We just wrapped up a blissful week of spring break. Okay, it wasn’t really blissful – the kids were cooped up inside for a large part of it due to inclement weather (yes, that’s right, right here in sunny Southern California), we dealt with the stress of an out-of-town visitor whose name I won’t mention, and there was plenty of tattling and bickering. And that was just me and Michael!
Anyhow, that said, there’s still something about not having the whole school deal to deal with, you know? The morning rush, the afternoon madness . . . and homework. God, how I hate homework. Hate it.
Today the kids went back to school. And while it was nice to have some peace and quiet so I could
kick my feet up and relax with a magazine and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s do laundry, balance the checkbook, and deal with Little League business, the moment the kids walked in the door after school, my reverie came to a screeching halt.
The demands for snacks. And the homework. The homework, the homework, the homework.
It’s the three girls, really. Kevin and Joey, thank goodness, have grown to be independent homework-doers. They don’t need supervision to get their homework done (that’s not to say they don’t both engage in procrastination on long-term projects, but somehow they both get their work turned in and are both doing very well in school), and it’s rare that they need help or input from the parental units. But the girls? Ack. It’s not so much feet-dragging and stalling techniques anymore, it’s just that all three of them seem to require huge amounts of supervision and help to get their homework completed every day. Honestly? It feels like I’m being assigned homework. And I resent it. I did my share of homework when I was growing up (and I don’t remember the homework load being anything like it is nowadays), and frankly, I never wanted to be a teacher. Never ever. Yes, I realize that part of being a parent means being a teacher, but a parent is meant to be a teacher in the life sense, not so much the academic sense.
Right before Spring Break, we (second-grade parents) were notified that the kids will now be required to do five minutes per day of math practice. A list of choices is given for methods of math practice, and the parent must sign off on it each day. Methods include flash cards or various math websites. This is in addition to the daily homework they already have to do! Yay. The first problem is the choices. Do you know how long it takes a seven-year old to make up her damn mind about which method of math practice she wants to do? Roughly twelve minutes. And of course she wants to do a practice game from one of the various websites offered. Which means I have to turn my laptop over to said grubby-fingered seven-year old. But first, I have allow her to choose an activity from said website. Which takes approximately nine minutes. Then I have to read the instructions and explain them to her. Another four minutes. Child then attempts her chosen practice game, but within two minutes is wailing, “Mommy! I don’t understand this!” I grit my teeth and explain it to her again. This kills another three minutes. She then spends the allotted five minutes doing the activity. Can you do the math? What was supposed to have been a five-minute activity has now taken 35 minutes. And I have TWO second graders. Lather, rinse, repeat.
And what’s this all for, anyway? Haven’t multiple studies shown that homework does not actually improve skills or scores?** And worst-case scenario (and probably pretty common) is that it makes learning a drag. I mean, seriously, what kid wants to spend six and a half hours in school and then come home and do more schoolwork – and with a harried, pissed off mom?
I’d like to tell you about my version of Utopia. In my Utopia, there is no homework for elementary school students. If a child in grades K – 6 actually needs extra help, then customized homework may be assigned, the aim being to assist him with grasping the concepts he’s having trouble with and practicing/reinforcing those concepts. This one-size-fits-all-homework-whether-they-need-it-or-not? Nonexistent. Instead, kids come home from school – happy! Because they know that Mom is fairly relaxed (because she’s also not dreading the prospect of an afternoon of homework), and they know that the afternoon is theirs for the taking. Milk and cookies await them. And then what’ll it be? Racing scooters up and down the sidewalk? How about a rousing game of hopscotch or hide-and-seek? Or maybe they’ll just lie on the grass and stare up at the clouds, daydreaming.
My two second-graders’ teacher happens to be a very close friend. I hope I haven’t pissed her off with this. I hope I haven’t pissed off any of my teacher friends (I seem to have quite a few teacher friends). But this is the truth: homework sucks. I know, I know, there are mandates and other parents demanding more homework (what kind of crack are they smoking?), and budget cuts and program cuts and overcrowded classrooms, all necessitating more parental involvement in the kids’ academic upbringing than ever before. I know. It just stinks, that’s all.
Two more months until summer break. I’m counting the days.