Mocha Dad and Moms is a periodic column where a mom and I give our points-of-view on a parenting topic. In this instance, I will not provide a counterpoint. Instead, I will provide my feedback in the comments section.
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In the beginning of the school year, I asked for some advice on a mom’s social networking site about a homework meltdown my 4-year-old was having. The visceral responses I received from some mothers really floored me.
During my daughter’s second week of Pre-K, the teacher started assigning nightly homework. One evening she had a complete meltdown while doing her homework. After about 20 minutes of heartfelt crying, she managed to get out that she didn’t like writing because it was HARD. Her statement was alarming because a week earlier, she told me that she didn’t like to learn.
I calmed her down long enough to finish the homework, but the emotion lingered through bath and bedtime. She even had trouble sleeping — no doubt filled with dreams of pencils chasing her through a forest of oversized letters. During the times I went in to check on her, I heard her mumbling about writing.
The next morning, I talked with her teacher, who reassured me that it was not out of the ordinary at the beginning of a school year for some children to have an adjustment period. The teacher, my daughter and I worked on strategies to make homework less stressful. Within a week, my daughter had pushed past her frustrations and was in a homework groove.
After things had settled down a bit, I sought advice from preschool mom’s social networking site I frequent. While I did get some great suggestions, like getting books featuring my daughter’s favorite characters (Dora) overcoming challenges that have to do with learning, I basically got flamed by more than a few moms.
As I read these comments below, my emotions ran the gamut from hurt to anger to pity.
“Homework in pre-k is ridiculous. The purpose of homework is to practice an already learned skill. In pre-k they are just learning the skills. I am an elementary school teacher and do not believe kids should have much homework through 2nd grade. If we burn kids out on homework now, they will not want to work when they start regular school. Having homework meltdowns in pre-k is very alarming to me.”
“You took the words right out of my mouth. I think homework in kindergarten is even ridiculous. I never got homework until middle school, and even then, it wasn’t very much.”
“I found a private school that has this and their curriculum is absolutely ridiculous for children that young! I am flabbergasted! No wonder she is having meltdowns. My gosh, she is only 4 years old!!!! Your poor, poor child!!! I understand a parent wanting their child to excel and what not but what ever happened to being a kid? Obviously that no longer applies to some children and I feel sorry for those children.”
“I have a problem with the whole homework for pre-k. That is ridiculous. My son is in pre-k for speech help. He occasionally has work sheets, but they are things I go over with him saying. My son didn’t even have homework everyday last year and he was in 4th grade.”
No homework until middle school!?!?! Now that alarms me! Plus my child does enjoy being a kid – from her dance, gymnastics and ball-playing activities to the numerous birthday parties, play dates, puppet shows and museums I take her to, as well as the bike-riding, board games, dolls, and video games she loves. She kicks it way more than me!
I look for educational environments that support the values I’m instilling in my child. It is how I was raised and how I will bring up my child. I want her to be just as excited about the fun and benefits of learning as I am. And so far, she is – even if there have been a few times when she’s balked at challenges. Growth is sometimes uncomfortable, but you’re wiser on the other side.
So to those on that mom site who think that I am ridiculous for putting my child in an educationally rigorous environment and don’t want their children to have homework until they are in the fourth grade—all I can say is, “God bless you.” Maybe that will work out for your child. I mean Bill Gates and Walt Disney dropped out of school and they did all right.
Maybe my child will turn out to be a rebellious genius, too. But until those traits present themselves, I’m not taking any chances.
Joyce Davis is Associate Director, Publications at Spelman College and a Contributing Editor at Heart & Soul Magazine. She is also the author of the young-adult novel, Can’t Stop the Shine, and writes the Blog Enjoyceinglife.
Question: Do you think it is appropriate to give homework to young children?