Late last term, I took my children to have their eyesight assessed by Tania Straga, Principal Orthoptist at Adelaide Eye Therapy. The first question Tania asked my eldest was; ‘How much homework do you do?’ Eamon shared that his time after school is not determined by overly structured work given by his teachers, instead he is encouraged to pursue sports, hobbies, interests and his own inquiries.
Tania wrote to me after our appointment and shared the following;
‘I so, so love your approach to ‘homework’. If only more schools resisted societies push to create mini intellectuals rather than support children. Childhood should be about play and fun – and naturally the learning will come. Our kids need to be forming social and problem solving skills at this age, not rote learning skills or slabs of information.’
Tania then made connections between traditional homework and the pandemic of myopia (short-sightedness) that we now see world wide due to children not spending enough time outdoors and too much time on near-focused tasks. Tania shared that a great deal of research is available to support this, one of which is from the World Health Organisation. She highlighted this quote from the report; ‘Time spent outdoors (47): I. Morgan informed the meeting that the epidemic of myopia in East Asia is primarily due to changes in environmental (social) factors, specifically intensive education and less time spent outdoors (Fig. 6). Observed seasonal variation in the progression of myopia adds weight to the argument that time spent outdoors slows the progression of myopia.’
The path of myopia from a young age leads to poorer outcomes in regards to vision for the remainder of life. The earlier the myopia starts, the more likely that the myopia will increase to higher levels, which can lead to increased risk including many eye co-morbidities, the most severe being retinal detachment and blindness.
In my house, my children use their afternoons to pursue interests and co-curricular activities, play on their own and with others, whilst spending time relaxing and connecting to nature outdoors. Of an evening, they spend some time practicing and developing the skills of reading, times tables, playing their chosen musical instrument or furthering some research related to learning that has inspired them at school. My husband Matt and I identify goals and areas of age-appropriate skill-development with them to guide their home learning and together we can manage these activities in balance with other home and family commitments. This precious time together enhances our connection with our children. Their home learning is personalised, meaningful and the stress that traditional homework can cause in a household is not a barrier to settled, relaxed evenings spent together as a family.
Head of Primary Years