Monday, September 10, 2012

Beam Me Up, Scotty

Aargh! We're less than a week into the school year, and already having homework headaches. The really unforgivable part is that it's with 3d-grade Younger Daughter. Why is she being assigned homework at all?

First she had a math worksheet that took 10 minutes for us to fight about (culminating in my swearing like a sailor with a head injury) and 2 minutes for her to fill out. Then she's got a sheet in her homework folder that looks like this:


Sample Questions for 'Interviewing' Your Grandparents

Where were you born? What year?

What are the names and birthdates of your brothers and sisters?

Did you have a pet when you were growing up?

Did you get an allowance?

Who was more strict, your mom or dad?

What were your favorite games and activities?

What chores were assigned to you?

What did your house look like? Is it still the same?

What traditions did your family have?

Did your family have big reunions?

Did you like school? What kinds of grades did you get?

What were your favorite subjects?

When you were a teenager, what time did you have to be home at night?

How old were you when you met grandma/grandpa?

How old were you when you got married?

What was your first job?

Tell me about my mom/dad when he/she was growing up.

Who writes this crap? Why was I born?

Since there was no indication of what exactly we're supposed to do with this thing, I sent the following e-mail to the teacher:
Ms. Third -- what are your expectations about the grandparents' interview sheet that you sent home? Younger Daughter wants nothing to do with it. I'm not a fan of homework in elementary school and I'm inclined not to fight her about it. Thanks. -- FedUpMom
My devout hope is that this sheet was sent home as one of those allegedly fun family activities, and it's no big deal whether Younger Daughter does anything with it or not. I guess we'll find out.

UPDATE: I received the following e-mail from Ms. Third:
Mrs. FedUpMom, It's actually an assignment from Mrs. Liber, our librarian. My understanding from her is it's something for the students relating to her curriculum. I'm happy to follow up for her if you like. -- Ms. Third.
UPDATE UPDATE: This afternoon, while waiting for Younger Daughter's bus to drop her off, I struck up a conversation with another mother of a 3d-grader. I asked her whether her son had gotten the "Grandparents Day" paper, and she said "Yeah! It just showed up in his homework folder with no explanation of what we were supposed to do with it. I ignored it." (She, by the way, is what the school probably considers a "good" mother, not a fire-breathing ranter like yours truly.) When I looked in YD's homework folder, the Grandparents Day paper had disappeared. I asked YD about it, and she said "she [a teacher] took it away because it was overdue!" I think everyone involved has decided to pretend it never happened. Works for me ...


  1. You're lucky you encountered another sane parent. I'm glad you told the teacher you are not a big fan of homework. I know it's always harder to advise than to actually be in that sticky situation, but have you considered doing what we talked about on StopHomework? Write an email first, then follow up with a face to face meeting. Let them know the research, your own take on homework, the gist of it is, you're not doing it and please do not penalize my kid. You're not doing. Here are the reasons. You're not doing. You have better things to do with your family time. End of story.

    I know you don't want a tense confrontational year that we all worry will come back to haunt our child. But don't throw away your free time. You're not doing it. You're not engaging in head banging homework tussles.

    Wish I'd taken a firmer stance. I like this approach because it's comprehensive. You're not doing case by case, you're not doing it period.

    If it were me, I'd add what we WILL do in that time. I remember you saying on StopHomework, it shouldn't matter whether you do math problems at home or watch tv all afternoon, it's your family time. But personally, I would throw in the cool stuff we do. Not to brag but to demonstrate, I guess, that we are serious about learning and rejecting homework is NOT a sign of lazy parenting. Why do I feel the need to throw that in? To pave the way for future revolutionaries. To have an airtight case that my way is better. Far better.

  2. It gets harder though, to keep the guard up against the homework...we're at the Grade 6 level now and everything is prefaced with..."in preparation for Middle School". And from the reports from friends now in Middle School, the hammer comes down pretty hard, as they "get them ready for high school."

    I don't believe in the anticipatory stress or the BGUTI phenomenon, as Alfie Kohn calls it. But I'm increasingly becoming isolated in my beliefs and leaving the school could very well be offered as a remedy to already has been suggested. And my child, as she ages has begun to accept that she has to do these homework assignments, so that I even am up against her, as she wants to avoid the hassles, and go along.
    So what's a revolutionary to do?

  3. I have a question for the "no homework" people. If a student does not finish his/her work at school, for whatever reason, what do you propose teachers do? I'm a student teacher and a mom. I absolutely hate it when my daughter comes home with homework, but it has to be done. What's the solution? What do parents want teachers to do? Keep the kid in at recess? What?

  4. Lisa: I'd be fine with occasional unfinished work coming home as homework (and absolutely dead set against losing recess). But that's not what most of us encounter as homework.

  5. Lisa, I agree with Matthew that the homework we see is very rarely work that our kids didn't finish in class.

    Having said that, if my kid came home with stuff she hadn't finished in class, I would want to know what the problem was. Does she not understand the task? Is it too hard for her? Is it so boring and tedious that she can hardly stand to look at it? Did the teacher simply not allocate enough time for this task? Is the task actually necessary for my child's education, or is it busywork? etc.

    You say:

    I absolutely hate it when my daughter comes home with homework, but it has to be done.

    Why does it have to be done? What does the homework accomplish for your daughter's learning?

  6. My perception is that homework is not work that is not done in class, in my child's class. It is extra work that is expected to be done in after school hours, or in homework club. I'm to make myself aware of it ("please check the class website"), as it is expected that I am interested in making sure my child does it. I was NOT asked whether this is true for me, I was told I was interested. Sometimes, work that doesn't get done gets sent home, but that is the exception.
    When something is announced as, "Homework is handed out Monday and is due back on Friday"...that is not work that was not finished in class. That is extra work that is to be done outside of school hours.

    My rebuttal to Lisa is the same as FedupMom's... "why does it have to be done?" Who says so? And keeping kids in at lunch/recess is not cool in my books either.

    Teachers need to learn to ask parents if they want to participate, not assume that they do, or demand that they do.
    And teachers need to consider the value of what they are asking young children to do. You "think" and you "believe" that doing that worksheet of math problems will tell you something about that child's learning, but it doesn't. What does it tell you about what they actually know if they don't do it? It could mean that the sheet is so boring that the smart kid didn't bother, or it could mean that the kid hasn't a clue where to start.

  7. My first grader's homework is pointless for anything other than teaching that you have to do work for no better reason than that someone assigned it. He gets one math worksheet and one reading worksheet a week. Now, I don't believe in homework at this age anyway. And I strongly believe that nothing should be assigned that the child can't do without adult help. This homework totally violates that by having instructions written above grade level and "requiring" my signature on the paper. When the homework is "Sam will go up. Sam will sit", it's hard to have instructions the child can read. To me, this means they're too young for homework, but that's too big a leap for some people, I guess. My son asked last week what would happen if he didn't turn it in. I told him I didn't know. I don't know if it would mean that he wouldn't get a smiley face on his calendar, which is important to him. But he already dislikes homework, even though it is so little. Because he's already at school seven hours a day, and the homework is POINTLESS.