I’m angry. I’m upset and I’m frustrated. And I know I am not alone.
My disgust has a target: the homework packet that came home with my five-year-old kindergartener on Monday. The six-page albatross includes writing, math, drawing, story problems, coloring, and a nature walk.
The whole she-bang is due Friday morning.
The assignments must be completed throughout the week — after a full-day of school (8:15 am until 2:45 pm). The long day itself is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting for a five- or six-year-old. My son naps at least a half-hour when he gets home just to make it through the rest of the day.
When giving her rationale for the homework, my son’s teacher (like teachers at schools across the county) said that such assignments help build life-long habits of independent learning and “get him into the habit” of homework.
I’m sorry, but she’s dead wrong.
The developmental requirements of the worksheets now sitting on my dining room table are well above a skill-appropriate level for any five-year-old to complete independently. The assignments require step-by-step, hands-on interpretation, guidance and prodding from a parent. Every aspect of the homework, from reading the instructions to completing the work must be read out loud and explained by an adult. Otherwise, the child has no idea what to do.
But the problem only starts there. There are a myriad of other reasons why the homework is inappropriate:
- Although I have taught my son to read (using an amazing book), he is not yet reading at a level that allows him to understand the detailed directions on the worksheets,
- He does not know how to spell. Therefore, any answers he writes must be dictated to him by me or copied from something that I write first,
And here’s the kicker:
- If my kindergartner does not complete his homework, it’s not his fault. It’s mine. So what is that supposed to teach him? If he fails, it’s mom’s fault? What is the lesson there? I value the fact that I am teaching my son personal responsibility for his actions. But with this stupid homework, the school is fostering a “blame game” that will take years to undo.
Where are the study skills? Where is the independence? If you can find them, let me know!
The amount of worksheets has already created conflict with my son, who would much rather use what he learned in math by counting, sorting and grouping Legos than by cutting out bears and gluing them to sheets of paper at 6:30 at night. The busy-work also cuts into the creative time that my son and I would normally devote to other important areas of his learning, including music, swimming, outdoor creative play and conflict problem solving with this friends … or time simply reading with mom.
Are there other motives?
Then I have to ask: Why so much “reinforcement of learning” in the first place? Is this homework making up for poor classroom management? Are the children in my son’s class unable to accomplish everything necessary to meet grade level standards within the parameters of the school day?
I know that the answers to these questions are “No.” So why does my kindergartener have homework at all?
Is this, perhaps, the educational system’s way to force “learning time” in my family in an attempt to tell me how to raise my son? If that’s the case, then I will immediately return the fundraising materials, the requests for volunteer hours, the pleas to purchase grocery scrip, and all of the other donation envelopes that make their way to my house. If they think that I am unable to manage my at-home learning time with my five-year-old, then obviously I can’t handle a checkbook or my calendar, either.
I can’t help but wonder what the next step is in this intrusion. If my son has copious amounts of skill-inappropriate homework and is unable to exercise and play outside, will the school then tell me that my kid is fat and dictate my grocery shopping lists? (It sounds paranoid, but I’ve seen it happen in other schools).
I’m not the only one who’s mad
I am by no means bashing my son’s teacher. She’s a hard-working, vibrant young woman who is effectively teaching a classroom of small children. I am not bashing the private school where I send my son. The problem is that both the teacher and the school are following a new trend in homework that has infiltrated public and private education. With no basis in educational theory or study, and no example of success, schools and teachers are assigning a huge amount of homework because “the other schools are doing it.” Do a little research on the internet, and you will find scores of parents who are as upset as I am.
Is that any way to formulate an educational system?
Homework is not a bad thing – when assigned appropriately
Do I believe in homework? You BET I do. The only reason I survived math and learned spelling words was because of the practice I did at home. But I was in the third grade and could read the directions on my homework, understand the requirements, and complete the work independently. If I didn’t do the homework, I understood and suffered the consequences because I was of an appropriate age to comprehend what was required of me. My son, as a “normal,” healthy, curious five-year-old, cannot do that yet.
I realize that I will spend my son’s school career helping him with research projects, checking his homework when it is complete, and drilling him on his times tables. I’ll show him how to use the Internet safely and I’ll be a second set of eyes for his essays. But not when he’s in kindergarten. While he is this young, my job is to make sure he plays safely with his friends; is a well-behaved, nice and polite little boy; holds my hand in parking lots; eats lots of fruits and vegetables; and gets at least one story read to him every day (among a million other things).
I’m in a quandary about all of this. Do I swallow hard and play along? Do I cause a stink with a very enthusiastic first-year teacher? Do I not do the homework with my son and dare the school to fail him? I will be having a meeting with the teacher and the principal, but I’m waiting for my anger to simmer down. If you know anything about me, you know that an angry Joelle is a real trouble-maker.
If anyone has a study that shows that giving me and my five-year-old homework worksheets will make him better at anything, I am open to reading it.
Perhaps it is time for schools and teachers to look at what is developmentally best for a child. Forcing me to do my son’s age-inappropriate homework (and then create a situation where he has no responsibility for getting it done) is definitely not that. Maybe it’s time for parents to stand up and demand age and skill-level appropriate homework — and no homework at all for children before the second grade. Anyone with me?
And in case you were wondering: yes, I do have a teaching credential. It’s expired. Just like I am.
In the meantime, my kid will be outside, playing. Where he should be.