I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
October 16, 2013
I’ll never forget the day my daughter brought home her very first homework assignment from kindergarten.
I was a little ticked right from the start- I mean, the teachers already had my kid seven hours a day. Did they have to horn in on my time, too? Still, the first week of school seemed a little early to rock the boat. Reluctantly, I sat down with my daughter at the kitchen table and we got to work.
The first few questions were easy. Count the ducks in the picture. Choose the word that finishes the sentence. Write the letter A. And then I came to question number four.
Count the number of doors, windows, and rooms in your house and make a tally chart with your results.
“What’s a tally chart?”
“I don’t know.”
“You haven’t talked about tally charts at school?”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” she said.
“Well we’ll just skip that one,” I said. Punky looked panicked.
“I hafta do all of my homework, Mommy,” she said. “Mrs. Arnold said so.”
“She won’t mind if you skip this one,” I reassured her. “You don’t even know what a tally chart is.” Tears sprang to Punky’s eyes.
“But I hafta,” she said pleadingly. “Or I won’t get a treat from the treat box on Friday.”
“Okay, okay,” I said. I stood up and went to my laptop on the kitchen counter. “Hold on.”
What followed was a truly humiliating moment- one I can’t believe I’m admitting to you now. But for the sake of this post, I’m just going to put it out there.
MY NAME IS LINDSAY FERRIER AND I HAD TO GOOGLE MY DAUGHTER’S KINDERGARTEN HOMEWORK.
And to be perfectly honest? It’s only gone downhill from there.
Today, Punky is in the fourth grade and in some sort of effort to prepare her for middle school next year, her homework assignments have increased tenfold. Each week, she has to complete two online word probes and one math probe, memorize spelling words and times tables, chart 20 minutes of after-school reading per day, complete 4 assignments on the school’s Study Island site, plod through four pages of math assignments, cut out and sort 25 words according to categories I still can’t figure out, read a social studies assignment and answer questions, study for tests, and work on longterm projects.
Make no mistake, my daughter does all of her homework now by herself. But I still have to help her with questions she doesn’t understand (and there are plenty of them). I still have to check her homework when she’s done with it. And I definitely have to help her manage all of these tasks in order to get them done by the end of the week– believe it or not, organizational skills don’t just come naturally to most nine year olds. Between her and my first grade son, homework has become a part-time job for me, one I loathe, because you know what?
I DIDN’T SIGN UP FOR THIS.
Elementary school homework should be called parentwork, because that’s exactly what it is. There is no way a kid under ten is going to get his or her homework done on a regular basis without significant time and effort from mom or dad. And that just sucks, plain and simple.
This is MY time with my kids. Let me spend it the way I see fit.
I’d rather spend after school time having fun with my children, playing games or baking or doing crafts and science experiments or watching a movie. I want to take my kids to the zoo after school, or the park or the botanical gardens, or just walk around the neighborhood. I want them to have time to play with their neighbor friends. But too often, the neighbors can’t play. BECA– USE THEY’RE TOO BUSY DOING HOMEWORK.
And trust me, I realize I’m one of the lucky ones- I work from home and can almost always get my work out of the way before the kids come home so that we have some together time. I know the homework load is even worse for all of my friends who don’t finish work and get home with their kids until 6 or 6:30. With bedtime at eight, that leaves them just two hours to put dinner on the table and spend time as a family– I don’t know how they’re fitting homework wrangling into the mix, but I do know it must be a nightmare.
Let me make it clear that I’m not blaming the teachers or school administrators here- Every single teacher my kids have had so far has been wonderful and willing to work with me when I’ve told them the homework load was too much. And I see the difficulty teachers must have finding a good homework balance- Assign too little and the kid has a panic attack when next year’s teacher assigns a much heavier load. Assign too much and the teacher has disgruntled parents to deal with, and kids who start hating school as a result of all the work.
No, I’m blaming the school system. I believe it’s up to the district to establish homework guidelines that ensure our elementary school kids aren’t spending more than a few minutes of their free time a day doing homework. I’ve heard that one nearby district has a ten minutes of homework per grade level maximum, and I think that’s acceptable. I also think the homework should serve a purpose, and have them learning by observing and doing as often as possible. In other words, NO MORE REQUIRED COMPUTER TIME. And NO MORE WORKSHEETS.
I’ll get down off my soapbox now. Just tell me I’m not alone here. Please.
Image via spiritinme/Flickr