Dear teacher please stop giving me homework

How is is that my children's homework ends up being my homework? I don't relish the idea of looking up the pony express or how many fruits and vegetables you are required to have by the federal government if you follow the new food pyramid.  No, I don't want to do this. I want to spend my online time researching things that are far more useful and relevant to my life, like why the price of Dunkin' Donuts coffee keeps going up and how many people I know are on Facebook right now. 

But I keep finding myself pulled into the homework vortex. 

I do not recall as a kid 
A) having as much homework as my children have
B) having any homework that required my mother to participate. 

Oh sure, there was an occasional trip to the library or dash to the craft store... but definitely nothing more than that. 

I have had to sit and format my kid's bibliography of five sources in MLA documentation. This kid is in fifth grade!  But it's not just the over-reaching things that are assigned to mom; it's also the mundane.  I have sat and watched my child in tears because she was assigned another "review" of some basic, long-since mastered skill.  Here, Students, I couldn't think of anything new to teach, so do these 110 long addition problems tonight. That's just tedious, and it's borderline cruel. 

Dear teacher, once a skill is mastered, move on. 
Dear teacher, if you are not covering it in class, it probably shouldn't be sent home as homework. 

I have a friend who has a degree in child psychology and holds a position with the Massachusetts school department. She is adamant that homework has been proven to be useless; claims that after six hours of institutionalized learning, the child brain can handle nothing more and it needs the break.  I have friends with teaching degrees who insist that the extra hours at home enforce the skills learned during the day. I guess I fall somewhere between these two positions,  and would go so far as to say perhaps it needs to be weighed on a case by case basis.   

If the child  is learning arithmetic with fractions, then send home a few problems for reinforcement.  Color in this map?  That's just busy work.  And I think I know why they send home the busywork:

Teachers are accountable too. The unions, the school administration, and even we parents--  expect results. Sometimes those results are hard to quantify though testing or class lessons. So, it is quantified by depth.  Not how far did you go into teaching the kids this subject-- rather how far did you go into completing this book? And this one? And this one?  

So, often what cannot be completed in the classroom, is sent for completion at home. I think this is usually built into the lesson plan before the year even starts.  

I got a notice from my girls' school that said middle school children who fail to complete homework will be given detention. And further, that, "piano, baseball, dance class, etc are not excuses." While I think it's great that there is some threat of punishment to scare the kids into being responsible, I also know that sometimes other parts of life get in  the way.  The letter really angered me. If a child is really into good, healthy extracurriculars then those activities should certainly be allowed time and a place.  The notice from the school did not cite a threat to the kids who came home and ate Doritos and watched TV...  

I have been the mom who, after school, rushes to the store to get kids shoes or some other outgrown necessity. I have come into the house, herded them out of school clothes and into others, then back in the car for lessons.  I have been the mom who comes home at 8 pm, exhausted from doing family things, and possibly still needing to make dinner... and still need to assign who gets into the bath first.  It's days like these that the kids need a  homework reprieve.

My oldest  daughter had one teacher who did the most brilliant thing.  Every Monday, she sent home the homework for the week. She simply said to have it in by Friday morning. Her philosophy was that this enabled the kid's to learn some time management skills, and for families to work around lessons and other schedules.  I loved it.

I do wish more teachers would utilize the "assign Monday, due Friday" format.

And, I do wish they would assign it to the kids and not mom.  MLA is not exactly something I've memorized.  

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