Homework has suddenly found its way into my life again … much, much sooner than anticipated. You see, this year my daughter is in a pre-k 4 program at her daycare. Last year, all she could talk about was how excited she was to be in the Pre-K4 class. She learned so much last year, and I knew that she would thrive this year. At this point, it’s important for me to add that my daughter is not yet four. She is in this class early – a decision that at times I’ve thought was right, but I’ve also questioned that choice many times.
A prime example of this happened one week into Pre-K4. As we were walking to the car, she announced, “I have homework in my agenda. Everybody does. We all have to do it.” To say I was in shock is an understatement. She’s THREE. THREE! And even if she was four, my reaction would have been similar because, well, I just hate homework.
Homework: To do it or not to do it?
As soon as we got home, I opened the agenda to see what this homework assignment was. It was nothing that was a big deal – a practice sheet for writing her name. And yet, still I called.
I called because, on the one hand, I did not want to start an early precedent of “you don’t have to do your homework” that my smartie-pants child will surely remember when it counts. On the other hand, our time together as a family in the evenings is sacred. I do not want to spend that time doing homework when she is three years old. Even if it is just practicing writing her name.
Thankfully, her teacher understood where I was coming from when I explained how I felt about “homework” and explained that it would just be something simple once a week. What I ultimately decided was that — since this is not for a grade or anything — is that if she is excited about doing whatever has been sent home, we will do it. If it’s going to be a fight … I’m sorry, but I’m not arguing with my three year old to do homework. It needs to be a positive experience for both of us. As it turned out, she was really excited to show me how she could practice writing her name. I just … Hate. Homework.
And also, I’m a teacher.
When I meet with parents for parent/teacher conferences, they usually say, “[Little Johnny] says that he never has homework in your class. Is that true?!” Yes. Yes, it is true with a few exceptions. I do not habitually give extra work for homework. Instead, my students know that they are responsible for completing anything they do not finish in class and studying for tests.
Part of this was brought on as a new teacher by my frustration at assigning homework that would never get done, but over the years, my own philosophy on homework has changed. Our kids SIT for the majority of the day in the classroom. Recess is basically nonexistent, and they are working all day long. Many of them have seven subjects of material they are hearing daily. It is a tremendous amount of work that we are asking of them. Most of my students are also involved in extracurricular activities including sports that might have them not getting home from school until 4:30 or later on practice days, and even later on game days.
I say all that to say, in my opinion, kids need time to be kids. When they go home, I HOPE they go outside and burn some energy. They might not. They might go to their room and play Fortnite until dinner time … but the point is that I think they need a mental break from the demands of the school day. Furthermore, as I stated earlier, our time together at night is sacred. I also hope for my students that their time at home with family is spent bonding together as a family, and not just a continuous fight to get through hours of homework.
But what about the future?
I am not naive. I know that this is not going to be an acceptable plan for when my kids are in first or second grade or even later. But, man, I really hate homework.
And when I think about sitting at the kitchen table with my kids as they are older, trying to wrap my head around math problems that I just don’t understand, or trying to explain to them why they have to complete hours of homework … it fills my soul with dread.
What will I do? I don’t know, but our sacred family time is going to have to be protected. While I plan to make them study and complete homework, I have no intention of forcing hours upon hours of homework. If it can’t be done in a reasonable amount of time, it just can’t be done.
I realize, as a teacher, the path that will take me down as a parent. I realize that I will probably be “that parent” (ok, I’m sure I already am) who maybe is a little tough to deal with. And while my kids’ education is of utmost importance to me, I also want them to have balance in their lives. I want them to be kids. I want them to play and learn creatively … and I don’t think homework is the best way to accomplish those things.
All I can do at this point is hope and pray that we are blessed with understanding teachers along the way.