School Homework for Young Kids Shouldn't Be a Giant Drag
posted by Linda Sharps
Local schools don't start until tomorrow, so it's been quite a while since homework has been part of our routine. I'm sure my kids' brains have been rotting in their skulls all summer like brown bananas, but I can't say I've missed dealing with school worksheets -- even though only one kid had homework last year, and compared to what I've heard from other second grade parents, his workload was relatively light.
It's not the time involved in completing assignments that I dislike about homework, nor is it the fact that it exists in the first place. It's the spectacularly boring repetition of it, which seems almost custom-designed to make kids hate school and forget that learning can actually be fun and rewarding.
To be clear, I'm not ranting against elementary school homework in general -- I realize that every school is different and that my experience may be totally different than yours. I remember having a variety of assignments when I was a little kid, some involving going outside to collect leaves or other objects, some requiring me to get creative and draw. My son, however, had the exact same assignments every week during second grade. They didn't take long to complete, but they were so unimaginative I couldn't blame him for his lack of enthusiasm.
Here's what he brought home every Monday:
• Two spelling worksheets
• One math worksheet
That was it. It never changed. The math worksheet got harder as the year went on, in that the rows of problems got more complicated, but it was the same single piece of white paper covered with printed numbers. The spelling sheet was always the same: a double-sided blue piece of paper with their week's assigned spelling words on one side (and some worksheet questions), and a list of (fairly lame) additional vocabulary assignments on the other side. Write your words in both upper case and lower case. Draw a flower and write each word in a petal. Type your words on a computer and use a different font for each one.
I know repetition is important in learning, but the same assignments every single week all school year long? He never once had a creative change of routine, aside from extra things we did together. I'm lucky in that my son always seemed willing to suck it up and complete the assignments right away (we call it "eating your frog"), but I wish his first introduction to homework wasn't so incredibly boring.
I really struggled with worksheet-type homework when I was young. I remember looking at rows of long division problems (show your work!) and just jamming the unfinished papers into the bottom of my backpack, starting a chain reaction of trouble that would eventually culminate in a parent/teacher conference.
Part of my approach for trying to help my kids not develop the homework-hatred I had is to teach them the fine art of GIT-ER-DONE, meaning do not put off until tomorrow the thing you can get out of the way today. Still, I'm sad that our first experience with homework was so uninspired. I guess I shouldn't be surprised -- we rely on standardized testing and our school budgets are strained to the breaking point -- but it seems like a shame to assign such numbing work, week after week after week. Particularly when the academic benefit has hardly been proven.
How has your experience with younger grade homework been? Do you think your kid gets assignments that actually help him or her in school?