August 25, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Homework

If I had homework in Kindergarten, I don’t remember it. I don’t remember bringing home copied packets of paper asking me to trace the letter P or color apples red. This is perhaps because I’m so old that photocopiers didn’t exist in schools and we, instead, were sometimes given much more labor-intensive mimeographs that reeked of the intoxicating aroma of blue ink.

But now, thanks to the age of high-end photocopy machines, homework packets arrive at home on Monday. Eight pages of tracing, writing, drawing and coloring that must be completed and returned by the next Monday so the cycle can start all over again.

While Swee’Pea and TheMonk are in different kindergarten classes, they bring home an identical packet each week. The routine is now set. After a short break once they arrive home on the school bus, Mommy breaks out the packets and the kids sit down at their Ikea table and Ikea chairs and begin their homework. The goal is to get the homework done no later than Wednesday so they can relax on Thursdays and Fridays. This means 2-3 pages of homework that generally last about 30 minutes. It usually goes something like this:

TheMonk sits down and hammers out each page as if this is his sole purpose in life. You tell him how many pages he has to do and he won’t look up until it’s done. There is no debating. There is no bargaining. The boy has a job to do and he’s gonna do it.

Swee’Pea, on the other hand, isn’t such a linear thinker. She might start on a project but the moment she has difficulty, she shuts down. She pleads. She whines. She announces over and over and over again just how much she does not want to do this homework.

And over the last few weeks we’ve come to realize that it’s best not to argue with her about this. If she doesn’t want to do it, she won’t and there’s no use in getting into an argument with a five year old about how failing to draw a picture of a banana will send her to a life of poverty and crime.

And 9 times out of 10, after she’s had a little break or even eaten dinner, she’ll suddenly announce that she wants to finish her homework. And she does so without complaint.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. Something about letting kids find their own way or the most valuable lessons kids learn are the ones they teach themselves.

All I think of is, “Twelve more years of this?”


  1. The only homework allowed in this house is mine. The rest of them watch Sprout until bed time.

    Comment by Backpacking Dad — August 25, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

  2. Only 12? With any luck 16, sir, and a couple of college degrees!

    Comment by Krys72599 — August 26, 2010 @ 4:41 am

  3. 16 or more!

    But really, kudos for learning early what works for the kiddos.

    My dad had the brilliant idea that me not wanting to do my homework meant that I needed more of it. So he made me do it twice. Thumbs down to that practice, unless its something that actually needs more practice.

    Comment by Franny — August 26, 2010 @ 5:44 am

  4. K is just like Swee’Pea. When she’s ready the homework is done without argument. She likes having options and not having to do any particular page at that time when she has a packet.

    Comment by ~a — August 26, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

  5. Neither you nor your brother had homework in Kindergarten. Well, there was the concern that he could not skip and we practiced skipping one afternoon.

    This homework stuff was the main topic of my session with my therapist today. We agreed that it was WAY OVER the top.

    As for Swee’Pea and homework, I found that the pink milk helped and having Grandmother and TheMonk brainstorm words that begin with the letters Q and V was very helpful. When she expressed concern that she couldn’t draw a volcano, TheMonk suggested she use a triangle shape for it. This seemed reasonable to her and she thanked him for his imput. I went to UCSC (Go, Slugs!) where collaboration and group projects were the norm.

    For any parent who is worried about getting the kid to do their homework after grade 12, I say get a new hobby, the kid is on his/her own.

    Comment by Grandmother — August 26, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

  6. Ane brought home packets from kindergarten last year. She was a bit of a procrastinator (and I suffered from either pregnancy-brain or I-have-a-newborn-I’m-sleep-deprived brain the whole school year), so we finally came up with doing 1 page a day until it was done. I dread what first-grade homework is going to look like in less than a week!

    Comment by Deanna — August 26, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

  7. Uh oh. You’re in trouble with Swee’Pea. I heard that when Paris Hilton was 5 years old, she failed to draw a picture of a banana. Now look at her – she can’t tell the difference between gum and cocaine! Please Swee’Pea, draw the banana!!

    Comment by drlori71 — August 31, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

  8. I will go in another direction and point out, that it seemed like only yesterday I was writing a similar post… then I blinked and today I picked up my daughter from 5th grade! Some days, I am afraid to fall asleep, worried that when I awaken she will be out of college already. The time… it flies… it may not feel like it at certain moments, but you will look back at this one day and say… this was the “problems” I was having then?

    Comment by JayMonster — September 8, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

  9. This is my child’s first year in kindergarten and boy I am drowning with homework. lol! I have been running around like crazy just to keep everything in order and I really don’t know how I’d cope for the next couple of years.

    Comment by Jane — September 10, 2010 @ 5:13 am

  10. We had homework from my son’s preschool! And there was more of it! Kindergarten homework has positively felt like a break.

    Comment by the weirdgirl — September 13, 2010 @ 9:06 am

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