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 has written two previous entries here and here.
Why Homework Doesn’t Work
by Psych Mom
I’ve become a believer in the last year that homework is not the way to go. Despite this, my 8 year old started Grade 3 this year and serious homework is a part of that at our school. We parents got the schedule from the teacher of when various tasks were being assigned and when that’s all due, the implication being that we would be monitoring and reminding, I guess. It was expressly written that the work is the child’s responsibility. It was not expressly implied what my duties were but informing me, I assume, is tantamount to making me a part of it all. This weekend I knew there were things my child had to do for math homework. She never talked about them….the sheets sat on top of her binder all weekend. Sunday afternoon, against my better judgment, I suggested that she get those sheets and we’d take a look. She did. This is how it unfolded. It wasn’t pretty and I freely admit that it was all, my fault. I am not a good teacher.
She couldn’t read all of the instructions….she needed me to read some of the words. She only read the top part….nothing of the bottom of the page instructions. The instructions were confusing because she was to make a
graph, but there was a sheet of paper with a grid on it attached, as well as space on the front instruction sheet, that said, “Graph here”. No mention of the grid was anywhere or what to do with it. So I suggested she use the grid on the next page for her graph. Labeling the graph was a nightmare. We were measuring the height of family members…all two of us. She knew I was over a hundred centimeters so she started her vertical axis with 100 at the bottom……..(My blood is starting to simmer because now I’m into teaching about scaling). We erase all the numbers and she writes “0” on the horizontal axis…”No, it has to go on the other side, sweetie and count by 10’s up the side.” How else were we going to decide on what scale to use?…I’m sure a teacher would have known how to help a child figure out what units needed to be on each axis…..but not me. I told her what to do. Then when she’s plotting the two numbers she colours in the one square that is closest to each of our heights…no bar graphing is happening here. About 7 minutes after we began, I’m saying, “Come on, I’ve seen your work since Kindergarten …you’ve done a graph before”. Half a minute later, she’s throwing the papers out in front of her and declaring, “I hate HOMEWORK” and “YOU are so mean” and “I have my own ways of doing things, you know”
So I said,” Pack it up please, put it in your binder…put it away.”
We could have sat together at the table and I could have gone through it one step at a time (i.e. do it for her) or I could have spent half an hour teaching her about graphs. But why should I be doing that? She tells me she doesn’t like grade 3 because the homework is hard….after 4 weeks of school. She’s mad at me for not helping her. I’m mad because I caused the fight we had. I’m not a teacher. I don’t want to teach her about graphs. I don’t have the patience. There shouldn’t be the assumption that parents corral and organize the homework, sit and teach their children and create this “special” time…..perhaps some parents want to spend their time with their children this way. I don’t. I send my child to school for that. It’s my job to get her to clean her room and pick up after herself. I’m not qualified to be her teacher. I’m more likely to damage her feelings, and then in turn feel guilty and remorseful myself for being an inadequate parent. Aside from the emotional upheaval homework can cause, shouldn’t we also consider how we might also be sabotaging the teacher’s work when we do things we shouldn’t because we’re not teachers? And do they really want me to do things my way? My way involves making it as painless as possible for myself and my child….I could have drawn a wonderful bar graph, with labels and colour-coding…means and standard deviations too.
But what am I teaching her then?