Friday, November 5, 2010

Homework woes

 Lately I've been feeling like a bad mom. Ok, that's nothing new - I admit I often feel like a bad mom. There's this thing called guilt - you may be familiar with it? I know I sure am.

It isn't that I don't give Ciaran tons of love and encouragement - I definitely do. I don't have a lot of time to play with him during the week - by the time I get home, get dinner made yada, yada, yada, it's almost bedtime. I do read to him every single night and then we cuddle and talk about his day at school or make up silly songs. Up until recently our little routine was working just fine and dandy.

But then, something started nagging at me, making me doubt my capacity as a mother and keeping me awake at night (well, not really, it's just one of the many things that prevent me from sleeping at night). I began to worry about Ciaran falling behind his peers and not being able to read or write whenever it is that kids are supposed to know how to do such things.

Normally, I wouldn't have thought twice about it - I always believed he'd learn when he's ready, not to mention - um, aren't they supposed to learn that stuff in school? But there's been a fairly large amount of assignments sent home for us to work on since Ciaran started Junior Kindergarten this past September.

I was not prepared for this. Worksheets are piling up like crazy and I can't keep up with them. Homework! In Junior Kindergarten. Is this normal? There are printing his name worksheets, counting and numbers worksheets and worksheets for each letter of the alphabet.

At first, I kind of ignored them, I just figured they were guidelines, not really to be taken all that seriously. Like, if we had a few spare minutes on a lazy Sunday afternoon, we could practice writing a few letters. But then the JK teacher started sending semi-snarky notes home about how all the kids need to learn to print their names by the end of the month.

I don't know about all the other JK kids, but mine can barely hold a pencil properly. He'd much rather build towers and houses made out of sofa cushions. And he has zero interest in writing anything, other than scribbles and the odd circle. Which brings me to the question: Am I a bad mother for not forcing my kid to do homework that he's clearly not ready for? But then, when is a good age?

If only we could win the lottery, then I'd stay home & home-school. 'Cause then it would be just fine if he didn't learn to write until he's like, 18. No one else would have to know. Also? We'd have the most kick-ass pillow house evah!


Sandra said...

Homework in Junior Kindergarten is NOT normal Pamela, it's not. My kid is in the second grade, and he can barely read, and you know what? I'm not worried one bit. It'll come when it does. Hopefully he'll be literate by the time he leaves home. Good enough.
My sweet darling friend, you have got to give yourself some slack. You are a terrific, loving mother. That's ALL Ciaran needs at this point in his life (and remember, I'm not talking out of my ass: I have four, and so far, they can all read...sort of...ok, well, three out of four, but that's gotta count for something!)
Oh, and you're in the Ontario school system which is far superior to the Manitoba school system (my first three started school in Pembroke, Ontario) so you have even less reason to panic.

Anonymous said...

I think they put way too much pressure on children these days. It's not like he'll ever grow up not knowing how to write his name! For heavens' sake, the child should be a child and build pillow fortresses instead of worrying about his letters.

He'll manage that, soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Oh, erm, hello. I've been occasionally following you, and this post ruffled my feathers. So, yes... hi.

Cheryl said...

Um, when my son was in pre-k they had homework. A packet with two pages - a letter of the week, and letter writing practice - were sent home. It was optional, but if the kids returned it by Friday, they'd get something from the treasure box.

Now my daughter is in the program and they can't afford the paper so they get a sheet sent home like once a month.

Anyway, what kindergarten teachers really want kids to know when they enter is how to hold a pencil correctly and how to write their names. And how to sit still at circle time and when they're at their desks.

My son couldn't read a word when he entered Kindergarten. He's in first now and doing just fine.

But of course down here we have this stupid No Child Left Behind bullshit so don't even get me started. And kindergarten isn't like when we were kids. Now it's first grade.

Kimberly said...

Homework in JK?! I don't think that's normal! They are practically still babies for crying out loud. You are not a bad mommy. Don't think that for a second.

Anonymous said...

You are not a bad mom!!!! As a former JK teacher (who had kids reading by the time they left me) Worksheets are bullshit and not very motivating. What I would do is get a yellow highlighter and print his name then let him trace over that until he feels comfortable, also you can do things like let him write his name in the bathroom fog after a bath or pour a little bit of flour in a cookie sheet and let him make his letters in that. Anything fun and novel, worksheets are not fun for most 4 year olds. Also you could go to the dollar store and get a whole bunch of different writing supplies (fun paper, pens, markers, etc. and just let him write with that, whatever he wants this will exercise his fine motor skills and work on pencil grasp plus its fun and nonthreatening). Also ask him to write his name for a real purpose like on birthday cards or gift tags. And the next snarky note you get ask the teacher the pedagogy behind her use of worksheets as a learning tool for 4 year olds(answer there is none).

Peggy Sue Brister said...

I'm assuming junior kindergarten is not required so if he's not ready, take him out.

Calandreya said...


When will they stop taking away childhood?

My son was/is gifted and was identified in first grade. At his school, the gifted program didn't start till third grade, and we looked forward to it because we thought it would enrich him and be fun, both.

The gifted program was great! What was not so great was his third grade teacher who decided that being gifted meant you had more homework. She overloaded him to the point that he was working on nothing but homework every night after school till ten at night! When we complained, she couldn't understand why we didn't want him to be given "more challenges." A second complaint got her to agree that he wouldn't have to do homework "he had already mastered" in school. OMG!

By the time he finished third grade, he was so burnt out on homework that he simply refused to do any, anymore. His fourth grade teacher lamented to us several times that he - the teacher - was unable to inspire our son. Well, no. It wasn't his poor teachers AFTER third grade that were the problem.

He ended up getting a full scholarship based on his ACT and SAT scores. If not for that, he'd have had nothing because he barely squeaked through classes. *sigh*

Do not do this to your child, please. You will ALWAYS regret it if you take away his play time. Imagination and fun is JUST AS IMPORTANT to learning as classwork. My father was an excellent teacher and he said we were making a mistake, as a society, by making childhood shorter and shorter. I hope you can learn from our mistake.

Bibliomama said...

I'm so sorry this crappy teacher is going to set the tone for school for you. Maybe you need to talk to the principal. This sounds ridiculous to me -- our school follows the ten-minutes of homework per grade system, and uh, he's not ACTUALLY IN A GRADE, so do the math. No guilt for you (according to me).

Anonymous said...

Um, what is JK? Is that like pre kinder? Either way. sounds like way too much homework! Geez!

Mom of the Perpetually Grounded said...

It's been awhile since I had kids that age but it does seem extreme to me. They may want to have them ready for some things by the end of the year but time limits on children that young doesn't sound like a reasonable program. My childrens pre-school made learning part of a fun activity like the mombshell described and let them go at their own pace. But worksheets?

The Empress said...

You would be well served to listen and do exactly what the mombshell says....


lovae you, girl, you are not a bad mom, you are one of the best.

ModernMom said...

Oh sweetie...I have to tell you we had one teacher who loved to pile on the homework in JK and another who did not believe in it. Sigh.
I'm home with my girls in grades 4 and 6 and am astonished at the amount of homework that is sometimes piled on.
I won't repeat the great advice you have already been given....I'll just send hugs.

My Momma Drama said...

Oh, man! My little one will be there next year... I would not be happy if he had homework. My fourth grader barely has homework. When I went to interview preschools, a few of them told me they'd have him writing his name by the end of the year - age 3. I thought that was too much! My son can draw a circle. That's it... don't worry! it's not fair to any kids to not individualize their needs.

Pamela said...

You guys totally rock - great advice, great support - what would I do without y'all?

the cinnamon post said...

when i first read this post last night I was simply too exhausted after a day spent talking to my son's SK teacher to comment and wanted to do so this morning...i feel so much like this. i've even blogged about the JK homework. if i didn't leave the house every day to work i would certainly have more time to stimulate the little one. his friend across the street is at a 13 reading level and my son is at 2...his mom stays at home. i wish i could say something to make you feel better Pamela but I'm kind of just wallowing in it too...lets just remember that it is only Kindergarten...ok?

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