By Eden Strong
My 6-year-old daughter came home from school with a homework assignment this weekend. She’s supposed to make a diorama of a frog habitat in a shoebox. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? A little moss, a fake pond, a plastic frog, easy-peasy, right?
In fact, it won’t actually take her any time at all … because she’s not doing it.
She won’t be partaking in this project in the same way that we did not partake in creating a large cardboard sunflower, a design-our-own board game, or a “cloud photography” assignment.
Why not, you ask? Because I have a BIG problem with the amount of time-zapping homework my daughter’s school system doles out and because of that, I’ve decided my daughter won’t be doing her homework anymore.
Not really. I don’t have a problem with homework in and of itself because, obviously, I understand it’s an important part of our children’s development process. My daughter needs to learn responsibility, time management, and self-facilitated learning and I’m grateful that homework provides some of those lessons for her. I’ve spent hours helping her learn how to read, do mathematical equations, and understand the history of our country. We’ve spent many a late night practicing spelling words and reading book assignments. As a single mom, I try my hardest to make her education a priority in my overfilled life because I know that education is one of just many things that will play a role in the foundation of her future.
That’s all well and good.
My problem with homework is that it’s given in excess and the lesson behind it is wrapped up in time-sucking busy-work.
And because of that, I’m rebelling against it. School, while important, is not everything to me. Some of the greatest minds in our country were college (and even highschool!) dropouts: Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, the list goes on. But before you get all up in arms about that statement, let me assure you I would love nothing more than for my daughter to graduate college. Of course I would. But we also need to acknowledge that there are other “life” lessons to be taught outside of school; lessons she’ll learn through team sports, quality family time, playing outside, and everything in between, that have nothing to do with a grade. Those learning moments are more important and valid to me than gluing moss to a f*cking shoebox.
My daughter’s teachers thought I was insane, of course.
I reached out to them the first week of school to politely tell them my daughter would only be doing as much homework as would feasibly fit into our lives. I asked them to contact me if she was struggling in any areas so that I could shift our focus onto those subjects and I asked them if they had any questions for me.
They looked at me like I had absolutely lost my mind … which I was fully expecting.
Because what we are doing is not normal and I get that. The first year her teacher was great and completely understanding. The second year, not so much. She sent me a rather strongly worded email that “rules apply to all kids and that kids can’t be taught that they’re the exception to the rule.” Her email was followed up by a request for a conference with the school’s principal.
Thankfully, the meeting went well. The teacher seemed to understand that my desire to avoid homework was not because I didn’t want to put in the effort; it was because I wanted my daughter to have ample time to explore the world outside of the classroom. Although I went into the meeting thinking I was going to need to defend my alternative lifestyle, I walked out feeling as thought my viewpoints were not only understood, but respected. In the end, we decided some homework assignments would simply not count against her grade and other times, an alternate assignment would be given, one that was more adaptable to our lives and the educational path I’m creating for her.
I don’t want my daughter to feel that she’s “above the rules” and at the same time I don’t want to box her in. It’s a delicate balance that we continue to navigate.
Since then, my daughter completes about 40 percent of her homework. I make sure that she gets her core homework done and then, if she’s into it, we’ll occasionally do what I’ve deemed the “time-suck” activities: camouflaging a cardboard turkey, making a puppet out of a paper bag, you get the idea. Still though, even without all the homework we don’t do, she’s at the top of her class academically. She’s learning and thriving, not in a conventional way, of course, but in our own way - and it’s obviously working.
I don’t know how my stance on homework will play out long-term.
So far, we’ve been lucky to have teachers willing to work with me. That being said, it’d be unrealistic to assume a ‘partial-homework’ policy will be the norm forever. Someday, when my views on homework collide with the mainstream school system’s views on it, tough decisions will need to be made.
What will those decisions be? I’m not sure yet, but I will tell you this: This weekend will NOT be spent making a fake frog habitat in a shoebox.
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