Is half term homework really necessary?
Sadly, we don’t really have a good answer to this question, because there are great arguments for both sides!
Keeping children working during the holidays can seem to add extra, unwanted pressure at a time where children should be decompressing and enjoying themselves – and certainly this is what they should be doing, but there is a good argument that says for certain skills such as reading and mental maths (times tables, number bonds etc), regular practice is really important.
In our view, there are ways to make sure that children relax, while building in some time each day to practise those skills for which repetition is the key factor in learning.
As mentioned in our previous blog, reading – especially the early milestone of getting past decoding each word and becoming a fluent reader – is a skill which needs to be practised little and often. The best way to do this without causing too much of a fuss is to find a time of day where it is easy to build in 10 minutes to sit down and read together. It might be before bed, or after breakfast – this will differ from family to family, but we can guarantee that children will grow in confidence and fluency with regular, small bouts of practice – so doing some at half term is a very good idea.
Mental maths skills can be classed as things such as times tables, number bonds to ten/twenty/100 – it is basically anything which allows you to perform an operation quickly in your head to get, if not the exact answer, a good idea of about what the right answer should be. It is incredibly important not just as a life skill (being able to tot up what you’re spending on the way round Tesco is really handy) but also a great way for children to be able to spot any potential errors in their school work – if they know an answer should be in the hundreds and the one they get is in the thousands – then they have more chance of correcting an error. Just like reading, these skills take time and a lot of practice to be secure – so if you can find time to do some practice over the holidays, it would be great. Here are some fun ideas for making maths a game to be played, rather than a chore!
Get the chalk out
Why not challenge the kids to write out a times table in chalk on the front of the house? If you can gamily it by offering a small prize, that’s usually a great incentive.
Make sets of objects
You could even get them to show you a times table by creating sets – so if it was their five times tables, they could make one set of 5, then 2 sets (making 10), then three sets (making 15) etc.
Learn some songs!
There are loads of times table songs out there on YouTube, which are really good fun, and often have a dance to go with them. Learn one as a family! We really like the BBC Supermovers collection.
In the end, the first priority in the holidays is to allow children to decompress and relax. This term has been more stressful than usual, with a ‘new normal’ to get used to, and the constant anxiety of bubbles closing.
It’s important not to feel guilty if you don’t manage to get any practice in – yes, it’s great if you can manage it, but it’s not the number one priority – mental health is.