"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Say "No" to Homework? Don't be a jerk.

There's a blog post swirling around (again) that has me shaking my head (again). It's a couple years old but was recently re-posted by a local preschool and, subsequently, a couple of moms in the neighborhood. It's called Why We Say "NO" To Homework and you can find it here.

It the article, the mom states that she cares about her kids' learning...and that's why she chooses tree forts over homework.

She goes on to say that, after a long day in school, the last thing her kids need is more sitting and worksheet-completing. She says they need to play. They need time with their family, a chance to goof off, and an early bed time to ensure adequate sleep.

And I agree with her. That's why, in our house, when Evan comes home from school, he does whatever he wants. Maybe it's some screen time, maybe it's Legos, maybe it's sitting at the counter eating a snack and telling me (one-word answer by one-word answer) about his day.

Then, after some veg time, we go outside...to a park or our own backyard...and we play. I'll get some weeding done while the kids play together in their playhouse. We'll walk to the creek or ride bikes around the block. My kids will play with the neighborhood kids while I catch up with the other moms. It's play time; it's family time; it's time to goof off.

But then, we come inside. While I make dinner, Evan sits at the counter and does his homework.

By this time, Sam is home and is occupying the little ones so, while I'm cooking and Evan's sorting his word study words or completing a math practice sheet, Evan is, technically, missing out on playtime. But I don't see that as a bad thing. He's giving up a few extra minutes of Legos but, in doing his school work with me right across the counter, he's giving me insight into his day. I get to see what he's learning about and how well he understands the content.

And more often than not, it's during this homework time that we actually talk about his day, in more than one-word answers. While he's sorting his words and I'm steaming the broccoli, he'll tell me about the literacy centers he went to that morning and what he wrote about in his writing journal. While he's completing his place value practice sheet and I'm turning the chicken, he'll tell me about the funny thing his partner said during their math game. He'll remember the cool book they read as part of their social studies unit and tell me all about it while I cut the carrots and pour the milks. It was during homework time that I learned that Evan loves chorus. I'm sorry, did you say, chorus? My kid; my introverted, non-performing, clam-up-on-stage-during-both-the-kindergarten-and-first-grade-musicals kid loves chorus?! Who knew?!

Well, I do. Thanks to the time of our day that is dedicated to talking about school.

Homework brings school home. I feel like I know where he is academically because I'm seeing him in learning mode. I know what subject areas he's comfortable with and what he needs to keep practicing. I know what he's learning about so I can share my own experiences with the subject matter.

So, homework? I ain't mad atcha.

I'm not mad at the mom who hates the homework, either. Maybe her kids aren't as lucky as mine...maybe they go to a school that assigns hours and hours of mindless, worksheet-completion-type homework, or homework that covers material not-yet-taught in class that drives parents and children both to frustrated aggravation.

Evan, in second grade, has weekly word study (spelling) for which he needs to do one activity a night, an occasional math practice sheet (about once a week), and nightly reading (which doesn't even count in my opinion, because that's a given). For second grade, I think that's perfectly reasonable.

But what does get me fired up about this article is this part:

"Time to write THAT letter again. The letter to my child's new teacher that explains why our family bans homework."

She includes a sample letter to be sent to the teacher that is both condescending ("Can we talk?") and self-righteous ("My view is homework interrupts home learning. Homework tends to give school/learning a bad name..."). She says that homework has "no place" in a young child's life. (She defines this stage of development as preschool through 11 years old.)

Okay, Homework Hating Mom, here we go.

You want to know what really interrupts "home" learning? School. In a school that is not your home. If you don't want to interrupt "home" learning, then "home" school. That's an actual thing that you can actually do if you don't like the policies in place in your local, FREE, public school.

I'm imagining this teacher, receiving this letter. This teacher, who is already probably the hardest-working, most undervalued person in Homework Hating Mom's life, is being told that her policies (that are probably not even hers, but her school's or even district's) just aren't going to work for this one student in her class, so if she could just please change her (the school's/district's) policies for this one student in her class that would be great, mmmmmkay?

This teacher, who is already working diligently to meet the academic and social needs of 20-25 different learners; who will now need to come up with a different grading system (because I can't imagine the parent will stand for her child receiving zeroes on work that he "shouldn't have to" complete); and who will have to deal with an entitled jerk of a student who will, undoubtedly, say things to his classmates like, "My mom says I don't have to do that." Which will be interpreted by his classmates, undoubtedly, as "I don't have to do what she (the teacher) says." Which is the most disrespectful, obnoxious lesson you could ever possibly teach your child.

What happens when this kid gets to middle and high school? Well, according to HHM, he'll do his homework...but she won't tell him to do it. "No parent signatures signing off on assignments, etc." Okay. So this kid you've been teaching for eleven years, that school-wide policies do not apply to him, will enter middle and high school super-eager to start completing homework ON HIS OWN?

Good luck with that one.

And in the real world? You think your kid will be able to pick and choose what work he completes and which ones he doesn't? Have you ever had a job, HHM? Because the world doesn't work like that.

So, fine. Don't do homework. But then don't send your child to public school.

Lesson Learned:
There are probably a lot of problems with homework across this country. We've been lucky that the homework Evan has been given so far has been reasonable in amount and purpose. But if it wasn't...if Evan was receiving so much homework that he had no free time to play or was needing to stay up past his bedtime to complete it...I'd go in and talk to the teacher. I'd ask about the homework policies and I'd ask about change. But to send a letter to the teacher at the beginning of the school year stating that your child will not be doing any homework, regardless of school policy? Don't be a jerk.

And more importantly: Don't raise a jerk.


  1. Homework time isn't nearly so calm in our house, but we do try to get it done. All three are in school now, which makes for a busy time around the table, particularly before I get home from work and it's just my wife doing the dinner and three lots of homework.

    One thing we don't do is worry too much about it. We encourage the little angels to do their homework, and help and cajole and bribe and so on, but we try not to lose sleep over it.

    Some nights, it even works... ;)

  2. I do realize that it's only going to get harder than it is now, as my other two enter school and the amount/complexity of the homework increases. It's important that we instill in our kids while they're young that homework has a purpose (though not the most important thing in the world) and that one of the traits we value is completing a task that has been assigned to you. Or at least giving your best effort toward task-completion....But I'm definitely with you in that there's plenty else to lose sleep over! :)