Geoff went ahead and shared a story about his daughter.
Tracy penned a frustrating post about her daughter.
And yet, here I am, the father of a pre-schooler and first grader, just enjoying the time of my life as they go to their respective schools and come home excited about learning. For the youngster, it's a bunch of worksheets about tracing and coloring. Sure. Whatever you gotta do to keep him from ripping the paint off your walls (except giving him candy), I'm all for it.
For my first grader, he has a packet of work that goes into his Friday folder, complete with a worksheet per day that emphasizes a variety of skills. If you teach elementary, or are a parent of a first grader, this might be familiar:
"Have your child work on each sheet throughout the week, but don't let it become a point of frustration. If he gets upset or it seems too difficult, just draw a line and initial it so I know where you stopped. Each page should take no longer than 15 minutes."
Innocent. Simple. Inviting... Deceiving.
My stance on homework has changed dramatically since I started teaching, slowly realizing that there are more and more studies dispelling the myths of homework's benefits. Lately, it's become a bit of a punching bag. One teacher went so far as to publicly (and virally) banish it from her class altogether. My last year in the classroom, homework was tabbed as optional, suggested if you needed a little extra practice, but nothing more. Harmless, I thought.
Then, I watched my son. I watched as he struggled through writing a sentence about what he saw in the yard. I watched as he worked to correct punctuation. I watched as he continued to write the sum of 8 + 3 as 31 instead of 13.
"No, daddy, I need to do my homework."
He was frustrated, but now miffed at the mere thought of having his work taken away from him in lieu of an activity that has nothing to do with his formal education.
My 6 year-old has learned the game of school. Even with the work being sent home as optional, he knows he needs to do it in order to be smart. That was more important than going outside and playing hockey. It was more important than coloring. It was more important than putting together a set of Legos.
As a father, I am seemingly helpless. Honestly, I'm taking ideas, here. Put 'em in the comments. Let me know on Twitter. Please.
What's worse than watching him struggle is the thought of pulling his work away, drawing that metaphorical line of defeat, initialing it with the ink of consent, and sending it off to his teacher. The idea of optional homework is a façade for those who do their best to make everyone around them happy, which my son identifies with.
If I were to go back and speak with my first year teaching self, we would have a long talk. Among many, many, many other things, it would be the talk about homework. Look, if you're going to assign it, do it sparingly. And when you do, make it mandatory. And when you do, make damn sure it has meaning.
Otherwise, it's all just a façade.
Happy "Meaningful Experiences" Fishing