It was almost 8 p.m. on a Thursday night and my daughter and I were sitting together at the dinner table with a pile of Cheerios in front of us. I was exhausted from working all week long. I had worked late that night and just arrived home around 7 p.m. She was exhausted from school all week long and her bedtime is at 7:30. Nevertheless, there we sat, both still in our clothes from the day, working on homework.
I’m not sure what side of the fence I sit on when it comes to giving homework to kids. When I had my daughter I watched as the battles began to rage about the subject and thought that I had years before I would have to think about it. Somehow, those years flew by and I found myself showing her how to add with pieces of cereal – which she ate after she counted them.
Since I have always hated math and have always been fairly very terrible at it, it was almost laughable that I was the parent attempting to teach my daughter this skill. Lucky for me, it was just addition.
Also lucky for me, at 4-years-old she sees her homework as something of a game and something we get to work on while we spend time together. That part of it I sort of like. I don’t mind hanging out with her and feeling like I’m contributing to her little mind.
What I do mind is that this was happening at 8 p.m. when we both wanted to curl up in her bed with a book together. Admittedly, it was partially our fault as parents. We had seen a note that they would be giving a packet of homework for the week, but didn’t really think about it until that evening. Of course, her little packet of worksheets that included addition, handwriting, letters and deciphering opposites was due the next day.
I later asked her teacher about it. I wanted to know if it was mandatory because the pressure I felt to help her get it done and get the answers right was a little absurd.
While it wasn’t a bad experience for us as a mom and daughter, I could see how this could be the beginning of years where we were up late working on something for school. I wasn’t really looking forward to it once it became more than shapes and simple addition.
“It will help prepare her for Kindergarten,” her teacher said with a look that stopped short of eye-rolling.
I nodded. I knew other parents must have asked her the same question and I had expected that sort of answer. Not mandatory, but somewhat of an insinuation that I wasn’t being a good parent if I wasn’t going to help prepare her for the next step in her education. Part of me was bitter about this non-answer. I mean, the school (daycare, play-based, pre-school) costs just as much as college so if it is mandatory I sort of wanted a degree at the end.
I’ve seen the research that states that homework at this age provides nothing. In fact, recent research released in March 2016 by a man named Harris Cooper, a Duke University psychologist and neuroscientist (his homework must have been a nightmare), found that the benefits children receive from homework are age dependent. It also concluded that when homework is given to children too young, it has a negative impact on how they view school.
Some schools and/or teachers have responded by doing away with homework for young kids, but sometimes parents still have wanted homework as a way to teach their children academic skills such as responsibility and study habits. Part of me sees their point. Like I said, there are some good things we get from doing homework together. Then again, I’m on Week 5 and we’ve only completed three weeks of homework. (Ooopps!)
Another part of me wonders if this is more about us than them. Is the rally against giving kids homework more about the way we feel about the time in our lives, which is always in demand from someone or something? Is it more about us not wanting to spend our free time on their homework at these young ages? Let’s be honest, that’s what happens. We become the teachers of all things at home and that includes academics. It’s on us at 4, 5, 6, 7…9…17…
An article in TIME says parents become the “Homework Patrol Cop” and nag children, which makes them procrastinate. The article also says that kids can learn responsibility in different ways before the age of 11 (I believe this.) and that “school may be mandatory but homework isn’t.” Hmmm…tell that to my child’s pre-school teacher who gave me the look.
The author says that you can “opt out” especially in elementary school. She writes about it as if schools will just be cool with this. Clearly, one child opting out in a classroom of 30 won’t cause any issues, right teacher friends?
I’m not there yet, but it just doesn’t seem like something you can opt out of unless you want them to opt your kid out of passing.
We will see what elementary school brings next year in Kindergarten. It’s a time when I was learning my male-dominated Letter People and how to appropriately wipe my own butt, but I understand that standards have changed. I’m not going to make a fuss about those changes…yet.
For now, we are going to do our homework. It isn’t a problem for us as long as I remember to have her do it throughout the week instead of all at one time on a Thursday night. After all, we get one packet a week with four or five worksheets that include tracing and coloring. It’s not rocket science.
Count me out if we ever have rocket science homework.