Last Thursday night, I stayed up late dying pasta six different colors and collecting bottle caps, yarn, googly eyes and buttons so that my 5-year-old could finish his homework—homework that is intended to draw the family together to learn with our child. Over the weekend, I emptied a coin jar and spent a very frustrating hour explaining and re-explaining sorting methods. Last night, I cut out a number line and two monsters and played a math game that went on for hours because the kids had figured out how to turn it into a chasing and hitting game.
While I love that my child’s teacher wants to incorporate the whole family into my son’s learning experience, I think homework is a colossally misguided idea for kindergartners.
For starters, he doesn’t even get home until 3:00. Like any regular kid, my son needs time to decompress from school, and so he spends time outside running around, having a snack, and getting his attitude and energy out. Then we get ready for dinner. Then we have bath time. Then we have to get everything ready for the next day. Then we have bedtime. By the time the kids are actually asleep in bed, it is nearly 8 p.m. Throwing homework assignments into that din of chaos just makes for one stressed out family.
Homework makes sense for older kids who don’t have early bedtimes and can handle a little bit more responsibility than a 5 year-old who still requires help wiping his butt on occasion. If the school really wants to encourage the whole family to be a part of the learning process, then I have a few suggestions:
1. Stop sending home 50,000 damn advertisements asking me to buy shit.
2. Instead, send home some kind of list of X number of easy things to do at the beginning of the year and let the family decide for themselves what is appropriate given time and finances.
3. Bring back nap time. Moms are always on board for nap time.
4. Acknowledge that the likeliness of the kids in this school going on to an Ivy League college is paltry at best, and then please quit acting like kindergarten is somehow academic. We all know it isn’t.
5. Make assignments optional.
6. Or, send home an assignment on a Monday and give the family the entire week plus the weekend to complete it.
7. Did I mention that we are talking about 5-year-olds here?
8. Try asking the parents what they already do to complement the learning experience.
9. Maybe send home some of those “worksheets” that take a kid a nanosecond to complete.
10. Or just don’t assign homework.
A school day for a kindergartner is already long enough. Can we please leave the work at school and let little kids come home and play? Save the concerns over handwriting and number recognition for the parent-teacher conferences or slip a note in the backpack to give the parents a heads up. But please, quit assigning homework to 5-year-olds.
I completely understand that some kids need more guidance or specific accommodations that make after-school work appropriate and necessary. I also fully recognize that not all kids are fast and may need extra time to finish the work they started in class. But when it comes down to actual homework with my kindergartner, I am going to choose free play and family activities that are already a part of our daily lives over an assignment that I know will leave my kid fuming with frustration and me at my wits’ end.