Friday, August 21, 2015

The Real Reason Why This Mom Hates Homework

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"I'm surprised at the amount of homework my third grader has! Is it just me??"

"I need some alcohol to deal with all this!"

My son just started third grade two weeks ago. Barely two weeks into the school year, I’ve already read Facebook posts from parents of the other third graders complaining about the amount of homework these kids are given. I get it, believe me I do. I would much rather go for a root canal than sit with my son and lecture him on what needs to be done NOW instead of later and that he needs to do it PROPERLY and never sloppily. I wish we could just sit side by side peacefully watching our respective favorite YouTube videos, or have him play Minecraft while I research where I could pitch my writing to. But no. I have to dread 4 p.m. every week day and brace myself for frustration and tears (and I’m not admitting whose they are).

In spite of this daily struggle though, I still won’t go so far as to say that we’re faced with an unreasonable amount of homework. I’m aware of the 10-minute rule as endorsed by the National Education Association. This means that depending on the child’s grade level, starting with 1st grade, there should be a maximum of 10 minutes of homework per day and this increases as the child goes up a grade level. Therefore, 2nd graders should only have 20 minutes of homework, 30 minutes for 3rd graders and so on and so forth. Yes there have been days when my son definitely had to work way beyond the 30 minute mark. But there were also days when he was done within 20 minutes or less. Time limits aside, the real reason why I don’t feel justified with the complaints is because I’m coming from my own perspective as someone who was educated abroad.

Growing up in the Philippines and attending a private Catholic school from elementary to high school, I can confidently say that I had way more homework than what my son is dealing with. From as early as first grade, we had a different teacher for each subject matter and there were days when it felt like there was homework assigned by each teacher. We just had to deal with it, organize our schedule, and be accountable.

Original (unmodified) Image by Grigory Kravchenko via Flickr Creative Commons

And herein lies the crux of my argument. What I resent most about this whole homework situation now is not the volume of the work required of our children, but the expectation of the current school system regarding the level of parental involvement. I wish I could say this is all imagined and merely subjective perception. But when the school repeatedly says that 'parental involvement enhances the child’s academic success', one can’t help but take that as something that’s extremely open to various interpretations. What kind of involvement? How much or to what extent? Though I'm certain the school wants us to encourage our children to work independently and to not lose sight of the fact that homework is meant to give the children more practice at home, I still can't help but feel that what we have now only fosters helicopter parenting. It definitely has that effect on me and I know it's harming both me and my son.

From the moment my son enters the door in the afternoon, I start sounding like a drill sergeant. We both go through his bag, his folders, his journals. We both go through instructions. I help him review. I ask him questions or dictate items to be answered. God forbid there is some craft project that needs completion, which then naturally forces me to become even more hands-on than with his usual daily assignments. I really don’t understand it and definitely don’t recall my parents doing the same to me and my siblings when we were young. We had homework and dealt with it ourselves, with my mother taking pride in the fact that not once did she have to tutor any of us.

I’m sure a lot of you are thinking that it’s my fault, that I’m the one who has to stay away and control my impulse to hover. I acknowledge that and know that letting go of the reins is something I need to address. However, if I let go or step back even just a little, is this to say that the other parents will let go and step back as well, hover less, hence leveling the playing field? Or would my decision to let go and be less involved simply put my son at a clear disadvantage academically? As a former overachiever and a recovering perfectionist, it’s a risk that’s not so easy for me to take.

So yes, I hate homework because it brings out that side of me I swore I’d never be as a parent. It brings out nothing but ambivalence in me as I do the dance of balancing involvement or support with trying to teach my child accountability, autonomy and self-discipline while still have him excel in all that he does. This current norm of hyper-involved parenting reinforced by the education institutions is driving me insane and makes me ask myself on a daily basis existential questions such as how far should I go, what can I change to make this better for everyone, or am I being a good parent with the choices I make? 

I suppose the only logical thing for me to do right now is to experiment. Clearly I need to define for myself just what 'parental involvement' means and start implementing what is necessary, no matter how painful it might be in the beginning. If the school won't spell it out, then we as parents need to decide what works best for our families, what is the healthiest and most beneficial for our children not only in the short-term but mostly for the human beings they need to become in the future. I need to remember that my parents standing back never made me feel unloved and that I still did pretty damn well in school. Most of all, parents need to remember that our success as parents lies not in our children's academic success or 'perfection', but in their level of resilience. Let's not be that group that raised a generation of cripples.












12 comments:

  1. I agree! I think you said it well when you shared that we have to decide for ourselves what 'parental involvement' looks like. I think we can feel a lot of pressure from our peers to be on top of our kids, their grades and their college aspirations. When I let go of that, I was able to relax around the issue--just a little bit! (Ha!) Helpful post.

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    1. You're absolutely right about the pressure felt from our peers. That's the part I have to let go of as well and I'm glad it's worked for you! Thanks so much for your thoughts and for dropping by :-))

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  2. Gasp! I don't think my parents helped me - even once. I helped my kids a bit. I have no idea how my kids are raising their kids with this whole education business. I suspect parental involvement has reached epic proportions.

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    1. I think so too, Diane. It's scary how our generation and those ahead of us got by without any one hovering. We all turned great, right? ;-)) At least my husband and I are on the same page and agree that one really only learns when one deals with failure. We can't give these kids all but success all the time.

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  3. Yup, I hate that! But what I hate even more, is I'm at the point with middle & high school students (ok...even my elementary kid) when I feel stupid cause I don't remember how to do whatever they're doing!

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    1. Oh I hear you, Marie! I warned Noah earlier and told me that soon, I would have no clue at all as to what his lessons are about. Then, he'd truly learn how to be resourceful, make mistakes and just suck it up! Thanks girl!

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  4. A thousand times yes to THIS: "What I resent most about this whole homework situation now is not the volume of the work required of our children, but the expectation of the current school system regarding the level of parental involvement." My husband refuses to help as he thinks it hinders them. I know he is right and I want to be as removed as he is, but I'm the one who hears them struggling after school. I'm resolved to help way less this year. It's a hard habit to break.

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    1. Oh I hear you, Nina! It IS hard to break. And I'm glad I'm not the only one having 'battles' with the husband on this. It sucks. Well, good luck to us and let me know how it goes! Thanks so much and have a great rest of the week :-)) xoxo

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  5. Joy....step away from the homework. Haha! The only way his going to be successful is if he learns first that their are consequences to every decision. What I did was when my kids got home they got 30 minutes of free time after getting a snack to unwind and relax. They did the homework when they were through I checked it only then did they get to do watch TV/computer/game but, it was so much harder with my son than with my daughter.

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    1. I have, I did, I swear! LOL! I agree that teaching these kids responsibility is what success is, and not perfection. We keep telling Noah things don't always have to be perfect and that people really only learn through mistakes. Thanks Rena! xoxo

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  6. I mostly stayed hands off with my kid and homework - until she stopped doing it at all her sophomore year of high school and then we were on her backside like white on rice. I think letting her work it out on her own mostly taught her to be responsible for her own work. And that has worked now that she's an adult.

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    1. Good tip! And I agree that letting them be responsible for their actions is the greatest teacher. I hope your daughter's grades didn't suffer much, Anne. Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experience on this. I need all the support and will power to get through this. :-))

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