Rebel Yell

Plenty of time for this later

Every week, my son’s teacher, who is an organized woman as well as a living saint, leaves in his folder a small booklet that is intended to be his homework for the week. It is all of three pages, and it always has a theme, whether it be the weather or certain types of animals or upcoming holidays. To finish the whole thing with my help would take him perhaps five minutes.

However, I have a confession to make.

We don’t do them.

You are shocked, shocked, I know! I’m disappointed in me too. I also would expect me to be a more responsible mother, and because I don’t have him do these worksheets, he will be lucky if he can attend Ebay University, much less Harvard. How will he ever learn to function in the world if he does not practice the ability to find different fruits in a picture? I’m glad that I remain anonymous, for I fear a mob of angry Alpha Moms might try to come and run me out of town if they were to find out.

But deep down in my heart of hearts, I don’t think a five year old should be doing homework.

Not yet.

Kindergarten is already what first grade used to be, and sixth grade is practically high school. There will be time aplenty for homework.

I would rather have him outside, I would rather have him create art, I would rather we read together. In fact, I would rather have him do almost anything other than a worksheet. Because I think many children these days have more homework than they know how to finish in a given night, and in my own tiny, subversive way, I am rebelling against the useless worksheet trend.

And perhaps my rebel yell is really more of a recalcitrant whisper, but I still think it speaks volumes.

You might say that it speaks volumes about my stupidity, but I beg to differ.

26 Responses to “Rebel Yell”

  1. raincoaster December 8, 2007 at 7:36 am #

    But Glinda, this is not your son’s babysitter. It is your son’s teacher. Presumably, you have sent your son to her so that she may ensure that he learns things, not just that he stays out of your hair. And it’s probable that she’s given him this “homework” not because the homework itself is important, but because learning about responsibilities and working things through with your parents is the learning experience that she really wants to teach here.

  2. raincoaster December 8, 2007 at 7:41 am #

    On second thought, shouldn’t you be looking for a different teacher, if you disagree that strongly with the approach?

    Please note that I speak as one who didn’t do ANY homework until I was in second year University.

  3. Margaret December 8, 2007 at 9:55 am #

    HOmework? Kindergarten?? WTH???

  4. Robyn December 8, 2007 at 10:45 am #

    I think it speaks volumes about your rightful desire to be in charge of your own child. Take him outside to play, and toss those worksheets in the trash.

    I’m not sure I agree that sixth grade is practically high school these days. As I meet more and more international people who have been educated in other countries, I am increasingly shocked at how little we actually learn in American public schools. Or maybe I was just never a very good student.

  5. Glinda December 8, 2007 at 12:13 pm #

    It isn’t even kindergarten, it’s pre-K.

    And yes, the sixth grade was high school thing was for exaggerated effect, but they are certainly learning things earlier than we did when we were in elementary school, such as fractions.

    And I think the teacher is fabulous, I don’t disagree with her philosophy in general. She has never mentioned the homework to me, and all I think he is missing out on is a sticker. If I thought the worksheets were productive, I would do them. But I don’t. They are actually similar to what you would find on those little restaurant placemats.

  6. dgm December 8, 2007 at 12:34 pm #

    I hear you, sista! In preK–what the hail? I’m such a little rebel with my daughter, like if her socks aren’t regulation I just tell her to be sure to have a spare of the right kind in her backpack, then I look the other way.

    Does your son care that he doesn’t get stickers when everyone else does?

    BTW, I know of a great little school that may be near you and it doesn’t give homework until 5th grade. Email me if you want more info.

  7. Phyllis December 8, 2007 at 12:41 pm #

    Glinda, trust me it only gets worse. My kids are heading into middle school next year and I have seen plenty of homework assignments over the past five years that are definitely in the “busywork” category. What irritates me are the projects that always have some silly art component to them – a written book report should be enough, why do they need to do a cover and illustrations? I’m all for arts being part of education, but this is ridiculous. Frankly, I think what’s happening, at least in public school, is that the teachers are pushing more and more work onto parents due to mandated educational standards. Of course, maybe a longer school year might help, but the teacher union in my town has no intention of working any more days a year than they already do. Kids in the US go to school 180 days a year; in Europe, Japan, India and China they’re in school 210 to 240 days a year.

  8. raincoaster December 8, 2007 at 2:19 pm #

    I caution you that if the kid learns early that homework is completely optional, it’s a lesson he’ll never forget. I’ve got some personal experience with that one!

  9. class-factotum December 8, 2007 at 4:24 pm #

    You know this will go on his Permanent Record, don’t you? :)

    (Homework? in PRE-K????)

  10. GrammaK December 8, 2007 at 5:38 pm #

    I understand what you’re saying, but if you teach your son now that teachers can be ignored, and that their instructions can be set aside, you (and more importantly he) will pay the price. Homework in kindergarten (any kind of kindergarten) is a burden, but it can also be a joy- it’s amazing to watch small ones *figure it out*. There is time enough to do required work (whether that work is from school, or setting the table, or putting toys away) and to play. It’s a balance that we all need to learn.

  11. Glinda December 8, 2007 at 5:43 pm #

    I was never told that the homework was required. The teacher has never spoken to me about us not turning it in. I would think that if it was a problem, she would have done so. Kindergarten compared to pre-K, which is not required by any state, is a whole different ballgame to me.

    I also would never teach my son not to listen to his teacher.

    However, education, even private education, does not always do the best thing for children. Anyone who thinks that schools always have the best interests of the students in mind needs a reality check, I’m sorry to say. They are a beauracracy like any other, and there are times when a mother needs to determine the best path. As long as I am not flaunting any rules, I am sticking to my guns, although I respect everyone’s opinions.

  12. Phyllis December 8, 2007 at 8:57 pm #

    Glinda I completely agree with you, I have observed exactly the same thing in our school.

  13. Joan H. December 8, 2007 at 10:50 pm #

    Glinda, my three kiddos are (rounding to nearest birthday) 11, 9, and 7. All three went to pre-school when they were 3 and 4, for socialization and opportunities to play with different toys than they had at home. The only time they ever had homework from pre-K was at the very beginning of the year when they had to fill in an “all about me” sheet to share with the class.

    At their elementary school, I have been very pleased to see them backing off from the huge projects for the younger set. Projects can be fun for kids, but for kinder and first grade kids, the project ends up being the parents’ work, and it’s ridiculous. The only homework that the littlest kids get is reading every day. The official guideline is 20 minutes per grade level, but that includes reading minutes, and I think it’s an appropriate amount.

    One of my girlfriends drills her kids incessantly at home (I keep warning her that her children are going to end up hating her, but she won’t listen to me.) She loved it that her youngest’s pre-K teacher sent home worksheets for him; she actually asked for more. Her kids are brilliant and don’t need the drills; from my perspective, she’s undermining their confidence in their own abilities, and their confidence in her feelings about them, as in, “Mom must think we’re stupid if she keeps making us do all this work.” She always goes back to European curriculums and says we’re behind, but looking at aggregrate statistics isn’t relevant when you’re talking about very bright kids in accelerated classrooms.

    Research has shown that drilling very young kids may give them a leg up initially, but that it all evens out by third grade anyway. Why torture them, or yourself? Some kids are totally into worksheets and homework (those with older brothers and sisters, particularly), but for those who are not, such things should be optional. It sounds to me as if you, and your pre-K teacher, are handling this exactly right.

  14. Eilish December 9, 2007 at 2:13 am #

    As a former teacher, future homeschooler and daughter of a very experienced elementary reading specialist I say, “Good for you, Glinda! Do what is right for your own child!”

    As evidenced by Japan’s decade-long phase out of homework in their schools (check out statistics on the Czech Republic and Denmark, too) the actually research relating to the effectiveness of homework is very scant! My question is: why are we pushing homework and standards at a younger and younger age when there is little to no research that pushing these things makes for better educated kids in the long run?

    Are we truly interested in our children’s long term education or more interested in them doing party tricks? Can anyone really argue that children in public school graduate better educated now than they did 40 years ago? If homework and higher grade level standards were producing dramatic results, I would say, “Great! Let’s go for it!” I just don’t see the evidence.

  15. Bellamama December 9, 2007 at 2:22 am #

    Glinda, I admire your interest in your child’s life and I loudly applaud getting your kid outside! I withhold judgement on everything else at this time, since my little man isn’t even old enough to talk. I’ll wait and see how I feel when I get there. It’s great to hear so many opinions on the subject!

  16. Andrea December 9, 2007 at 12:38 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more! I thought the idea of homework in pre-k was silly. My daughter gets some sent home in her folder too. She likes to sit down some nights and do it because her older brother has homework in first grade, which I also think is silly! But I never push the issue. If she wants to do it fine. If not, oh well. There is plenty of time for homework later in life. She needs to play and be a kid right now.

    And i agree with Eilish, there is no evidence to support that all this homework is doing anything positive. We’re still falling behind other countries in education. Rethinking America is a good book on this subject.

  17. Jen December 9, 2007 at 2:29 pm #

    Good for you! There are so many things about the public school system that bother me and homework is just the tip of the iceberg. Life’s too short. And, like you, there are plenty of other ways I’d like to use that time with my kids.

    I’ll put my other big gripe on my own blog but I just had to say that you aren’t alone! :)

  18. raincoaster December 10, 2007 at 2:34 am #

    I really, truly do not get why you don’t shop around for a school whose philosophy is compatible with yours. They are out there.

  19. La Petite Acadienne December 10, 2007 at 10:42 am #

    I agree that the little ones are being given way too much homework. My nephews go to a school in a fairly upscale neighbourhood, and the teachers seem to assume that all of the parents have lots of money to throw around and lots of free time. He was given a presentation to do, and the teacher said that it could either be hand-done or on PowerPoint! So you know darned well that the splashy PowerPoint presentations are going to likely get higher marks, right? And if you don’t have Office at home, well…there’s a nice little expense for you. I remember reading once that a good “rule of thumb” is that there should be 10 minutes of homework for every grade. So in grade 6, that would mean an hour of homework. Maybe I’m weird, but that still seems like a lot, particularly if you have more than one kid and need to help/guide your kids through their homework every evening.

  20. Jennifer in GA December 10, 2007 at 6:06 pm #

    As both a parent *and* a preschool teacher, I see both sides of the picture when it comes to pre-school “homework”. Currently I’m teaching at a preschool where the Pre-K children are given homework one night a week. Their homework is to find or draw three pictures that begin with the letter of the week and stick it in a envelope attached to their school bag. It should only take a few minutes, tops.

    As a parent, I can see why it could be considered silly or unnecessary. It’s one more thing that has to be fit into a busy day. They’ll have twelve more years of doing homework, so why start now? Let them have their fun while they still can, right? Sometimes I didn’t see the point either.

    But as a preschool teacher, I know that it’s not about the homework, per se. Yes, it reinforces what we are learning in class. But it also teaches the child about doing something according to someone else’s agenda. It teaches the child about responsibility. It gets them in the habit sooner rather than later, which will make life much easier down the road. Preschool is all about helping a child learn a positive pattern of behavior so they can have success in school later on.

    In my class, in which the children are there from 9-1 (including a lunch time), we spend *maybe* a total of 20 minutes out of the day on worksheets- the rest of the time is playing, craft activities, circle time, music, storybook time, playground time, and snacktime. All total, that *maybe* 25-30 minutes out of one day of the week is spent on “schoolwork”. That’s not a lot.

    Playing outside, reading books with you child, doing an art project- those are all worthwhile and important activites. Taking five minutes to reinforce something learned in school is also a worthwhile activity, and it doesn’t take away from any of those other things you want to do, too, not in any way, shape or form.

    But like I said, I understand, as a parent how you feel. It can be a pain. ;)

  21. raincoaster December 10, 2007 at 8:53 pm #

    Do you have a cat?

  22. gamma December 10, 2007 at 10:46 pm #

    One thing I love about this blog is the way we can all hold our opinions with both passion and civility. I have watched this debate with much keenness, because I sympathize with both sides. I too have railed at an overabundance of busy work, not to mention 40 lb. backpacks in middle school. Don’t get me started…

    But these are issues to bring up with the administration, as a concerned parent. I do my child no favors if I don’t teach him/her that there are times when you suck it up, even if it seems stupid. (if it seems morally wrong, then you take a stand, but that’s a different lesson) Of course, I usually don’t have to say that outright until high school, but by then it’s an extension of what they’ve always been expected to do, and it has served them well with college professors, law enforcement, and employers.

    Few people can get by in life without performing a little busy work now and then. To keep it to a minimum without shooting ourselves in the foot is a challenge for us all, beginning, apparently, in pre-K.

  23. Tizzy December 15, 2007 at 12:59 am #

    FYI, I am not a parent, just an aunt and former nanny.

    Can I rewind and go to school with you guys? I had 3 hours of homework a night by 7th grade (or at least that’s what we were supposed to getting). Teaching a kid to skip homework is never ever a good idea. Giving a 12 year old 3 hours of homework is teaching all but a very few that some of it may be, skipped, copied, fudged or otherwise not done in the manner intended.

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