I’ve got some pretty strong opinions about education, after 17 years of having kids in school–and they’ve attended several, so I’ve got comparative data–plus my own years “in the system.” I am very fond of proclaiming what would and would not happen in the hypothetical school that I would run. (I need to write that post some time!) [edit: I did!]
And I’ve got a new item to add to that list: there would be NO SUMMER HOMEWORK.
When I was little I remember a year when we were supposed to keep track of all the books we read over the summer, and draw a picture representing our favorite one. I was a voracious reader and I also loved to draw; I ended up drawing a picture to go with every book I read (probably 30 or more) and had a great time doing it! But this wasn’t a requirement; there wasn’t a list. Forcing grade school kids to read certain books or kinds of books for a grade over the summer is a recent phenomenon in my experience. I don’t remember my big kids having to do it, but Lorelei was issued a reading list even before kindergarten!
Still, reading is one thing. Everyone should be reading anyway, right? But what no one should be doing in the summer time is MATH WORKSHEETS.
Yes, at the end of first grade Lorelei’s school announced that summer math workbooks would be available for purchase. This was suggested, not required, and I ignored it, even when they went ahead and sent the book home anyway. But this summer the books were issued and we were told that every child must complete them for a grade.
Lorelei is rule-driven and slightly compulsive when it comes to school, so she opened up her book on the first day of summer and did a few pages. Quickly she became frustrated by questions she could not answer and by the thought of having to do work every day in the summer time. So I told her she didn’t have to do it. Yes, I did.
I hate homework, and y’all know that already. And I’ve seen plenty of educational fads come and go (that’s another post I need to write). I know why they want kids to do math in the summer. It’s the same reason some push for year round school: to keep kids from forgetting what they’ve learned. But we all managed pretty well, didn’t we, even with the slightly longer summer breaks of yesteryear? And if they think they are going to encourage a love of math by doing this, no.
School started, and I still wasn’t sure how we were going to handle the problem of the math book. It ended up being due only days into the first week. I originally had some idea that maybe I would just tell Lorelei all the answers and have her write them in, or that I would do them all myself in little girl handwriting. Why rock the boat and make the teacher decide I’m crazy with the year just beginning? Lorelei is the only child we’ve had at this school, and I’ve kept a low profile so far. But I decided that would set a bad example for Lorelei and that I needed to stand up for my principles.
So I wrote her teacher an email.
I told him that the math book was stressful for Lorelei and for me. I told him that I do not believe in summer homework. That summer in my opinion is a time for decompressing and relaxing and playing and being a kid, and the stress of a looming assignment has no place in that. I told him how I thought about doing the math myself and why I was being honest instead, and that I felt my decision was the right one for Lorelei and for our family. I acknowledged that I knew Lorelei’s math grade would be affected, but that grades interest me only insofar as they provide evidence of learning anyway. And I asked him to make sure Lorelei did not feel he was upset with her.