Remember way back when you were in school and the most your parents had to do was give you lunch money and sign your report cards? (Unless you got a really bad test score and then they had to sign that too.) Well, sometime between the 70’s and the 90’s someone decided that parents should sign nightly homework sheets, and that my friends was the beginning of Parent Homework.
After that came the reading sheets giving bedtime nighty-night stories a whole new purpose. Though I felt uncomfortable "reporting" the stories I read to my children each day, I went along with it.
And now, 15 years into our school/parenting adventure, we find ourselves with a 1st grader who gets homework that a six year old child cannot complete independently. Our role has changed from providing homework oversight to being active homework participants. One of us has to go through the work with him... reading full length poems, explaining complex instructions, walking him through the questions, and checking off five different parts to the homework each night.
Because Jade’s homework requires about 45 minutes of parent participation, it gets done when and if I have the time to do it... which is not necessarily when he would like to do it. So for the first few weeks we battled over it and 45 minutes went well over an hour. Some nights it didn’t get done, and at the end of the week the packet would have some blank pages.
The first time the teacher sent the packet back and asked that Jade "make up" the blanks, I wrote her a note explaining that what gets done is what gets done and I am not carrying over last week’s homework into this week’s. At our conference I explained my reasoning, and I thought we had an understanding about how homework would go.
Until the week when there was only one night it worked out that homework got done. First there was the Frankenstorm, then Halloween, and then momma left town for a few days. When I got home on Sunday night I found Jade’s homework packet in his backpack with a note saying that he was to complete it over the weekend and bring it in on Monday. At first I was annoyed with my husband for not looking in the backpacks on Friday and doing the homework with Jade over the weekend... but then I realized that the real problem is that the homework is not appropriate for a first grader to do on his own. So I wrote a little note explaining our week and said that we would not be making it up during the coming week.
When Jade came home from school on Monday furious, throwing his backpack on the ground and yelling all the way up the driveway, I knew something went very wrong at school. I asked him to talk to me about it and he finally told me that he had to miss recess to stay in and do his homework packet.
That was it for me. I was pissed. If mommy doesn’t do her homework, Jade misses recess? I wrote to his teacher and suggested a positive alternative to Jade missing out on something he loves. She sent me back excerpts from the school’s homework guidelines and suggested I use my "sticker reward" idea at home. I won’t bore you with the back and forth details, but it went on for a while with the teacher insisting that Jade’s homework will get done, if not at home then in school.
Now if the homework could be done independently by a 1st grader, I would agree with that, but it can’t. So I said either he gets homework that he can do on his own, or he does what he can on the packets and loses no positive activity time at school as a consequence of not completing the whole packet.
Queue the meeting with the teacher and principal wherein I learned that they know the work requires adult participation. I was told that the school is providing us with a bonding opportunity, and a way to invest in our child... that there is not enough time in the school day to do all they need to do, so the homework provides a chance to go beyond just practicing math, reading, and spelling. When I said that I don’t think it is appropriate for the school to be pushing into my home with bonding and investment requirements, I got the "You are the crappiest mother in our district" stare.
So I guess instead of family game night, we are going to have family homework night. Come on children, you bring your math sheets and I’ll bring the popcorn. Woot woot, isn’t this fun?
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