Any regular readers of my blog or followers on social media would know that Ellie started school this September just gone. It has been quite the journey from the first day to nearing the end of her first term. Finding a new family rhythm with the school hours was hard but we have got there. Ellie loves school, she loves learning and I am lucky to be able to write that she wakes up every morning excited to go. I honestly couldn’t wish for a better transition from nursery to school. Truthfully though I thought reception was meant to be a small step from nursery. I thought the learning was based around play and exploration. So when I was confronted with homework in reception I was really taken aback.
Homework in Reception! You cannot be serious?
This is not something that happened straight away. This has crept up on us. Initially the school book bag was empty for a few weeks.Then suddenly a reading and writing folder appeared. “How lovely” I thought. This way I can see what she is learning and how she is doing. There was a note in there for half term asking us to practice writing and reading together over the week. Again, no issue with that. I am quite happy to encourage learning at home and whilst Ellie needed and deserved a week off, I had no problem with a couple of 10 minutes learning sessions here and there.
However, when school went back it became very clear from messages left in her reading record book that we were expected to continue this at home as much as possible. Seriously? She isn’t even 5 yet and she is being set weekly homework tasks.
I do get it…
Before I go off on a complete rant I should probably say that I do get it. I appreciate the importance of home learning. In fact I appreciate the importance of encouraging learning full stop. I want Ellie to try her best and I am happy to help her do that. Her reading and especially her writing are coming on leaps and bounds. I completely understand that teachers put in so much hard work to help support our children but that there is only so much they can do. Us parents need to help too. I get it, I do.
It is stressful for all involved
My biggest issue is the stress it has been causing. I have tried to be mindful of the fact that Ellie needs to keep practicing her writing at home, I have suggested we do some work on evenings she isn’t completely wiped out from school. However, some days it really is too much to expect. Scrap that, some weeks it is to much to expect. I know my daughter very well but even I get it wrong sometimes and misjudge her mood. The other trouble is that we can clash at times, mostly because we are so alike. When I do get it wrong it can quickly descend into a tantruming chaos. Ellie wants to do well, she wants to learn and improve but sometimes she gets frustrated along the way. This can be really tough to watch, especially when it stems from pressure she is putting on herself.
I don’t know what I am doing
One of the major reasons I would never consider home schooling is that I don’t know what I am doing. The school have provided some helpful resources but I don’t ever remember doing phonics at school and I don’t know anyone that writes in cursive writing. These things just don’t come naturally. I am lucky that I can do cursive writing, it is something I practiced quite hard at and use in baking sometimes. But my husband can’t help. It is entirely unnatural for him. Also he can’t read phonetically with her because unless you know it none of it makes sense. I am learning as much as Ellie is so when we are doing this stuff at home it can feel like the blind leading the blind. And this is only Reception! Imagine what this will be like in year 1 and 2!
The goal posts keep changing
The other huge issue I am having with homework in reception is that the goals the teacher sets keep changing. Initially we were told that Ellie doesn’t need to actually write in cursive writing yet. That is something they only progress to in year 1. Well, yesterday she came home with two letters joined together to practice. That seems like the start of cursive writing to me. Fortunately Ellie has obviously been practicing at school and she was able to write these two letters beautifully. “OA” and “AI” if you are wondering. If she hadn’t been able to do them the whole mood of the house would have fallen into the depths of witching hour darkness.
Other Mums agree
A few weeks ago I had had enough of everything. I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders so when Ellie burst into tears as we were leaving the house and told me we were supposed to be documenting every time we read to or with her in her reading book (not something I had been doing because I didn’t realise I was meant to) the mum guilt took over and I walked her to school with tears in my eyes. I felt like I was failing her at the first hurdle. How could I possibly support her in the years to come if I can’t even get the reception year right? Somehow, I plucked up the courage to ask one of the other Mums in the playground if they were doing all these things we were “supposed to” be doing.
I nearly started a riot!
Not one of them had done any of it and all of us had felt inadequate because of it. A couple of us had had the same note in the books instructing us to ensure we do in fact do this extra work with our child and others hadn’t. But all of us felt the same way. We thought it was only Reception and most kids aren’t even 5 years old yet. Surely this is too young? Either way I am glad I mentioned it to one mum and then another few mums over heard. I felt so much better after that and now I don’t beat myself up for allowing Ellie the rest she sometimes desperately needs after school.
Should it be this way?
So should it be this way? Should there be homework in reception? I’m not sure of the answer. All I hope is that giving the children homework in reception is to help them get the best start possible for their future school career and not (as I strongly suspect) to ensure the school performs really well in the future SATs. I know I am naturally cynical but I can’t help but worry that it is all for the benefit of the school league tables.