Chil­dren need some play­time too

Kids need the right bal­ance of work, rest and play, says Erin Reilly.

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

When I was a child, home­work was a reg­u­lar af­ter-school rit­ual. But par­ents all around the coun­try are stag­ing a mini upris­ing against home learn­ing, all in the name of their pri­mary school stu­dents’ af­ter-school free­dom.

Ta­nia Browne is a mum of four pri­mary school-aged chil­dren. ‘‘My kids are in school for six hours a day,’’ she says. ‘‘By the time they get home, all they want to do is be kids for a while. If a teacher can’t teach them within the six hours that they have, what are we pay­ing them for?’’

She has a point. The av­er­age child doesn’t get home from school un­til roughly 3.30pm (later if they travel on the bus). Then they need a snack. Then it’s home­work time. Then it’s mu­sic lessons or foot­ball prac­tise, or what­ever other ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­ity they’re into. Then it’s din­ner­time, bath time and bed­time (oh, and don’t for­get wine time for­mu­mand dad).

But when is it play­time? Surely the great­est thing a par­ent or care­giver can do with their chil­dren af­ter school is play with them? In fact, some ex­perts think play­time is where kids de­velop more imag­i­na­tion, cre­ativ­ity and col­lab­o­ra­tion.

‘‘Home­work for pri­mary school stu­dents mainly fo­cuses on fur­ther pro­gress­ing nu­mer­acy and lit­er­acy skills, rather than tak­ing a holis­tic ap­proach to child de­vel­op­ment,’’ says a hus­ban­dand-wife teach­ing duo who wish to re­main anony­mous be­cause they both teach at pri­mary schools where home­work is com­pul­sory. ‘‘We be­lieve that af­ter-school hours should be re­served for build­ing re­la­tion­ships and pur­su­ing per­sonal pas­sions and well­be­ing.’’

But Auckland teacher Rochelle Lawrence thinks home learn­ing has its place.

‘‘Chil­dren gain in­de­pen­dence with age and ma­tu­rity, and home learn­ing is one way to in­stil this,’’ she says. ‘‘Younger chil­dren espe­cially need par­ent sup­port to help them find suc­cess in home learn­ing, and kids will de­velop the per­sonal skills they need to man­age their home learn­ing at their own pace. Teach­ers also want your kids to be well­rounded, en­gag­ing in a range of ac­tiv­i­ties that spark their cu­riosi­ties and pas­sions.’’

While home­work might not be your kids’ favourite ac­tiv­ity, learn­ing at home out­side the con­straints of a struc­tured learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment is still es­sen­tial.

If you can’t beat it, there’s al­ways join­ing it. Think about es­tab­lish­ing a home­work club for the chil­dren on your street, where kids can study in a fun en­vi­ron­ment and par­ents can have a break; use Neigh­bourly to gauge in­ter­est.

At the end of the day, though, chil­dren need time to re­lax and have fun.

‘‘We un­der­stand what it’s like spend­ing a day with over­tired chil­dren, so they need time to rest and be kids,’’ says Lawrence.

‘‘If par­ents are con­cerned about the home learn­ing ex­pec­ta­tions placed on their child, they should con­tact their child’s teacher.’’

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Some ex­perts think play­time is where kids de­velop more imag­i­na­tion, cre­ativ­ity and col­lab­o­ra­tion.

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