So, I have my kids in the local public schools which has real drawbacks and benefits. One of the things I am struggling with is when – if ever – to push back over some the homework issue. Like has happened at a lot of schools, homework has creeped down into earlier and earlier grades. So, my 1st grader has nightly homework and my kindergartener has homework once or twice a week.
There are so many problems with this. First of all, there has been a bunch of research into the matter and homework has no benefits – not educational, in fostering good work habits – until at least junior high. The problem is that this conflicts with deeply ingrained ideas about the importance of starting good habits early, the need to practice those habits, etc. So although it is literally a fact that homework for elementary kids has no benefit, people think that it must and won’t let go of it. When confronted, people either deny reality or fall back on another admirable goal: parental involvement. Which leads to the next problem . . .
I am very involved in my kids life without your help, thank you very much! And I don’t particularly feel the need or desire to document the time I spend involved with them. And what if we go two weeks without reading together and then devour 4 books in a weekend? I don’t need/want the schools making me feel like part of their job is to hold me accountable for reading to my kids! The best predictor of whether a kid will be a reader is whether they see their parents reading and how many books are in the house – NOT whether I spend 20 minutes a day reading to them. Needless to say I read on occassion (ha! on ocassion.) and I have a few books in the house. If I got nothing else right while homeschooling, at least I made readers. I really don’t need or want the school’s help. This is the one thing which I have held my ground on, I steadfastly refuse to document time spent reading to my kids – not for bribes of pizza or so my kid can get her gold star. I’m not going to do it.
But it’s not just the tracking of minutes reading that is a problem. It’s the homework itself. The homework is BULLSHIT. It would be much easier to settle into complacency over sending my kids to school rather than homeschooling if I didn’t actually have to confront the bad pedagogy and pointless drivel which passes for school curriculumn. Not to mention that it’s pointless to have my daughter “read” the same story each night for a week when by the second night she is reciting it from memory. This does nothing to help her learn to read. (And don’t even get me started on spelling lists.) Seriously, people – sending this crap home each day is not confidence inspiring.
I’m struggling with how to handle this. I don’t believe in telling my kids things that I know aren’t true, so it’s hard for me to try and convince them that homework actually has a point. Mostly I just focus on the expectation of the teacher that it be done and the star that the teacher will put on her chart when it is done. I did finally start sending the names of books Michaela read to me or other family members in lieu of reciting the week’s story from memory (I still let her do that when she wants to – memorization is an important skill. But it doesn’t count as reading.) I have started refusing to help her with worksheets like the one above and insist that she figure out what she’s supposed to be doing herself instead. Do I say anything to the teachers? I know its not really their fault – and they are so sweet and seem to be genuinely good teachers. It’s not really even something a teacher can do anything about. Sending home work with kids is something they are all expected to do. But there is pressure on my girls to conform and jump through the hoops to get the grades (good skills to have, but hardly what the main focus should be about). I want them to be successful in school, but I don’t want them to fall for bullshit claptrap like doing things simply to collect gold stars instead of to learn. I know that my and even my daughter’s teacher’s power to effect change is pretty limited. Schools are inherently limited in how flexible they can be. Other parents no doubt completely disagree with my suggestions. Curriculum is a huge investment and can’t be tossed on a whim. Etc, etc, etc. So . . . anyone have any suggestions, insights, experiences to share? I’m all ears!