Tag Archives: homework

Best day ever

Oh happy day.

Seriously. Neither of my children has homework today. It might just possibly be the best day ever.

This morning I had a meeting with Dash’s teachers, because they wanted to talk to me about some observations they’ve made about his reading and his vision.

And after we’d talked about that, and agreed that I should make a new appointment with the eye doctor because the teachers are convinced that a lot of his reading hurdles are still vision-related, I mentioned that homework is always a battle, especially the reading portion of it.

They instantly said “Well, what can we do to fix that? Can he stay on here and do it after school? Can he do it during the day? You should have told us sooner.” I was flabbergasted. I had been meaning to mention it at our parent-teacher meetings next month, but I didn’t seriously think they’d be able to take the burden of the 20 minutes of reading, cornerstone of homework requirement, away. Just like that, they did.

They still want him to do a little homework, for the executive functioning reason of developing a habit of getting out your work, checking what you need to do, and doing something at home. But if he can do the 20 minutes of reading, so much the sticking point for us every night, at school instead, our quality of life will be enormously improved.

This evening was so peaceful. Mabel happens to have no homework this week either, though her homework is not a battleground, but it was just the icing on the cake.

I mean, she still didn’t get out of the bath the first ten times I politely suggested she should, and nobody’s asleep yet, but as evenings go, I’d like more of this sort.

Dash on his new bike

No homework? Time to get up some speed on your new bike.

 

True Lies

Do you remember back at the start of the year when I made the monumental effort of having everyone eat at the table, together, every night?

It’s wonderful, we still do it, it’s become second nature now. We are so much closer as a family as a result, and my children have expanded their palates wonderfully too.

No. No, that’s a lie. Sorry, I couldn’t find the sarcasm font, but here I am admitting once again, just for a change, that I fell off the good parenting wagon. Or the good housewife wagon, or whichever wagon it is that applies here.

(No comments from the rabble down the back about silly wagons, now. The Americans won’t understand you, anyway.)

All summer, we slipped out of the habit, and I said “Well, when school starts again we’ll get organized and the TV will be off and they’ll be doing their homework and we’ll have dinner at 6pm all together.”

Nope. Nope nope nope. They come home from school and they want to flake out in front of the TV, not sit down with books and pencils. And they want snacks, and more snacks, and then they just want dinner, with no perceptible pause in between. And then, when he’s had some snacks, Dash wants to go outside and bounce a basketball or kick a soccer ball with his friend, and even Mabel does too, sometimes, or else she wants to play with her animals and her babies and her tiny bits of who knows what, making them do things and say things and basically working out her whole day’s experiences and frustrations the way she always does, re-grounding herself through her imagination.

And guess what? I want to let them. Because that’s what they need to do. And because it’s easier for me to give them a plate with food on it that I know they’ll eat, while they watch TV in their vegging out time, and then they can play while I get the other dinner together and we adults eat it in relative peace, and then the push for homework can begin, and because they’ve eaten early, it won’t all push on and over into bathtime or bedtime.

(Mabel’s homework is quick and easy and she doesn’t mind doing it, so long as I don’t pester her but let her come to it in her own time. Dash’s homework takes longer, but he does it in his room now on his new desk. The hard part is getting him there, but once he’s started he’s pretty self-steering.)

But the whole thing – routine, lack thereof, whatever it is – conspires against eating dinner together, and they still won’t eat what we (the adults) eat, which I fully understand is a circular argument and a self-fulfilling prophecy if I never sit them down with us and offer it to them; but I’m fighting one battle at a time here, and right now the dinner battle is not the one I’ve chosen. I don’t know what this one is, maybe it’s called giving up for the moment, but this is what I’m doing.

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I just didn’t want you to think I was all bloggy perfect in my life. I’m not. I don’t want to pretend to be. I want us to be honest with each other, so that the world inside the computer is as imperfect and real as the world outside the computer. That’s when you make connections, not points.

autumnal leaves on the ground

Random picture of leaves on the ground, which you are at liberty to believe is a metaphor for anything you like.

 

The homework debate

My second-grader is doing his homework. It’s quick and easy and it doesn’t take long. But I started reminding (/asking/exhorting) him to do it when he got home from school at 3.45. He finally began at 7.20pm, after some outside playtime, some TV time, dinner, dessert, some more outside time, and a glass of milk. I’ve come to accept that this is how it is with him, and for now it’s working. He knows that ultimately he is responsible for his homework being done. I worry about how things will go next year, when they say the homework load really ramps up, and when if he starts at 7.30 he won’t finish till long past bedtime. I suppose he’ll live and learn. He’s not one to stress over his homework; I’m lucky that he’s a relaxed kid who loves school for its social aspects and has not yet been turned off learning for its own sake.

People used to think that we should show children it’s a tough world from the outset. Some people still feel that way, on one matter or another. You shouldn’t pick up your crying baby. You shouldn’t tolerate tantrums. You shouldn’t let that five-year-old sleep with the light on. They need to learn that life’s hard, and people are mean, and they need to buckle down and do their work; and the sooner they figure that out the better.

I think we should be kind to our babies and love them while we can, because life is short – and childhood shorter – even more than it’s hard; and because they will find out the rest soon enough.

And so I’m thinking about homework again. I’m not saying that people who expect children to do homework are cruel, Dickensian types, or that making a kindergardener come home from six hours of school and asking them to sit down and do homework is like forcing a three-month-old baby to cry it out – but then again, maybe one day in the future it will be seen that way.

I’m not big on research. I like to read the headlines and let other people do the heavy lifting. But I can tell you a few things I’ve seen recently that have stuck in my mind:

Homeschooling is a wonderful option for many people, but I am not one of those people. I like our local public school and I want to be part of it. My son loves school. I enjoy sending him to school every day and picking him up at the end of it. I don’t enjoy bugging him to do his homework for an hour or more every day while he strings me along with promises of “Yes, yes, after this,” and finally sits down to do it right when it’s dinnertime, or maybe bedtime.

I really don’t like the conversations I’ve had with other parents who have more intense children who burst into tears crying “I just want to play” when it’s time for homework, or whose studious third- or fourth-graders won’t hear of stopping after 45 minutes even when their mom says they’ll write a note because that’s long enough.

And on the whole, I know that my household has it easy right now. So far, the amount of homework he has had has been very reasonable, his teachers have been undemanding, and he’s not the type to stress over schoolwork. Once he finally sits down to do it, it goes pretty quickly these nights. Additionally, our school has said that roughly ten minutes per grade is as much work as they should be doing – 25 minutes for my second-grader, then; under an hour for a fifth-grader. (Does that mean zero minutes for a kindergardener?)

Children are not miniature adults. They are not just university students in training. Their minds and bodies are still developing and they have more learning to do than can be taught in school. Childhood is not the time for them to learn how to buckle down and work for a further two hours (or even 45 minutes) when every fibre of their being tells them they should be running and jumping and climbing trees and playing soccer and organizing skipping games with the other kids on the street and finding out what it is they love to do. They’ve spent six hours clamping down on their wild sides – or having them clamped down for them – when they get home it’s time to do the other thing.

I want there to be no homework. Not just less, but none, for the sake of our quality of life four nights a week, and my children’s childhoods. And I’m almost fired up enough to do something about it.

Decimal

Dash couldn’t sleep last night, so he requested a notebook and a pencil and wrote a book. As you do. Then he fell asleep for a few minutes and dreamed that theives came in and stole his pages, and woke up in a fright. I had to lie down with him for aaages to get him back to sleep, and by then it was my bedtime and the 3:10 to Yuma is going to have to wait for another day. (Which is okay with me. It’s one of those “We should probably see it” films. Is it any good, really? Have you watched it?)

Anyway, this is his book, all three pages plus cover:

Cover page
 Ten is a Grat Nomber by [redacted]
First page
 My favorite nomber is 10. 10 is a good nomb[er] becus it is the first 2 nomberd nomber.
Second page
Nombers are grate but i’d say 10 is better out of them all. 1 to 100 is not all.
Third page
Nombers go on forever, but I stil think 10 is better.

I can’t wait for the next thrilling instalment. I think he displays a grasp of the concept of infinity and a general liking for digits that I find admirable, though I’m not sure why he says “better” all the time instead of “best.” I also note that his literary inclination is not towards fiction.

I told him how to spell “favorite” (the American way, to my chagrin) and to put another t in better, but the rest (as you can tell) is all his own work. He has the vaguest of understandings that I used to have a job in the outside world and of what it was, so he asked me, “And tomorrow, will you do that thing you used to do, in the library or wherever it was…?” He meant would I edit it. I said I would.

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Some time after Christmas, homework stopped being the royal pain in the ass it had been. Mostly because I stopped caring so much, and therefore stopped bugging him to do it when I thought he should be doing it. He does his homework every night, usually not until Mabel has been taken upstairs to bed and is therefore no longer a distraction. It doesn’t take long. Then we go through his spelling words either orally or by typing them into SpellingCity.com and letting him take a test on the computer, which is a great attraction. And he does his twenty minutes’ reading with us at bedtime, before or after stories.

It’s all very low pressure and I’m fine with that. I can see that his writing has got neater, his punctuation is pretty good, and some weeks he gets 100 percent in his spelling test. His reading level has leapt from a 12 (on the DRA scale) at the beginning of the year to a 24 this month. (Which sounded spectacular to me until I heard that some other kid went from 12 to 40. What an overacheiver. Sheesh.) But things are moving in the right direction and nobody is stressed out, and that makes me happy.

So all in all, first grade turns out to have been just fine.