04 September 2014

School Means HW

Both girls now have a fairly rigorous homework schedule going on.  Now I will say that I fundamentally have no objections to homework.  I think that, at the grade school level, 15-20 minutes a night of review is a great idea.  As a parent I like that it gives me a chance to see what the kids are doing and how easy, or hard, they are finding the current material.  I also think that with the new Common Core focus on learning the concepts and strategies behind math and English Language Arts (ELA), practice applying those strategies has never been more important. This house is totally for (appropriate, non-busy-work) homework.

However, the homework is not just "here is your assignment, bring it back tomorrow with the occasional long-term project thrown in."  Nope. Liz's  preschool homework is doled out in the monthly newsletter with each week having a letter assigned so the kids can do "letter bags" every Thursday (except alternating third Thursdays due to early dismissals, so then they are due Wednesday), every fourth Thursday of the month is monthly color day (so wear the monthly color) and each month there is a long term family project with an (arbitrarily?) assigned due date.  Charlie gets all her work for the week on Monday with the folder due back on Friday, except the included daily reading log that is to be filled in and returned on the last Friday of the month. Also, in addition to the work in the folder, she is to be practicing her math facts to 20 for ten minutes and reading, independently or with a parent, for 20 minutes with that time recorded on the aforementioned log for her reading teacher.

In practice, this only takes Charlie 15 minutes a night and if Liz and I spend a cumulative hour on the "letter bags" and monthly project, it will be a lot. Of course we are basically ignoring the math facts practice ( I fundamentally don't believe in memorization as an educational tool) with the reading taking care of itself since Charlie reads an entire Daisy Meadows chapter book every night and we do a story in our bed-time routine. Sure, the material itself is great, The work is age appropriate while still being rigorous. I am very pleased with how the school district as a whole handles the curriculum. However, this all requires a lot of admin work on behalf of the parents.  I made a family calendar and had the girls help me fill in the important monthly and weekly dates so we can all keep an eye on it.  I had to show Charlie how to divide up her weekly work and mark down what she needs to do each day in her (school-provided) planner which I then have to sign every night verifying that I have checked the homework and seen any notes from her teachers. I have to sign her reading log every time she makes an entry and sign her math homework after I check her work and correct it using a special notation system so she can then fill in a "progress chart" which thus far is a solid block at 100% accuracy. Just so much busy work for us parents.

While I wholly support parents being involved with their kids schooling, this just feels like forced participation.  I have the luxury of being home and having the time support this, but many may not.  I am excited that Charlie is already being instructed in the kinds of time-management skills that will carry her through her entire educational career, but right now that buck is being passed directly on to me. The homework itself is a great tool for tracking the kids' progress, the recording metric serves only to test who is the "good" parent willing to do this whole song and dance. I generally float around making lunches and prepping dinner while the girls do their school-work, but I am not a huge proponent of  the "lets all sit down and make sure Charlie never struggles with her work" style of homework supervision.  Additionally, if this level of constant monitoring is considered the bare minimum expected of parents, is it any small wonder that kids now pack off to college completely incapable of handling their own lives without the parental units there to hand-hold?

 I feel like attempting to teach kids time and homework management skills only has a lasting impact if they actually have to be responsible for it.  As it stands in this system, Charlie knows I will keep up with it if only to save my own ass from the withering stares of her teachers on conference night.  In our case, I can do this and I certainly will, but I really think this is a total fandango for second grade homework.  Specifically it is a lot of hoopla for parents in system that does not, at its heart, teach the kids much about syllabus management. Unless, of course, said parents make the effort to foist the responsibility back on their kids, which adds another step to the nightly procedure and just dear goddess when will it end?  I guess I will be doing the double-time routine of  being a good mom by the books, and signing all those sheets, while also actually making Charlie responsible for the bulk of it. Again, I have the time to do this, but I can totally see why many won't bother...who really would in this system? In so many ways modern education encourages parents to do way too much for their kids due to rampant parent shaming that will certainly require its own post someday.

In short: great teachers, amazing curriculum, quality material, horrible recording system with way too much parental hand-holding forced into existence.  Skirting the fine line between helping your children get the most out of school and helicopter micro-managing was hard enough without being "volunteered" (or "voluntold" as they say in the Navy) for this new system.  It will be fine. I am thankful that this is my biggest educational challenge to date, but still...no I don't want to sign 11 sheets of paper and correct your math homework in three colors...I did my time as a TA dammit!