Kindergartners Should NOT Have Homework
Every night, my 5-year-old has an hour to two hours worth of homework. Which means that I or my spouse have an hour or two of homework. We have an older child, who occasionally had a worksheet to color or something similar when he was in Kindergarten, but nothing like this. It’s at least one math sheet, which includes some coloring and some figuring (which are all new methods I am not familiar with), and one penmanship worksheet, which is more familiar to me. Every night’s assignment also includes studying and at least once a week, a very short (to me, not to my 5-year-old) story from a reader.
Helping my child with these tasks takes time out of my evening, and requires skills that I have not acquired (I have not taken one single Early Childhood Development class), talents I will NEVER have (I am not a teacher and were I one, Kindergarten would be my very last choice of grade to teach), but the absolute worst result? It erodes my precious relationship with my child. We both become frustrated very quickly, because I’m not sitting in class with her all day, so I don’t know how to apply the techniques that are so very foreign to me. If she were an older child, I still would not have the advantage of her lessons from the day, but I would have a stronger expectation of her to pay attention and know them. When she haltingly reads from the reader, she isn’t able to remember words that she read in the very last line, because she’s frankly too young to be reading and applying that skill. She should be watching someone else read to her, observing the words, recognizing the letters as she sees them, and falling in love with the language. Instead, she feels dumb because she has to repeat herself over and over.
I am not able to see that she retains any useful knowledge from these sessions, when we study her spelling words, each night she has almost completely forgotten them from the night before. I give her little tricks I would use as an adult, but that’s just memorization. She’s not even earning letter grades! Why are we imparting that approval from a red check mark on a paper is more important than the actual gaining and appreciation of knowledge?
Speaking of that red check mark, if “she” doesn’t complete her work, it is very clear by the notes sent home who the teacher feels is to blame. I will get a big red question mark, X, or “Late Work!” on the tops of worksheets that were not completed, or forgotten. It takes me back to grade school all over again, feeling like I’m letting down the teacher. Except now, from a parent’s perspective, I think I dread it even more.
I’m not an education professional, but I have long thought that it should really be going the other way. Instead of forcing younger and younger children to do hours of homework, we should be eliminating it for grade school children altogether, and limiting after-school work to projects and the like for high school students. Growing up, all of the major fights I remember having with my parents were at the kitchen table, as they were trying desperately to make me understand concepts that professional educators had failed to communicate during the day. I have flashbacks now of frazzled nerves, yelling, and tears- from each of us. I don’t want to go through that with my child. I shouldn’t have to! It’s similar to your mechanic fixing your car 95% of the way and then sending it home with you, saying – “You’ve seen movies and stuff where people work on cars, right? You’ll figure it out.”
That may be an extreme example, but my child and our time together is definitely more important to me than my vehicle, or most things. Not to mention the fact that homework is conditioning young people to work for free after the time normally allotted for it. How long are we going to perpetuate this toxic attitude toward work? Teachers should balk at the prospect because the most common response I hear when someone teases a teacher about them getting summers and holidays off of work is just how much they work when they are not at school, how early they arrive, and how late they leave. As long as we keep working for free, won’t it keep being expected of us?
I am not blaming or chastising teachers. I know they are following orders, and those directives come from way, way up. I’ve heard the impassioned monologues at the beginning of the year from teachers who are pre-apologizing for homework, and I feel your pain, I do. I have bosses and marching orders, and disciplinary measures at my job, too. I do. But at no point is an untrained person asked to do my job without any help, and if they fail, their child will be punished. Maybe bring that point up to the principal at the next teachers’ meeting. Because it’s better to drive a car 95% fixed by a professional than 5% fixed by an ignoramus.