Moms (and Dads) on a Mission–Halifax, Nova Scotia

Today’s guest blogger, the mother of a second grader, lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She holds a masters degree in psychology and works full time doing psychometric testing of adults. She says that “these credentials did not prepare her for second grade homework.”

Why My Second Grader Won’t Be Doing Any More Projects
by Psych Mom

I think it bears emphasis that the frontal lobes don’t even start making a lot of connections until the second decade of a human being’s life. Our frontal lobes control planning functions, our ability to anticipate, organize, and to control our behaviour. One of a parent’s key roles in their child’s life is to be their frontal lobes for them, until such time as they have the capacity to think for themselves, quite literally. We don’t expect that our 5 year olds can make decisions about walking across the street on their own. We don’t send them into a toy store with a gift card and expect them to make rational choices. We download responsibility to them gradually over the 18 years we’re responsible for them.

But somehow, this idea as taken root, that, in school, children must be trained to do homework. There are always the little darlings who fit into whatever is demanded of them from day one. But by and large, homework is a chore for most families simply because the expectation of small kids to be organized and disciplined is age inappropriate. They can’t do it because their brains do not have the capacity to organize, order and plan…..on top of being tired from a full day of activity. It’s lunacy to expect this from them.

My daughter is 7, almost 8 and she’s doing well in school. Developmental leaps are so obvious in her because her skill acquisition comes overnight sometimes. Her handwriting sucked last year in Grade 1….the teacher commented continually…”we have to work on her handwriting..needs improvement in handwriting”. Well, within a month of starting Grade 2….”my, her handwriting has drastically improved”. And it’s always said with some amazement, like they weren’t expecting that. But it happens all the time. When the development has happened, when the maturity is there (and I don’t just mean social maturity), the skill emerges. You can’t force it and you can’t train it.

Do we put 7 year olds behind the wheel of a car, so they get “used” to driving? Do we get our 15 year olds to fill out our tax forms in the spring? Do we send newlyweds to tour nursing homes because you know, they will end up there someday. Better be ready. All this planning and preparation takes the joy out of life and is mostly just plain inappropriate…just like homework is for kids.

My daughter and I just submitted our first (and last) project today. The full page list of possible project options was unintelligible except to me ( so a parent was expected to be involved). My daughter had no interest in any of them except after I picked one and got her going (clearly my frontal lobe functions: planning and selection). She focussed on one aspect only of her diorama (organizing the whole diorama fell to my frontal lobes again). She called it a “dollarama”, which is the name of her favourite dollar store here in Halifax. The last time I did anything like this was when I was in Grade 4 (in the 60’s) and my mother did most of the work on that project too. All I remember about it was the feeling of being overwhelmed by it all, which is exactly what my daughter felt. She demonstrated being overwhelmed by refusing to do the project initally, and by focussing on one aspect only once she did do it. It involved tape….lots of tape. The whole experience left me cold. And, as I mentioned, that’s the last “project” we’re doing. There was no point to it and I yelled way too much.

For me, this homework issue solidifies around what a child’s brain is all about and what it needs in order to develop normally. It needs oxygen and food. It needs rest and lots of it. It needs novelty and lots of experience to lay down those pathways. It needs a structured, predictable environment so that anxiety doesn’t creep in and interfere with normal development. Kids need their childhoods desperately in this horribly stressful world we’ve created for them. Homework is not something they need to prepare for their future lives.

9 thoughts on “Moms (and Dads) on a Mission–Halifax, Nova Scotia

  1. Well, exactly. The current trend in schools is to ignore the natural development of children.

    And as you demonstrate, it’s really the parents (especially mothers) who wind up organizing, supervising, and carrying out the projects. Enough already! Mothers unite! You have nothing to lose but your glue guns.

    What response have you had from your daughter’s teacher?


  2. I’m taking the path of natural consequences…..A parent/teacher night fell close on the heels of this last project and I explained what happened at home. I suggested that work on the next book (the project was a wrap up of the last book) should happen at school, even in homework club …not at home. So far the work that has been suggested by the teacher to be done, has not been touched by my daughter, because I’m leaving it to her because that’s what she’s “supposed” to be able to do.. When it’s not done (and I know it won’t be) I’ll go and talk with the teacher again about the expectations and where my kid is actually at. I don’t anticipate a problem because the teacher is really quite reasonable …. I’ll keep you posted.


  3. Being an OLD Curmudgeon, very dissatisfied with what caliber of student our State is turning out.. I get very Vocal.

    CHILDREN are naturally Creative, Giving and Have no Trepidation when left to their Just deserts.
    Our Governments are making conscious efforts to stifle Creativity and self-Reliance in order to grow in Power.
    My Children grew up just fine. I Dictated to my schools what would be tolerated. My children and their Friend LEARNED HOW TO THINK, because they grew naturally and not through some contrived System.

    I praise today those who have the Courage to responsible for their Children wonderful Voyage to a Normal Adult Life, full of Reward and Appreciation


  4. Chuck, Sara, and other awesome, reasonable bloggers, you might be interested in the following website telling the truth about why schools in America suck and what they are REALLY meant to do:

    Despite how this is sold, this “benevolent dictatorship” is not of “benevolent people,” but of the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Morgans, etc. This is meant to make everybody else serfs to the top 1%.


  5. Tonight, I worked on my book report with the help of my second-grader. Unfortunately, I won’t be at school on Friday to present it, but my son will. Thus, we need to practice my/his oral report, as well as put together a costume to represent Mark Twain. (Of course, we had a Mark Twain costume in th closet, doesn’t everone?)

    After several nights of tears/yelling/slamming doors… I am just thankful to have it completed. So is my son, as his demeanor has suddenly changed. I will not allow another school assignment to come between us.


  6. But by and large, homework is a chore for most families simply because the expectation of small kids to be organized and disciplined is age inappropriate.


    This is your seminal sentence. Succintly and aptly put. The larger question is, how is it that teachers do not recognize this most basic fact of child development? I’m more inclined to believe they do, they simply ignore the obvious.

    Yes, there are exceptions. But even for those teachers who didn’t know until we told them, why are we never given appropriate venues in which to tell them? If homework is sent to the home, then parents must have a voice in this so-called partnership. Is it a partnership or a dictatorship?


  7. This is one of the best discussions of the inanity of homework I have seen in a long time. The “learn to manage time” argument is a very silly one. I have asked teachers if they would like to start wearing an Attends diaper for an hour a day, because, chances are by age 80 they’ll be in one all day and they should probably get used to it now… I think you put it a lot better.

    I have been trying with some small success to deal with the homework issue 2 hours down the road from you in Sackville NB. I have found that in general teachers have little to no training in homework and its (lack of) value, AND they have little interest in exploring the research on the issue. As a scientist I find this totally frustrating. That teachers should have the right to assign work that affects hours of my home life without delving into the data themselves is beyond annoying.

    Projects are particularly annoying because in refusing to do the “family” project we are labelled as disinterested in our child’s education. The truth is probably the reciprocal. Because we are confident in our own education, we are not seeking to repeat it by showing the teacher that our past bridge is superior to the other parent’s, I mean, student’s pasta bridge.

    I wish you well with your attempts to deal with the issue.


  8. Update on the reading homework my 7 year old was assigned a week before March Break. 4 days before the homework was due, and it wasn’t done, I wrote a long letter to the teacher explaining that my daughter was much more interested in another book and that she was enthusiastic about answering questions I had designed (still trying to get to a little more depth out of the story). The teacher gave me feedback today and was right on board with everything and very encouraging. It has worked out beautifully, and gives me confidence to keep speaking up.


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