I have a confession to make: we have been mostly ignoring the homework that comes home in D’s folder.
She’s supposed to do homework three nights a week: a reading worksheet with phonics, sight words and sentences; a math worksheet reinforcing the concepts of the week; and sometimes a short photocopied book based on the weekly sight words. T and I are supposed to sign the reading worksheet indicating that she’s read it aloud each night.
The truth is that we almost never do the homework. The folder languishes on the counter until Thursday night or Friday morning, when it has to be returned, and then I jam it back in her backpack. Sometimes I sign that she has read the sheet all three days when we actually only read it once or twice. Once I wrote a note to her teacher explaining that we had built a new Lego set instead. I don’t know how I feel about this: frustrated, ashamed, irritated?
Our schedule is busy: two working parents, plus gymnastics, plus dance lessons. That’s not an excuse; plenty of working parents make their kids complete the homework, I’m sure. Homework just hasn’t been a priority here. Given a few minutes of extra time in the evening or after school, we are more likely to build with Legos, ride bikes around the block, do an art project, work in the garden (which means I weed and prep beds and they dig holes to look for worms), or just play dress up and Polly Pockets and Zoobles and pet hospital.
Hard at work on a Lego treehouse.
I’m not concerned about her academic skills. Her math and reading skills are above grade level, she often writes and reads as part of her play, and the completed work that comes home in her Friday folder seems to be completed accurately and thoroughly. But I worry that I’m inadvertently reinforcing the idea that smart kids don’t need to work hard, or that we can pick and choose which expectations we meet, ignoring the ones that are less fun.
Having a child in kindergarten has been a revelation for me in so many ways: so much of her life is simply outside my grasp now, accessible to me only obliquely. She asks questions like “what does it mean to be on sides?” and I piece together that two of her girl friends are fighting, or their moms are fighting, and this has completely disrupted the lunchtime dynamic. She plays lockdown drill with her stuffed animals without ever mentioning to me that they have had a drill, and I wonder what fears she’s working through that she doesn’t want to voice to me. She brings home a mountain of worksheets and writing assignments and math pages and reads out loud to her dolls and writes her stuffed animals’ diagnoses into tiny notebooks and I am amazed by the speed with which her brain has leaped forward in all these academic skills.
Play Doh volcano
But I also know there is so much she is not learning, not doing, not experiencing during the school day. Her questions are endless: What’s at the middle of the earth? Where does all the water from the flood go when the flood dries up? Why is the river brown and the ocean blue? When can we go on a vacation where we will see whales and the Eiffel Tower? What time is it in Korea? Why do mushrooms grow after rain? What kind of flower is that? Do birds know each others songs? How old do I have to be to be a baby dolphin scientist? Are you sure bitch is a grown up word because you say a lot of grown up words and I have never heard you say that.
Strictly speaking, ignoring her homework is probably not having any positive benefit (though I don’t think it’s holding her back, either). But I’m feeling the pull of time powerfully this year: I have fewer and fewer hours with her, fewer opportunities to nurture all the skills and traits that school isn’t designed to cultivate. I want her to be curious, persistent, brave, thoughtful. I want her to know she is strong, powerful, capable. I want her to build, explore, create. I want her to trust her instincts, to wonder, to guess and try and guess again. And maybe selfishly, I would rather walk around the block one more time, watching her go full speed down the hill on her bike, feet off the pedals sticking out to the sides, because she has finally, finally, built the confidence to let herself go.
And yet: I was raised to follow rules, and I am willfully breaking this one. Should I be enforcing a homework routine, even though its light enough to play outside till 8:30 and the rain has FINALLY stopped? I’m singing the kindergarten homework blues today, and I’m even more worried about what’s to come next year.
Ready to ride.