Today’s guest blogger is “FedUpMom”, the mother of a 10-year-old who attends a public school in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
My Life as a Homework Protester
My life as a homework protester began last year, when my daughter was in 4th grade. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an assignment which came home every week: look up 10 spelling words in the dictionary and copy out the definitions. My daughter is a slow writer and this added up to an hour’s misery. I was furious. I went to her teacher and said, “the definitions homework takes my daughter forever; we’re not doing it.” He said, “Oh, if it takes her too long to write out, she can look it up on the internet and print it out. That’s what a lot of the kids do.” This might be quicker, but it’s still pointless, and I pity the tree that gets killed to provide the paper. I said, “if the goal is that my daughter should know the meaning of those words, we will discuss the words with her and make sure she knows the meaning. Then we’ll write a note telling you what we did”. He agreed. Right there my child’s homework headache was cut way down.
Next, I went to the principal to talk about homework overload. I wanted to send a survey to the parents, asking how they felt about homework: the principal rejected the idea on the grounds that it was “too adversarial”. (You want to see adversarial? Go visit some of those parents at 7:00 p.m. when they’re trying to get their kids through a mountain of homework.) Then she touched on several themes that would return every time I talked to her.
1.) “Maybe you can arrange for less homework now, but I’m warning you, when she gets to 5th grade, she’ll be required to do a lot of homework, and she needs to be prepared”. Now that my daughter is in 5th grade, Ms. Principal warns me about the heavy homework load in 6th grade. Is my daughter supposed to spend 4th grade learning how to handle 5th grade, 5th grade learning how to handle 6th grade, and so on forever? When does she learn something that’s worth learning for its own sake?
2.) “Your daughter should join the after-school homework club.” This is a cop-out. Kids have better things to do after school.
3.) “Your daughter is lazy and stubborn; you are emotional and over-involved.” Absolutely right. And those are our good qualities!