Before I even get started on this one, let me say that few things are more important to me than education and raising smart, intellectually curious, inquisitive children. And I really like my daughter’s teacher. She is interesting, well traveled, and vivacious. But… last night, I had a nearly one hour chat with her and it got rather heated at one point. I told her that my nine-year old daughter and I were simply not doing all the homework she brings home every day anymore. Starting right now. I finally put my foot down. Giver her an F if you must, but this is too much for her.
…Here’s the background:
At just nine-years old (third grade), my daughter averages over two hours per night of homework and it’s not enough. She struggles with reading and what we ought to be doing is concentrating on that. But we can’t because the homework packet, which must be turned in every Friday, takes precedence. So she comes home and before I barely say hello, we open up her backpack and start powering through writing her spelling words four times, alphabetizing them, dividing them into syllables, writing sentences with them, reviewing her site word list, writing paragraphs, doing math pages… And that’s just the beginning. After two hours of this, there is simply no time or energy left to read, yet she’s supposed to read over an hour per night. Um… three plus hours of homework? For a nine year old?
Add to that, I signed her up for private tutoring for her reading issues. So that’s another half hour of school work. It is endless and she doesn’t have the emotional or mental capacity to spend a day in school and then come home and do hours more of homework. And neither do I. We are burned out, stressed out, annoyed and miserable.
What about time to talk, eat dinner together, cook together, or play and rest? Nope, there’s the homework packet. Most every day after school, she has swim lessons, which last about an hour. Do we sacrifice anything fun or physically good for her so we can sit in a home and write more sentences?
The final straw was a few weeks ago when my daughter brought home a packet for a project that all third graders were supposed to do. Pick an important historical person, read three books, look up at least one additional article on the Internet, write a report, memorize it to present in front of the class, do a poster and dress up as that person. And yet no mounds of the traditional homework were eased up in order to make room for this new, time-intensive project.
I was done. I talked it over with my daughter and we decided that we weren’t doing it. We had zero capacity to add anything else to our full plate. She would get an F and, at third grade, I didn’t care one iota. I cared more about her mental sanity, concentrating on her reading, and letting everything else go. Learning to prioritize at nine-years old is not a bad concept to teach. We also decided that from here going forward, we would read 40 minutes per night and then work for another 30 minutes on homework and stop. If she turned in incomplete homework packets, oh well.
I sent her teacher a text. “Thanks for the packet for a new assignment. Sounds interesting but we are declining. We are drowning and can’t take on any more work.”
Her teacher called me last night. “You want me to excuse Siena from this project but no other student?”
“You don’t need to excuse her. I’m simply letting you know we aren’t doing it. You can give her an F,” I said.
She was not happy. She doubted that we really spent as much time working on homework as I claimed. She asked me to go day-by-day on her homework list, which I did. She couldn’t argue with that. Do some teachers really not understand how much time it takes to get the work they pile on completed?
“Well maybe she shouldn’t be in after school activities,” she said.
Let’s see… an hour of swimming should be cancelled so I can raise a sedentary child who is expected to do three, four whatever hours of homework that gets thrown her way? Years ago, my older daughter was ice skating competitively. She spent some 20 hours per week at the age at the rink at a very young age (Kindergarten through 10 years old). Now that was extreme. But this was hardly that level.
“No,” I said. “Plus, we barely eat dinner together anymore. She has no household chores because there is no time, and she has meltdowns when she is exhausted, which is too often. Usually, in my experience, when a huge project is given, typical homework is lightened in order to make room for this. But you aren’t doing that.”
“Do it on the weekends. Work on memorizing the project in the car,” she suggested.
“No. We do things together on the weekends. Driving time is an important time for my daughters and I to talk. I won’t allow that small amount of time to be taken away from us.” I went on to explain that if Siena did this project, I might have a daughter who knows more about Evita Peron or Catherine the Great or whomever is chosen, but she won’t be able to read. And besides, Siena is well traveled, she’s been to loads of important historical places, knows more about history than most adults, and that is hardly a priority for her. Reading is, though.
It felt so good to put my foot down, stick up for my daughter, and stick up for our home life. Massive amounts of homework, especially for young children, is something I do not agree with. And, the studies I’ve looked up, show no improvement in skills or test scores for those kids who have tons of homework versus those who don’t.
The teacher finally had another option. She would pick the historical person, would go to the library and internet and send Siena home with the reading material. Siena could read that for our daily reading projects. The teacher would work with Siena on the poster and report at school so Siena would done none of it at home.
Sounds fine with me, I said. I also explained that going forward, Siena may not finish all her homework packets either. I would stop her from all homework after 90-minutes each day.
In my opinions, we moms must push back and advocate for our children under any situation we see fit. Homework assignments at a young age is not a bad place to start.