Latest Newsletter to Parents

Newsletter 26/2014                                                  26 September 2014


I receive a regular educational newsletter which has interesting articles on a number of topics. In the most recent (Marshall Memo, no.553) the article below on homework might be of interest to parents. It is entitled “Advice for Parents on Homework” and is taken from the “Homework has a branding problem,” says author Bruce Feiler in this New York Times article. “Or, to be a little less pointy-headed about it, everybody hates homework.” But this hasn’t always been so. “Parents have been having these battles since before electric lighting,” he says. In the 19th century, homework was popular because people viewed the brain as a muscle that needed to be strengthened by nightly exertion. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a backlash against repetitive drills, and by the 1940s, homework was out of favor. Then Sputnik got people panicked about the U.S. falling behind the Soviets and lots of homework was part of the solution. There was another dip in the 1960s, and then A Nation at Risk caused yet another surge in the 1980s. Today we’re hearing from both sides: Chinese kids are doing six hours of homework before breakfast! No, play is more important than make-work and Google wants employees who are creative.

In Feiler’s own household, the homework wars come down to squabbles over several questions, and he went looking for answers from experts:

  • Do children need to work at their own desks or is the kitchen table okay? Eva Pomerantz, a specialist on parent involvement at the University of Illinois, likes the kitchen table because a parent is usually around, increasing the chance of connections, but is busy preparing meals, which makes it less likely they’ll do the homework themselves. But it depends on your house, she says: “If you have a crazy, noisy kitchen, that’s probably not the place for your kids to be doing homework unless they have amazing concentration.”
  • Is it okay for children to do homework sprawled on their beds? “It’s not about the kid being on their bed while they do their homework,” says Erika Patall, a University of Texas expert on motivation and achievement. “It’s about the extent to which they’re really engaged and attentive to their work.” Young people vary in their preference for bright or dim lighting and sitting up or lying down. If the kid is falling asleep, looking out the window, or on the phone, then bed homework is a problem.
  • How about listening to music or doing FaceTime with friends? Patall says the research on multitasking is pretty clear: “People tend to be very bad multitaskers, even people who say, ‘I’m a great multitasker.’” Doing other things extends the time homework takes and erodes the quality of work.
  • Should parents go over homework to check for errors? “If you’re concerned that imperfect homework makes you look bad, that’s problematic,” says Pomerantz. But regularly looking over homework may help students put in more effort and catch their own mistakes.
  • Should parents criticize sloppy homework or stick to encouragement? “You don’t always have to be upbeat,” says Patall. “You don’t want to deliver critical messages that imply things can’t be fixed. So you never want to say things like, ‘You’re stupid.’ But pointing out a situation where they should try harder would certainly be justified.”
  • What will make children more self-motivated? The key is to give them as much control over their homework as possible, says Pomerantz, who has to fight her own tendency to be controlling. She tells her children how hard she works and says she expects them to do the same. “If you give them space to be self-reliant,” she says, “they usually will take it.”

“The Homework Squabbles” by Bruce Feiler in The New York Times, September 14, 2014,

Community Service

This weekend will be a busy community service weekend. September is “World Rabies Month” and as part of a government initiative to vaccinate as many dogs as possible against this disease, 53 Waterford students are taking part in the  World Rabies Day Programme at the Prince of Wales Stadium. The students who are participating range in age from Form 1 to IB 2.  They will work at different vaccination stations in and around Mbabane helping with the issuing of the certificates and aiding the veterinary staff.

An inter schools debating tournament is taking place at Manzini Nazarene on Saturday. As well as the Waterford Debating team who are taking part we are also providing a team of adjudicators. This is a new community service initiative to promote debating in Swaziland. Some of our IB 1 students have undergone training and will now adjudicate the debates. This is their first tournament and we wish them all luck.

Mpaka and St. Joseph’s Community Service

We would like to ask for donations of soap and facecloths (new) for the Mpaka and St. Joseph’s Christmas drive.  These items can be dropped off in the community service room or given to Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Mills or Mrs. Dekova.

Weekend Sport

  • WK will host the independent schools cricket festival tomorrow. The games will begin at 8:30am and end at approximately 5:00pm.
  • Tomorrow the U18 girls and boys will play in a tournament at Sisekelo High School in Big Bend.  The bus will depart WK at 06:00am and return at approximately 4:00pm.
  • The chess team will play at Enjabulweni High School in Manzini.  The bus will depart at 07:00am and return at approximately 2:00pm.
  • The girls U19 basketball team will play at UNISWA.  The bus will depart at 07:00am and return at approximately 5:00pm.


Next week Friday the U16 and U19 boys and girls will depart for the American International School of Johannesburg to play in a tournament.  They will depart school on Friday at 2:00pm and return at approximately 2:00pm on Sunday.  The Head of Sport, Mr Phebeni will accompany the team. He can be reached on cell number  +268 76476276.

Principal Travels

I will be away from October 3rd to October 27th attending the Heads meeting at Pearson College in Canada and doing various fundraising activities in the UK and the US.  Mr. Wells will be the Acting Principal during this period.

Reminder: Important Dates

16 October: Mid Term break begins - 12:40pm

21 October: Lessons Resume after Mid Term Break - 8:00am

14 November: Form 5 Graduation - 3:00pm

21 November: IB2 Leavers - 6:00pm

Any Questions?

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . If the question is of broad interest I will publish the question (without the name) and my reply in the newsletter.

Kind Regards

Stephen Lowry