The real purpose of homework: building independence

When I was a first grade teacher in a school that did homework every night, I would set various 15-20 minute problems (with no commercial workbook in sight) for math to measure and record the size of the kitchen table or the height of family members (“Primary School Abolishes Years of Homework Ban,” March 5). Memorizing a short poem by reciting it aloud into a mirror in preparation for a classroom performance was another. The spelling/handwriting practice sheets I designed each week were divided into three groups – Must Learn (usually rhyming words), Own Choice Extras, and Suggested Advanced, with optional words like Chocolate, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Palindromes. All words were taught and discussed in class time, so the homework was just a quick repetition of self-study. Other nights, the homework consisted of asking the parents a dinnertime question that was intentionally difficult but where the children knew the answer, e.g. B. “What is a Googol?” or “Which planet has the most moons?” If there was a full moon that night, the family’s homework would be to look at the craters through binoculars. However, the most common task was to borrow a well-known book from the class library to read to Mom, Dad, the house cat, or a favorite toy. And one homework assignment was, “Put on your pajamas after dinner and go to bed early.” Ellie Hallett, Toowoomba (QLD)

Many reasons for student homework are offered, but essentially they have only one real purpose. To establish a continuum of growth in independent study essential in the senior years and in higher education. For many school classes, however, it becomes a real chore to set, check and record. It remains a great mystery for all teachers and families. Janice Creenaune, Austinmer

More people a problem

Once again your editorial advocates population growth through migration (“Overhaul skill migration to cut labor eng”, 5 March). Once again, the sustainability of population growth is not considered, despite ample evidence that our life-supporting ecosystems are seriously degraded and that population growth is one of the underlying causes. It seems that our short-term greed blinds us to the processes that threaten the long-term well-being of humans and nature. Growth was once the solution. Now that’s the problem. Aussies seem increasingly aware of this, with recent polls showing two-thirds oppose further population growth. Can we make sustainability the primary decision criterion? Alan Jones, Narraweena

steam comfort

Her article explains how a lack of regulation enables teenagers to become addicted to nicotine (Cheap coffee, chips and lollies: Are vape shops targeting teens?”, 5 March). Convenience stores near train stations selling nicotine-infused vaping products designed to attract children are thriving. It’s just Big Tobacco’s latest attempt to get the world hooked, beginning last century with their attempts to stop the medical profession and show that smoking kills people. Gary Barnes, Mosman

Gotcha moments

Thank you, Jacqueline Maley, for pointing out the infantile proliferation of hysterical “case questions” in parts of the media (“My Fitness Watch Fixation Mirrors Society’s Addiction to Affirmation,” March 5). At best, it reflects a descent to the lowest form of tabloid journalism that actively discourages ministers from making decisions about fairness and sustainability. At worst, it engages journalists in blatantly ideological political games and challenges their objectivity. Let’s keep shouting it out for the good of the country. Alison Stewart, River View

A risk The real purpose of homework: building independence

Justin Scaccy

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