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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Homework... oh WHY?!?

Anyone I've discussed this with knows how I feel about homework.  Homework should not come from the school.  It should come from home.  Where parents can one-on-one with the child to work on skills they struggle with in the classroom and practice reading.  I can see from looking at the mountains of papers coming home every day where my kids need a little extra lovin'.  For the past few months two of my kids who struggle with math have been working with an amazing private tutor to reinforce the skills they're learning in class and answer any questions they may have without having to ask the questions in front of the whole class.  The result?  Both kids went from a 2 to a 4 in their math skills from one report card to the next.  (For those of you who don't know Arizona's grading system,  4 is the highest, 1 is the lowest.)

AND my kids LOVE their tutor!!! You may be thinking that you can't fork out the $$ to hire a tutor for your kids, but GUESS WHAT?!?  I'll bet you can!  We hired our neighbors teenage daughter (who is also their favorite baby sitter...).  She is reliable, smart, fun and has all kinds of rhymes and games that help them learn while having fun.  She's also motivated to make some extra cash, and she's not nearly as expensive as an adult or experienced tutor.  You can also trade tutoring kids with other mom's if you're good in one subject and they're good in another.  Bam - two hours a week max and everyone is happy and smarter- for free! Two of my three kids (different kids, different needs) really needed help with their spelling.  I've been working with them to score 100% on their spelling tests each week.  2 weeks ago one of them did just that!  YIPPEE!  The other is not far behind - and they both continue to improve.  See how that works?  Homework. At home.  By home.  No packets to turn in, no rush rush rush to get it done, no more pressure from "school".

Why am I sitting here on Saturday morning ranting on this???  Well, I'm pretty passionate about the subject and very easily frustrated with school district bureaucracy.  I'm not going to be the Home School mom - at least not right now- and there's nothing wrong with home schooling.  For now my kids need the structure and environment of school to excel.  In fact this school year I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the kids teachers!!!! Honestly, I really do.  They are all happy in class. Their teachers really care about them and the kids know it.  I have heard the same from each of my kids, and I've actually seen it with my own eyes.  I pray that the kids can stay with their same teachers when they move up to 4th and 6th grade next year!!  All of that being said... my twins have been slowly coming home with more and more homework since the beginning of the school year.      


Look at the top!! 19/20 on the spelling test!  
Don't get me wrong - it comes in my all time favorite style- "the packet".  It goes home on Monday and it's due on Friday.  Complete a little each day (preferred method) but in the really busy weeks it can all be done on one afternoon.  Preferably not Thursday afternoon... Anyway... it's been bothering me because - well - I'm just going to share the email I sent to their teacher, the email explains it all... and yes - her name isn't "teacher" but I think we will call her "Teacher" here. (names have been changed to protect identity... ha ha) 
Dear Teacher, 
I keep forgetting to shoot you an email about this!  The boys homework packets are getting bigger and bigger... they are twice as big as they were since the school year started.  They (as well as other kids in the class, I'm sure) have several after school activities through the week. They take karate class 3 afternoons each week, (we dropped it down from 4 days in early Jan.), they have cub scouts once a week and take piano lessons.  Though they only take piano lessons once a week,, they do have to practice each day.  The past couple of weeks they have literally had 10-15 minutes of "free" time after school because they have so much more homework to finish.  On top of this, Benjamin has tutoring every Monday and Wednesday afternoon AND I have the kids practice their spelling words every day.  Plus their daily chores (which take 5ish minutes unless they're complaining and dilly-dallying).  On Saturdays they have more free time, but we also need to get some things done for their cub scout requirements and fit in some family time.  I know I've already told you how I feel about homework... and my boys are usually really great and responsible in getting their homework done on time, etc.  I do put a priority on their education (thus the tutor) but I also feel it is important to learn a "sport" (Karate) and a musical instrument (piano).  Being a scout teaches them life skills and integrity.  I get that homework is mandatory per the district HOWEVER - you get them for 6 hours of instructional  time (I deducted time for recess).  I have them for 5 hours between getting home from school and bed time.   The time I get to spend with them is spent helping with homework, teaching and encouraging them in the chores and piano practice, driving to/from karate, feeding them, getting showers and bed time routines in and getting ready for - guess what? - SCHOOL the next day.  So really, you get them all day.  If homework is "mandatory", it needs to take 5-10 minutes TOPS.  That's 1 page front/back of paper plus reading their timed reading each day.  (OH! And I forgot to mention the 20 min of reading we do as a family each day... yah, we're not 100% heathens).  Personally, I feel like our family does more than enough enrichment education after school that sending homework is just plain rude.  After all, I don't think it would go over well if I showed up during school hours to work on chores, or pulled them out for piano lessons/practice or scouts or karate. I get that the "you have 6 hours with my kid so don't interfere with MY time with them" doesn't go over well with the district.  I also understand that many kids do not have the schedule or opportunities that my kids have.  I am also the last person to want to overwhelm or stress them with too much that they HAVE to do.  For the past few weeks I've let them out of doing their chores so they could have more free time BECAUSE they have too much homework coming home. Learning to take care of things and help out the family is not something I want them to miss out on.  I don't know if the homework assignments are coming from the whole third grade or from just your class - but NO!  There is just too much homework! These kids are 8 and 9 and deserve to be kids.  I'm willing to not badmouth homework and encourage and help them if the amount of homework is reasonable.  These huge packets with all of the extra math sheets is not reasonable.  If they need to work on more math - then find the time during the school day.  Yes, I get that in Jr High and HS they will have more homework.  They will also be more mature and able to handle more homework - and if it gets out of hand, I will say the same thing to their teachers as I'm saying now.  I know that emails and text messages can be taken the wrong way - and I hope that you know me and my personality well enough that I am not at all criticizing you as a teacher or a person (because we all LOVE you like crazy!!!) And I get that this may read harsh or condescending - and that is NOT my intention.  I'm just speaking my case so there is no misunderstanding. (and because I like to rant on the things in life that irk me...like homework)  If I just said you're sending too much homework home you'd never know that I do value education and appreciate YOU - I just want time with my kids - and time that my kids can be kids.  Please let me know if I need to address this with the principal or the 3rd grade as a whole and I will gladly share the same with them.  I'm all for high test scores for the school - but I'm gonna draw the line here.  If they come home with more than 4 front/back pages in their homework packet (not counting the daily 1min reading story) then we won't be finishing the packets, and my kids won't be held responsible to finish said pages or punished in any way- nor will their grades be docked.  They will be able to have their full recess and lunch and be able to play with their friends on the yard (vs sitting on the wall), etc. They won't be docked grabbits or merit money or anything like that.  They will be treated like any of the other kids in class who complete all of the pages sent home.  I want to make sure it's clear that his is coming from me and not from my kids.  They don't even know I'm writing this to you or that I feel it's a problem.  Since they have been spending more time on homework, I have noticed my boys being more easily frustrated (in general), extra tired and stressed about getting it all done and not as excited to do ANY of their activities because they're so burnt out.  I have already dropped one karate class per week - I'm not going to compromise any more o our away from school time with school stuff.  Please, please, PLEASE don't read this as a personal attack! Any really, I'm not a problem pain in the booty parent!! I really don't want to be misunderstood in my request, and I want the kids to be excited about school, ready to learn when they get there and not feeling weighed down because there's too much to do. I've been doing this parent thing - honestly- longer than your whole life (and wow that is sad for my side! Old lady parent!) and, according to all of my 9 kids, I'm pretty good at it. And a Momma Bear. I seek balance in the force - and I really, really want what is best for everyone. Please advise me on your thoughts!! I'm open to hearing your ideas and feelings and thoughts and all of that. Thank you. You really are AWESOME and - for reals - one of my very favorite (like top 3!) teachers EVER! And, like I said, I've had kids go through lots and lots and lots of teachers (with 6 kids through HS! ha ha) I hope your weekend is fantastic and I'll see you soon!
Rebecca Willcox

I know, I know... it's one very long email. And if you must know, I actually edited a bunch out of it. I also forgot to mention that after school ART class that two of my kids take twice a week because they BEGGED for it. I mean, heaven forbid we raise more artsy crafty kids.. ha ha. But they LOVE it, and they're learning so much!!

I'm not planning to start a riot or overtake the school district or anything - I'm just sharing what I, personally, feel about homework and what is best for my own kids. Feel free to leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments - just please be nice. I promise to respect your opinions and views if you respect mine. Rant over - I'm getting off this electronic device and hanging out with my kids. Probably making cookies and fun junk like that. Enjoy the weekend!
~Reb    
                                                                                                                                                                                                             Family time! (That black mass is Sophie - our fearless,
friendly, loving Labrador who loves to be included in any
and all family activities. Including snuggling on the couch)




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