I've got a countdown going until the first day of school. No more paying a babysitter. No more "I'm bored." No more wet bathing suits abandoned on the bathroom floor. Need I go on? I think I mumble, "September, September, it will all be better in September" in my sleep. But all it takes is one word to slap me back into reality.
Homework. The at-home education that fills the scant daylight hours between the time she climbs off the bus and crawls into bed.
My daughter's just 6 years old and entering the first grade this fall, and yet when I saw the headline "Is Homework Out of Control" in this weekend's PARADE magazine, I nodded. I can't identify yet with the stressed-out, sleepless state of overworked kids. But I love the idea that some states are now setting limits on how much time kids should spend on schoolwork outside of school.
Because my kid is 6, and she's already got half a school year of homework under her belt. Yes, homework. In kindergarten. It floored me. It floors most people I talk to -- at least anyone who has yet to send a modern kid to school. And this year, I've been warned, it will only get worse. We'll go from three nights a week to five, and it will take longer.
Hey, I get the concept of homework. I really do. What a kid can do in class with a teacher describing the steps is not the same as the work they do five hours later. It's a way to assess what kids actually take away from a lesson. It's a way to judge how much more work they need.
And yet, I remember homework as a kid. I remember teachers who quite literally assigned it as busywork. They graded you simply on whether it was finished, never actually checking to see if the work was completed correctly. There was no way to learn from your mistakes if no one told you they'd been made. And of course there were the teachers who held onto homework for months on end, handing it back so much later that you're already set in your ways ... however wrong they may be.
But I'll be honest, those change by teacher. My problem is more universal. There's just not enough time. The average parent gets home no earlier than 6 p.m. at night. I've been told by other parents that my kid's 8 p.m. bedtime is on the late side. So let's just say most kids this age are in bed by 7:30 p.m.
That leaves what, an hour and a half for a parent to make and then serve a healthy meal, to lead bath or shower time, to read a bedtime story? Add a half hour, 40 minutes of homework into the mix, and you wonder why kids aren't eating well, why parents can't keep up with what's going on in their kids lives, why kids are tired in the morning?
Kids need their education, but they need time to play and enjoy life too. Parents need time to actually talk to their kids, to bond. They say we're their first teachers, but how can we be if we don't have time to actually TALK to them? Homework is stealing them away from us. We need to wrestle back control of our evenings.
I'm not asking to abolish homework. But I am all for putting limits on the amount of homework. The 10 minutes per grade level suggested in a host of states sounds fair to me. How about you?
Image via peapodsquadmom/Flickr