Whose Homework Is It, Anyway?

by Laurie Ulster
Originally Published: 

Flashback one is to my own childhood, when I was an academic nerd even at an early age, and WISHED for homework, but my school didn’t give us any until fourth grade. I felt totally ripped off.

Flashback two is to the first time one of my children came home with homework, and yes, it was in kindergarten. I always thought that the point of homework was for children to learn how to work independently, but I don’t think there are any five-year-olds who have quite mastered that yet, prodigies excluded. And I don’t quite see the value in sending in homework to me, the parent, who graduated from kindergarten decades ago, but that’s essentially what happens.

Another flashback: my second child is in first grade. We meet with the teacher, who tells us that we should be using flash cards with our daughter to help with … well, something. I don’t remember what. All I remember is desperately wanting to say to this very nice, well-meaning first grade teacher, “How about this? You can do flash cards, and I’ll stick with keeping her fed, and bathed, and loved. Does that sound fair? And when I come home from work, I’m going to hang out with her and talk about her day or maybe even just watch TV with her, instead of doing flash cards.”

As my kids get older and the homework gets more intense, I find I’m in a very small minority of parents who don’t immerse themselves in their children’s assignments. I’ve seen women post in my local moms Facebook group that they resented that the lack of standardized textbooks for their high schoolers, because it’s so hard for them to follow along with the work when it arrives on random pieces of paper. I wisely didn’t post back, “Why on earth are you following along with your son’s homework?” but I was thinking it.

When did homework become something parents have to do? Why are kids getting homework they can’t handle on their own? Fortunately, I don’t think there are any consequences to bungling kindergarten homework, at least, but we probably won’t know that until they’re applying for college, when the flash cards come back to haunt us.

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