School homework means different things to different parents and children. For kids, it is largely a chore that stands between them and television time or playtime with friends. Just get done with it and then you can do whatever you want, they are told. For parents too, helping their children with homework is often a duty they must do, to ensure that their child isn’t lacking in class when it comes to studies. But how many of us see homework as an opportunity to learn and expand the horizons of knowledge? Is homework nothing but maths sums and writing essays, or revising formulas? Can it also be instrumental in making children into better people?

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

  • An Irish school suspended traditional homework for a month and instead assigned different acts of kindness to students.
  • We live in times when perhaps the most difficult thing to teach children is the value of compassion.
  • But must the duty to inculcate kindness among children solely fall on schools?
  • Since children learn from what they see isn’t it the duty of parents to lead by example, when it comes to kindness and compassion?

Is homework nothing but maths sums and writing essays, or revising formulas? Can it also be instrumental in making children into better people?

An Irish school certainly thinks so, which is why it suspended traditional homework for a month before Christmas and instead assigned different acts of kindness the students had to perform for a week, reports India Today. This is the third year this school in Ireland has observed such a practice. Under this initiative, children have to reach out to the elderly in their communities and have a conversation with them on Mondays, while they should take over a chore from a family member without being asked on Tuesdays and on Thursdays they have to make an effort towards their own mental well-being. The children are also encouraged to keep a diary of their acts. What’s more, the school has also installed a kindness bucket in which students put in notes of any acts of kindness they have observed, which are read aloud by teachers every Friday.

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We live in times when perhaps the most difficult thing to teach children is the value of compassion. Parents try to provide the best facilities that they can afford for their children. As a result, our children are surrounded by technology and luxury, that perhaps most of us were not privy to in our childhood. They are spending increasingly less time on playgrounds or interacting with other children. Their life outside of the home is usually spent in school or at tuition studying, or at a hobby class to learn a skill. When does a child have the time to learn about kindness and compassion? While parents today are more open with their children about issues like sexual abuse, the influence of technology and the importance of playtime, how often does compassion feature in the conversations that we have with our children?

It is our job to coach our children to be empathetic, as much as it is to ensure that they are good at maths or science.

Which is why this move by an Irish school is so applaudable. By encouraging students to embrace kindness it is making an attempt to make these children thoughtful, and by touting it to be homework, it brings parents on board as well, giving them something to think about. It is our job to coach our children to be empathetic, as much as it is to ensure that they are good at maths or science. It can also lead to reflection among parents about their own behaviour. After all, kids imitate the behaviour they see around them. They not only learn to talk from their parents, but also which tone to use, and with whom or what words or attitude should be used in which situation. So when a child is given the homework to embrace kindness, it becomes the duty of his parents to get it done.

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Our education system is based on rote learning, however, there may things which are equally important as scoring good grades. It falls on schools and  parents, to ensure that we are bringing up not just brilliant students but nicer people. A child only spends eight hours in school, it is not fair to expect teachers and school staff to ensure that your child is well-behaved. As parents, we too have to shoulder a large part of this responsibility. So while our schools are welcome to usher in such a positive initiative, let us not forget that we don’t have to wait for it to be in the curriculum to start discussing.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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