Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The topic is buzzing around the interwebs like crazy: homework and the hell on earth it creates for some children and parents.

The hours spent agonizing over rewriting five paragraphs. The tears. The tantrums. The stalling. The "needing a drink or snack" every ten minutes. The throwing of the pencils across the room. The parents, standing there, willing themselves not to bash their own heads against the wall. Willing themselves to stay calm. Breathe deep. Be understanding. And stand strong against the overwhelming desire to send a strongly worded email to the teacher telling them exactly what they can do with their homework assignments.

I am in that hell. And it's only the second full week of school.

Every day I hold my breath and hope he just breezes in, grabs a snack as he tells me about his day and then settled in to do his work.

And every day I hear "Can I just not do it today? I only have to do it four days a week - I think I'll skip today." For the record - this 4 days a week stuff is making it even harder than if they say "Nope - it's every day. Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday no homework." (Writing is every day but math and reading are 4 days a week.)

Every day I say "Nope. Sorry. Sit down and get to work, please."

Every day I say "Kelton? I'm serious. Get to work so we can move on to something else."

Every day I say "Yelling at me isn't going to make it go away or get it done."

Every day I say "Unlike last year, I'm not going to argue about your homework from the time you arrive home until the time you finally get it done. We're going to work on it as soon as you get home and then we can move on."

And everyday we argue about sitting down and doing his homework.

To his credit, I do feel like the level of homework is a bit too heavy for a 4th grader. Yesterday it took almost two hours for him to do his writing assignment. Then there was math. And 20 minutes of reading. I also can't help but feel fourth grade is when it really starts to matter. The weight of his workload feels....heavier. More serious. Like I'm worried about sick days and how we will make up the work that is bound to be sent home.

Fourth grade seems to be a new ballgame.

No longer is it a bit of homework every day (like reading). It's homework every day. Real homework.

And then on the flip side, I have Kaylen begging for homework. She has reading, of course, but it we don't officially begin logging until October. Which means she doesn't feel she needs to do it now and besides, reading isn't really homework, according to her. She wants HOMEWORK.

I don't. Because juggling two of them at the kitchen counter every afternoon sounds like more than I can do right now. I know my future. Kelton will say, as he looks over at Kaylen's work, "That's so easy. I can't believe you have that as homework." and Kaylen will burst into tears. She will say he is mean and she hates him. I will scold them both and try to get them back on task. Kelton will kick her under the counter edge where I can't see. Kaylen will scream and cry. Kelton will get reprimanded and Kaylen will be told she needs to not say mean things. Kelton will say "Yeah KAYLEN!" in his snottiest voice. Kaylen will burst into fresh tears.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

Mommy will look for an adult beverage.

October can take it's time getting here, thankyouverymuch.

In the meantime, I have a child who took almost two hours to rewrite FIVE paragraphs. I will grant you, he needs writing and spelling homework. And I love the process his teacher is using it's just that, for Kelton (and me), it's like dragging a 6,000 boulder up the side of a mountain.

We finished the weeks writing assignment yesterday (Day 1 Create a visual web of your topic. Day 2 Write down an overview of your paper. Day 3 Write a draft of your paper. (insert weekend here - no homework) Day 4 Edit your draft for spelling, grammer and punctuation. Day 5 Rewrite your paper.) and today? Today we start all over. Ummm....yay?

It's going to a long year as far as homework is concerned.


Dakota said...

So everyone knows, Casey has the impression of our children down to a T! I could actually hear their voices in my head...or maybe they are still reverberating from last night, when the words were not over homework, but something else, but the intent and passion were very similar. Ugh.

As you always said - it takes three weeks to make a habit. Maybe that will work for homework, too. Hang in there!

Tanya said...

For some reason J and I have a much different dynamic then R & J do. I know it's normal for it to be different, but it's way different. I know it might not be possible, but could Dakota do homework with him? When I even talk to J during homework it's like the world is ending but when R does it they both sit and do it happily. We also have the added after school program which helps tremendously becuase he will behave much better for them then either of us.

Also, I hate homework. These little beings are in school, sitting still, for 5-8hrs a day and then are expected to do large amounts of HW once they are home. It's just not fair. Even R's physio teacher told him that you can concentrate on HW/reading for about 45min before your brain has had enough.

As for the 4 day/wk, could you tell him those 4 days are M-Th and Friday is free day? However it sounds like he has homework then too. Blah.

When they both are doing HW could you set them at opposite side of the table so he can't see her HW and therefore not make the comments? I know in after care they separate the kids by teacher, so they are all working on the same thing.

Good luck this year. I hope he gets into the routine and makes it a little easier for you.

Anonymous said...

As a math teacher, I know that you only retain about 20% of the stuff you learn without practice. I also know that in middle and high school the teachers are not aware of what the other teachers are assigning for homework, but since Kelton is in 4th grade, his teacher knows approximately how long each assignment should take. So if it is taking him too long to do it, he is obviously stalling. Perhaps he could use his new desk in his room to do his homework with a great incentive if he finishes his homework by a certain time. This would cut down on the interaction with Kaylen and might keep him on task longer without looking to see what you or Kaylen are doing. What you are trying to do is build good study skills and self motivation is one of the biggys! Good Luck!


Audra said...

Ah, homework! When I was little I was so much like Kaylen and when I finally did get homework I actually loved sitting at our dining room table with my mom doing my homework- my brother, not so much. It was a battle much like you're fighting. My mom stuck to her guns though (at least until she went back to work- then it fell onto my dad to make sure he got his homework done and well, everything went to hell but that's another story)

My mom had a set thing so we knew what was expected everytime. My brother did fuss and argue and complain but after a while that died down when he realized it wouldn't go away. She sat us down with an after school snack, asked about our days and then we got right into homework. No TV, no Games, etc. Sometimes once the sun started setting earlier we were allowed to play outside first, but then he would get back into the groove of not wanting to do homework so she had to stick to her guns.

It does sound like a lot of homework time, but it sounds like he's learning good stuff!

Amy said...

For us it's about disengaging unless he actually needs help. He's learning to take responsibility for his own work in 4th grade. If he says he doesn't have to do something, I tell him we should email his teacher about it. He almost always says, "well, maybe I should do it.." I try to remove myself as much as possible and refrain from any interaction that isn't directly related to the task at hand. It's working because he really wants to feel like he can rise to the challenge, and also wants to please his teacher, which helps. It's been a HUGE transition for him. Some nights 2 hours of work, as opposed to 30 minutes max in 3rd grade... I feel your pain. We're right there. Hang in there.

Mary-Pat said...

In Seattle, the homework "guideline" is, take the grade, and add a zero--that's the amount of minutes they should spend doing homework (so, 4th grade, 40 minutes).

Aaliyah took much longer than that. After many sessions like you describe, I talked to her teacher, and got the ok to work on math for 40 minutes, then stop where ever she was. Then we have "family reading time" after dinner, so we are all reading together for the 20-30 minutes. So, total (math and reading), it was more like 60 some days, but broken up like that it worked.

good luck! You have my sympathies!

Sonya said...

It sounds like this is a new routine from last year. It will take time for him to buy into it and realize that this... THIS is it. Stand fast and stay strong.

We have 3 different grades... 5 kids... doing homework together. One of the daycare kids said something snotty about Spencer's 1st grade homework being "easy". Nip it in the bud immediately. I reminded him/them that 1) he is 2 years younger 2) it is appropriate homework for 1st grade and 3) it was the same homework they had in 1st grade. I would have LOVED to say... and it was crazy hard for you 2 years ago!

Perhaps this homework IS challenging for Kelton, but it also sounds like there is a great deal of stalling and anger. Maybe provide incentives for him (like you did for Kaylen and patching) to 1) transition into homework as you would like him to and 2) completing it in a timely fashion.

Once he gets over being angry that he has to do this it should get better for everyone involved.

When Kaylen starts homework in October... totally choose her homework spot with reasonable distance between K&K to help avoid highly anticipated kicking, etc...

Julie said...

My kids sound EXACTLY like yours. Charlotte wants homework, Connor hates homework. Connor tells Charlotte hers is SO easy and why can't his be like that. Blah, blah, blah. I feel your pain. Gook luck this year and the years to follow!!

Debbie Smith said...

Hi Casey
I read your post and empathised heavily, having been a single parent for 14 years with two little ones starting before they reached school.

As I read through people's comments, I felt for you - many well-wishers telling you their story, or giving their bit of advice; I guess a normal reaction to your post.

I don't want to do either, because I can't offer any advice. But I can offer my love and say, I know how hard it is(and I am a teacher)and I pray you will find a way that suits you and your family.