some children do pick up these skills by four, particularly if they have attended pre-school programs or have parents who may have spent time going over this with them prior to entering the mainstream school system.

Regarding your specific questions... I can't answer #1, as I have no experience with London's school systems, but I can speculate that your daughter may be singled out as being behind in performance compared to others, or, more likely, you will be singled out as being uncooperative. This may or may not be a problem overall, depending upon what you expect to get out of the system.

As for #2, I'd personally let it be for a while, allowing my child to do the work on their own as best they can, and seeing how the teacher(s) respond. If you really don't believe that learning to write is a priority at this time, that's your prerogative. If the current assignments are more intended as assessments than course-work, then you may see the homework be replaced with more agreeable materials fairly soon. If not, then you may have a situation where your daughter will be putting focus into areas you don't believe are appropriate.

In this case, the next step would be to contact the teacher(s) directly, and discuss your concerns. This may be somewhat less productive if you've established yourself as "uncooperative" already.

If you are unable to resolve it by discussing it with a teacher, then the options left to you are likely finding another school (either another district, or perhaps a private school, depending upon what is allowed/available), having your child conform to the teacher's expected workload, or (the least attractive, in my opinion) having your child ignore the assignments you disagree with, which risks not only creating further conflict with your teacher, but puts your child in the middle, and establishes a precedent that they can ignore any topic or assignment they don't like.

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I'm assuming in this answer that she is in a state primary school rather than a private school.

The purpose of the homework at this age / stage is much more about keeping the parents engaged with the child's learning - they're not expecting the child to be able to complete these tasks unassisted.

The reason they feel the need to do this is because too many parents have this attitude that you reveal when you say "Hence in effect the homework is more for the parents, who are supposed to do the schools job and teach their child to write letters." I see it the other way - it is the parents' job to teach their child whatever they want to teach them. Most (but not all) parents choose to delegate (some of) that task to the schools, but you should not expect that you can just hand your daughter over to a school, and that they will hand her back to you fully educated.

Another part of it is that they don't usually have time in class to go over everything as many times as is necessary (lots of repetition / practice when learning a task is good). So by passing some of that practice over into home time, they can get more ground covered at school.

At this age and stage, if your daughter doesn't hand in homework occasionally, the teacher will probably not bat an eyelid, especially if you send in a note explaining that you were away for the weekend or whatever. (That goes double if she's doing fine with all the topics covered - if she has something mastered, there's no need for more practice. But by what you say, she doesn't have these things mastered yet, so more practice is good at this stage).

If it's a more regular thing that she never submits homework, they're likely to want to chat to you about it (perhaps just at a regular parents' evening, you should get these at least once per academic year anyway) - in which case, you will explain your case as to why you don't think it's relevant / necessary, they explain their case as to why they think it IS, and you either see their POV and start submitting the homework or don't, as you see fit. There are no official "sanctions" of any sort that they can impose and they would be unlikely to do so anyway.

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You see, I learnt to read and write when I was 7, and I don't really feel disadvantaged by this in any way. That is why spending weekends for a couple of years to teach a 4-yeard old writing, which she could learn in a week when she is 7, is just not something I am convinced is the most reasonable use of her (our) time. –  Grzenio Sep 24 '13 at 11:23
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Right. But that's not how the UK state schooling system works. If you want to stay within that system, you have to at least try to rub along with their methods, and expect that they will try to convince you otherwise if you disagree. Your alternatives are to homeschool, or to look for a private school that better matches your philosophy. –  Vicky Sep 24 '13 at 12:16
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