In My Day… #thought piece

Oh, how I hate that expression, the suggestion that things were better in the 40s/50s/60s/70s/80s/90s/last weekend/one minute ago. They weren’t. Period. Sure there are some things that are less satisfactory than whenever, but in most areas… anyway, I’m off my high horse and I want to prove the lie in the above statement.

Viz, homework. And especially homework for the primary school (eg, for those who don’t have primary but some other version) kids under eleven.

On the radio today, a well(ish) known celeb was bemoaning how her children were required to do homework as soon as they started school at 4-5. Mine were the same. As parents (to be fair, I hid in the office so this mostly fell to Mrs LP) we negotiated our way around persuading/bribing/pleading/threatening our two to do the requisite tasks. Some were short and painful; others – building a sodding Roman fort being one egregious example – merely a competition between parents.

Both then, but echoed today, I recalled my childhood. We did not have homework. At all. It was a ghastly rite of passage when we moved to our secondary school aged 11. We may have had to bring in something for a lesson and we did have to learn, rote, a variety of times tables up to 12 times. Maybe a spelling test occasionally. But not a daily diet of post-school tyranny. We came home. We played. We got bored. We fought each other. A totally normal childhood and funnily enough it didn’t hold me back.

Now there is always an exception, both then and now (as said celeb acknowledged). Reading both to and with your children. Not scripted by school but chosen between partners and child. I loved that; I often left work with a bag of papers so I could be home to read to the twosome and then go back the office (which was a sort of sewing room with a table). The advent of an Ethernet link was (almost) a godsend, when it wasn’t shite. I managed to read all Harry Potter to them, even though the oldest was at least 17 by the time Deathly Hallows landed on the doorstep.

And it didn’t do them any harm. Well, if you accept that they are now addicted to audible books…

I do wonder when it came in and which Education Secretary of State thought, what a wizard idea.- alright class which one of you did that? – and why it continues? According to some educator on the same radio piece, the evidence is all against homework, apart from the reading bit having a positive affect on children’s learning. Probably a little of the ‘we had to suffer from this, so you can to’ mentality.

So it was better in my day. As Pink Floyd memorably said, ‘Leave the kids alone’.

I’m now off to read to Dog.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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39 Responses to In My Day… #thought piece

  1. Darlene says:

    People tend to only remember the good stuff and forget that things weren’t always great in the past. I suppose every generation is like that. I was one of those weird kids that loved homework! My kids not so much but I don’t recall having any trouble getting them to do it. Reading to kids is the best education you could ever give them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. joylennick says:

    I was only seven when WW2 started so, after two enjoyable years in an Infants school, I continued my basic education in a Welsh school during evacuation. I hot-footed it to the library as I loved reading and always have ever since. With Dad in the Air Force and Mum working in Munitions, they were not around a lot, although Dad was a ‘wordy’ intelligent man who encouraged reading. I and my two brothers were kindly treated by indulgent aunts, although we missed both parents. The experience made us quite stoic, although I didn’t complete my education until middle age…Memories are mixed: the freedom of roaming the hills precious, as is the love of both parents. My eldest son of three, has inherited the ‘word mantle’ and is now a Copy-writer. Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      On a personal level, I imagine people often have a preferred time, whether it’s now or a memory, however rose tinted. My gripe is aimed at those who then generalise how better it was. Less violent crime say against hidden domestic violence and child predation where the adult was always believed. Healthy home cooking versus a range of foods, better understanding of nutrition and longer lives… perspective is everything! My parents both born in the mid 20s led us to believe their teenage war years were the best. Objectively that has to be highly unlikely but they’d never agree.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Homework? I don’t recall doing that. Was I supposed to? Oh well, too late now! (and anyone who says “It’s never too late” will have to see the Headteacher.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. gordon759 says:

    Your great-niece was given homework in pre-school, but then in the Little Red Dot they do things differently.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I know, it’s a phrase that’s really ageing, isn’t it.
    4-5 is a bit early, though it depends what it is. I was 9 as far as I remember and we had to write something about Joan of Arc – heaven knows what my classmates thought of it because only 2 of us in the class weren’t Jewish!
    Love the vision of building a Roman fort 😂.
    Hope Dog enjoys his audio book, all comfy with his draught excluder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Dog makes the best of my inconsistencies. Not sure I buy the ‘it depends’ bit. How much work are most adults expected to bring home?!

      Like

      • V.M.Sang says:

        If you are a teacher, loads. Marking of previous classwork and homework, lesson preparation, which in the case of my school was 7 lessons a day, report writing, recording of children’s achievements, parents’evenings, staff meetings (whole staff and departmental).
        Yes, we got a few non-contact lessons, but no more than about 5 a week, and one lesson was barely enough to do anything. Certainly not mark a whole class of 30’s books.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        My mind boggles at the idea of a non contact lesson – like Touch Maths with no tackling? Who knew education was still a contact sport? I thought that went out with the wooden ruler and the Oxford Bags,. Though I have heard it called crowd control more than teaching.

        Like

    • I was thinking more along the lines of a drawing of the Gruffalo or something of their choice – just to get them used to doing things at home for their teacher.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. tootlepedal says:

    There should be very little need for homework for primary children. It just provides extra and unnecessary work for teachers. Parents, as you point out, can talk and play with their children without being told to. The present trend of starting “real learning” at the age of three is just ridiculous and a great waste of time when children should be practising to shoot with both feet and paint like an angel while singing and smiling at the same time. Mind you I hold no brief for the old ways either. Being legally beaten up by grown ups was not sound developmental practice. And people saying, “Well it never did me any harm,” should be disqualified from holding any public office.

    Liked by 3 people

    • TanGental says:

      Oh hear hear. Sanctioned child abuse is damnable. However my narrow point was homework; I certainly wasn’t holding a candle for 1950s and 60s schooling methods.

      Like

  7. Reading to kids is all the homework they need.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. arlingwoman says:

    I have often thought how deluded people sound when they say back in my day. We did have an incredible amount of freedom to wander, which I think was helpful, and no homework until 5th or 6th grade as far as I recall. We we lucky in having parents who read for pleasure and got us library cards as soon as we were eligible. And I still like to be read to/told stories/listen, though this hasn’t made me go in for audio books for some reason. I bet Dog would enjoy being read to, especially if it involves being on the couch.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. petespringerauthor says:

    I’m with you 100% when people wax nostalgic about prior eras and how much better they were. I’m sure some elements probably were better, but the blanket statement that everything was better then just isn’t true.

    Reading to or with one’s child is a good thing in any decade. It helps children develop a love for reading. Our son is now 30 and is rarely home, but it does my heart good to see him pick up a book when he is. I’m sure our early reading experiences together contributed to that love.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. willowdot21 says:

    It looks like Dog heard you coming!
    I do remember homework from an early age
    .. but then the nuns hated us all. But I remember with affection being read to, by Dad mostly 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  11. V.M.Sang says:

    As an ex-teacher, I heartily agree with you. We had to set homework, even if there was nothing appropriate. We had to state what homework was set in our lesson plans, which were read by the Head of Department every week, and signed.
    To me, it seemed a waste of time. Half the kids didn’t do it, anyway. I think my pen could write, ‘Where is your homework? ‘ on its own.
    Then of course, punishment had to be given in the form of detention in order to complete said task. This meant the teacher was also punished. ‘Crimes’ such as not doing homework, were administered by the teacher concerned. Central detention, run by deputy heads, were for ‘serious’ infringements (of which there were few, so deputies often had nothing to administer).

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I see your reading technique has sent Dog to sleep! I only remember things like learning vocabulary for spelling tests (which in our case were more than occasional). To prove it makes no difference – I am a very good speller, my sister, let’s just say, is less good. (Hurriedly checks for spelling mistakes before pressing Post).

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I miss the caning, personally. Never did me any harm (those tics and twitches were there already…)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jennie says:

    Pink Floyd was right. You make many good points here, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Geoff, I think modern kids are totally deprived of their childhoods by the demands of the school system. It is just work, work and more work and they don’t have time to play. When they do activities, it is always formal where a teacher is directing everything. No wonder they have no higher order thinking skills, they just follow orders all the time. Gosh, look at this, I’ve written a mini-rant.

    Liked by 1 person

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