Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Parental Homework. What's Up With That?

A huge part of the early years of our lives involves going to school. We normally spend 12 to 13 years in school. If you continue with your education the number of years you attend school increases to about 16 to 20 years.

If you add into the mix training or ongoing classes for work, I have never really stopped learning.

Now along come my kids…

I don’t recall homework involving my parents as much as my kid’s homework must involve my wife and I. I’m sure it did, but the self-centered world of my childhood does not reflect that in my memory. Of course, those of you who know me are well aware that I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday.

So here come my kids, home from school with their work. Although I wish my kids to get a good education, I would like that education to happen, for the most part, at school. I know after spending all day at work I would not enjoy coming home to do more work (I realize many of you are forced to do this sort of thing for your jobs. It still does not make it right.)

So why then do our kids, who spend about 6 hours in school, bring home several hours of homework to be done? Not only homework, but homework with little cute notes explaining that the parents must help them do this or that.

My 7 year old, who is in first grade, has a report due involving her reading the report to the class, showing a visual presentation, and reading books to gather facts. I’m not saying this is not a good activity for them to do, but it’s a pretty involved thing for a 7 year old to accomplish. After $97 in art supplies from Office Depot, and my wife, me and my 10-year-old working with her, we are almost done with this simple little report.

Now don’t get me wrong, she is doing the work, we’re just the support team. I helped her gather pictures from the Internet and print them out, while documenting which web sites they came from, my wife helped her create sentences from the information she gathered reading books, and my 10-year-old has nicely outlined a coloring book page with pen that my 7-year-old can then color so that it looks nice.

Next she will need to color the picture, glue the downloaded pictures onto the poster board, write the sentences around the pictures, and finally give the presentation to her class on Friday. Whew!

I guess in the end it will be nice that we all helped her do a good job, and she’ll have a great feeling of accomplishment, but holy cow! We have three daughters, and this is going to be going on with all three of them for at least another 12 years or so!

Personally I think kids should be given tasks they can honestly complete by themselves, and provided the time it would take to complete these tasks at school. When kids come home from school they should be able to use the time to read, and/or relax. I know I would enjoy the time to relax instead of looking up how to do my 10-year-olds math problems because there are no instructions on the copied worksheet that was brought home from school in place of a textbook.

What happened to textbooks where you could go back in the chapter and read up on the explanation on how to work a problem? Are we pushing are children too hard and trying to cram too much information into their brains at too early an age?

I worry that the so-called educational experts that drive such things may be focused too much on how much information they can teach in a shorter period of time, rather then just allowing the kids to learn in a more comfortable pace.

In today’s day our kids are learning more, and faster then we did. Calculators allow past taught lessons to be condensed in the working so that students can go farther without worrying about all the longhand later on. Computers provide a rapid research and report writing ability that we did not have ourselves in grade school, yet our kids still have a lot of after schoolwork to accomplish.

Maybe I’m being too picky. I really do want to be involved in what my kids are learning so that they don’t make it through school not learning as much as I should have.

When my kids bring home their homework with notes to the parents, I can’t help but feel its more homework for me then my kids. You know what? I’ve done my schoolwork. If the school wants to send work home to do that’s fine, but I don’t feel they should be sending work home for the parents to do.

Homework should be something light and reinforcing what the kids are doing in school.

Upon reflection, I know their homework is just going to get worse. I am trying to instill in my daughters the need for them to pay attention better in class so they can actually do their homework on their own when they bring it home. I’m almost certain they will begin to surpass my ability to help them. Then they truly will be on their own.

As parents my wife and I will continue to work hard to help them in any way we can, but I still think schools need to slack off on homework, either in quantity or difficulty. At the very least, the homework should not come home with a three-page sheet of instructions for the parents!

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