Wondering how to make your child more positive? Well, what if it was their homework assignment? That’s exactly what one school in Ireland did.
Given the rather un-empathetic, isolated nature of the world (even pre-pandemic) one Irish school wanted to show their tech-engrossed students the value of breaking out of your shell and doing something kind for another person. In an even more “radical” move, they decided to replace traditional homework with a single task — share acts of kindness.
Pencil and Paper Homework vs. Acts of Kindness
Their decision to make this switch was not a whim or far-out idea. For years, the sentiment that traditional homework often does more harm than good has been growing globally with plenty of research to support it. Going as far back as 2000, one book summarized that “homework contributes to a corporate-style, competitive U.S. culture that overvalues work to the detriment of personal and familial well-being.” Just three years ago in Ireland, a petition called “Eradicate homework for children in Primary School” was receiving serious traction, primarily based on the sentiment that at this age, homework is ineffective and causes too much stress in the home.
Some of the primary arguments against homework include:
- It broadens class divides
- It takes time away from families
- It leads to arguments between parents and children
- It causes unnecessary stress for children in their “safe places”
- It takes time away from after school activities, hobbies, and other opportunities to build important skills outside of the classroom
- Oftentimes, it’s not an effective way to teach new skills
Of course, the skills that are learned inside the classroom should not be left there. Some children need additional help to reinforce certain skills. Others don’t do well in the school environment and much rather prefer the comfort and guidance of their parents. For all these reasons, homework should not be (and has not been) totally abandoned. Rather, home activities should expand beyond the pencil and paper and instead be an opportunity to explore, play, and bond with their families. Homework should teach your child how to be more creative, imaginative, and confident, and should provide a solution on how to make your child more positive. These homework activities should be a force of good, not just for the student, but for the people around them.
No More Homework!
In 2019, the staff at Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáin, Clonakilty (a school in Ireland) decided to make the holidays a special time for all their students. They wanted to show that children are powerful change-makers and that they have the ability to help the people around them. That’s when they decided to ditch formal homework for the entire month of December and swap it for daily acts of kindness. They gave their students a unique challenge for each day of the week and had them record it in a special Kindness Diary to note how it made them, and their recipient, feel. Their tasks were as follows:
- On Mondays: Communicate with an elderly person, whether they’re a relative, neighbor, or friend.
- On Tuesdays: Help out at home to make your parents? lives easier.
- On Wednesdays: Undertake a random act of kindness. Make somebody’s day and put a smile on their face through kind gestures, words, or acts.
- On Thursdays: Do something that you enjoy doing that makes you feel good about yourself. Whether it’s drawing, dancing, playing outside, playing dress up, or watching a TV show with your siblings, have FUN and make sure to write about how it makes you feel.
- On Fridays: Teachers will share some of the best stories from their students’ kindness journals to inspire other students and celebrate positivity.
Every challenge was selected to help children feel confident, empowered, and learn how to be positive no matter the circumstances. It challenged them to help others and focus on the positive effects they can have on the world. In the years prior, Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáin, Clonakilty also had weekly challenges that focused on health, gratitude, fitness, and exercise.
So what happened? Did children slack off and simply rejoice in the lack of math problems? Or did it bring positive change to their lives, aid their emotional development, and strengthen their communities as intended?
News of this radical project spread like wildfire throughout Ireland and the world! So many positive sentiments came in from educators, parents, and students who wanted to adopt the same curriculum in their schools. It has been a lasting tradition at this school, and I’m sure that it’s something that both students and parents look forward to every year.
Through these simple challenges, students learn more about themselves, their peers, and the world at large. The lesson that children have the power to change someone else’s day is not something they will soon forget. It helps children to be empathetic, like by reaching out to an elderly person who might be lonely around Christmas time. It helps children to become confident in their ability to impact others. It even provides an opportunity for children to play and connect with their parents and gives adults a nudge to reach out to others and share kindness too.
Of course, you can propose that your child’s school implement an act of kindness month or week, but we can’t promise that they’ll drop the homework (although there are active petitions to do away with homework). One way to sweeten the deal for your educators is to introduce them to HAPPɒs Mission I’m Possible. Mission I’m Possible is a free program that emails teachers a new challenge every week focused on acts of kindness, emotional development and psychological health & wellbeing. Missions are designed to feel like top secret missions that only your little learner can accomplish, and each one is paired with an exercise focused on reflection. Here’s what parents are saying:
“It was very good to have this emotional awareness available for us as a family and especially for our children.”
“I noticed that my daughter has matured emotionally and will revert to techniques taught if she’s having a tough time.”
You can sign up for FREE to start your family’s own radical journey to emotional development and how to make your child more positive and a force of good in the world.