Why craft homework should be instantly banned
Another craft homework? Spare me, please! Rachel Meadows on why she despairs when her kids are given arts and crafts for homework
Fifty-six per cent of secondary school students consider homework a significant source of stress, according to the Stanford Graduate School of Education. I bet the figure would be even higher when it comes to primary school craft homework. And that’s just the parents.
I can’t sew. I can’t sculpt. And, as I’m increasingly discovering, I can’t make a simple hat or papier-mâché model. Even ready-made arts and craft kits fill me with dread. So imagine my face when my son and daughter are set homework tasks such as, ‘Please make a diorama of a rainforest ready to bring in on Monday’ and ‘We can’t wait to see your home-made Easter bonnets for our parade on Thursday.’
I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of any kind of homework for primary children. I am yet to find convincing evidence of its merits and believe there are much better things for under 11s to be spending their spare time doing. But at least I can support them with maths and English when needed (well, I thought I could until SPaG tests came along – who knew what a fronted adverbial was?). And I’d be able to regain at least some of my dignity among the other mothers if the homework involved baking (I can, despite my lack of creativity, cook). But crafts? Spare me, please.
I know, I know, the homework is set for the kids and any parent worth their salt would have been teaching them crafts since they were in nappies, so they’d know the drill themselves. In my defence, we’ve done the whole messy kitchen table thing more times than I can remember, albeit with any instructions tossed aside and a bit of a free-for-all approach (‘Mummy, why does my penguin look more like a cat?’ etc). But let’s be honest, what eight-year-old can make an intricate scene with three-dimensional figures from scratch alone? And that’s nothing compared to the Parthenon sculpture my daughter was set when she was just seven, which almost caused me a panic attack.
In any case, if the parents at your primary school are anything like ours, then you’ll be all too aware that some kids are likely to get short shrift for so much as peering over their mum or dad’s shoulder during the meticulous, intricate Sunday afternoon craft homework session (‘For God’s sake, boy, you’re going to ruin my Parthenon pillars if you come any closer,’ etc).
Googling images for inspiration is a bit like googling your latest ailment. The results reveal your worst fears, causing instant paranoia and sweats. Surely, I’d typed in ‘museum exhibits’ by mistake, but I checked and checked again and sure enough, I’d used the keywords of ‘children’ and ‘craft’ and ‘homework.’
Aha, I thought, social media will be my friend. Here, I will find other parents just like me who will make me feel less of a failure. Twitter – to my horror and astonishment – was anything but reassuring, with #crafthomework bringing up yet more smug examples of elaborate works of art, many also appearing on pinterest and instagram. A short rant on Facebook helped – a fair number of ‘It ruins our weekend too,’ ‘Agh I share your pain,’ etc – but equal numbers of parents had the gall to post their flawless creations. ‘Sorry!!’ one of them said, next to a Tate-modern-worthy sculpture.
And now, of course, my secret was out so I couldn’t even buy a ready-made model and bash it up a bit to make it look more homemade (I did do that once – top tip for like-minded parents: Hobbycraft does a fabulous volcano all ready to paint).
The World Book Day hat parade is probably my most painful craft-homework related memory. The kids hadn’t long been in primary school and I’d predicted a sea of Cat in the Hats. Happy to follow the crowd, I duly ordered my white and red card from amazon prime. But when it arrived, I realised my card wasn’t big enough, there wasn’t any white card included and I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do even if it was bigger, and white. If looks could kill, I thought to myself, when my children glanced over at me from under their (my) sorry almost-hanging-together creations as they walked round the playground, feet dragging in shame.
I blame the parent committees. You know the ones, with parents who have too much time on their hands that make endless suggestions to the school on latest artistic projects. I know for a fact that our PA pot currently has thousands of pounds in and more than once I’ve suggested to these committees that they splash out on a little art studio – a portacabin type thing that could fit on the edge of the school field. Or why not use an existing space?
So imagine my exhilaration when the headteacher pulled me aside recently and said, ‘I’ve been hearing about your interest in expanding the arts we do at school and I think it’s brilliant.’ Woohoo, I thought, my heart jumping with joy at the success of my cunning plan to keep arts and crafts firmly within the school gates. ‘So,’ continued the headteacher, ‘We are excited about inviting you to head up a team to help the children in school give the often-much-needed finishing touches to their arts and crafts homework.’
What do you think about craft homework? Share your views on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #chalkandchat