AT WHAT AGE SHOULD HOMEWORK BEGIN? PRESCHOOL STAGE OR PRIMARY LEVEL?
How many of you moms are guilty of picking up your child’s homework book early on Monday morning and forging his amateur scribbles in order to ensure that a completed homework gets turned in at school that day? (This is especially common when dealing with the preschoolers)
Or perhaps the night before, you forcibly held your restless child’s hand and in under 1 minute, you helped him trace out the lines, draw out the curves and fill in the blanks. Clearly, even though he held the pencil, it was mommy that did all the work.
Or maybe you screamed and then your child made only one stroke in his booklet before dropping his pencil. Then you screamed again and your child wailed, struggling to get out of his chair. So maintaining your scream, you reached out to spank him and with red, sore eyes, he returned to the homework, decorating the page with his tears and making you fill like the worst mom ever as the struggle continued in cycles.
To be honest when I first discovered that these days, children as little as 24 months actually leave school with homework, I was like ‘What!!!’ Actually, in some schools the homework begins as early as at 18 months. I always thought that at that age it was all about learning through fun. Besides, after spending all those many hours at school each day, shouldn’t the child have done enough learning for one day? So why in the world should the school give us parents one extra thing to worry about at night when we should be bonding with our children? Come on, everyone knows just how hard it is to get toddlers to sit down and concentrate on tasks which they are still trying to get a grasp on. Not to talk about those days when the homework has to be turned in the next day and all your child wants to do is sleep because he is very tired after spending 8 hours in school.
Now, considering the fact that during our time, many of us parents had not even begun school at the age of 2, I may never understand why an 18 month old child is saddled with daily homework. It seems like nowadays so much is forced on and expected of children at such young ages and because no parent wants to have a child who is supposedly left behind in the rat race, everyone keeps quiet. Besides, would our complaints actually change the curriculum when there are probably a major handful of other parents who don’t see anything wrong with their little ‘Einsteins’ coming home with homework?
Well, even though we may not be able to change the preschool curriculum (which I want to believe educationists have put a lot of thought into), I believe that there are certain things that we parents can and should insist on in order to make it better when it comes to homework.
First, we can insist that the homework should not involve us teaching our children something new after a long day at school. All we should be doing is emphasizing on what has already been learnt in school. For example, I shouldn’t be asked to get my child to write ‘As’ when he has not been taught what an ‘A’ is in school.
Also the homework must be realistic and age appropriate. For example, when my two-year old, who is just learning to hold a crayon, is given some coloring to do, neither I nor the teacher should expect the magic of all the coloring falling within the lines. Yes, there will be loads and loads of spills but still, if only for being able to hold the crayon right and then splashing the required marks across the pages, my child deserves a big pat on his back.
Another point to note is that homework shouldn’t keep my child at the table for long minutes. As in, it should be something that is very quick and really easy to complete considering the restless nature of children at that age. Especially after having a long day out.
Finally, who says the homework can’t be fun for both my child and I? Teaching my child numbers doesn’t necessarily mean always making him stare at a boring page filled with a lot of numbers ‘1s and 2s’. Who says homework cannot involve me reading him a story book about a dog who went out and had an activity full day that earned him spots on 10 different parts of his body? Just imagine how much my child will learn with ease (even beyond arithmetic) after having me read that story to him a number of times over the term. Or imagine if the homework involves my child counting the number of windows in the house and coming back to report that number to the class?
These are issues we should be talking about with our preschooler’s teachers rather than suffering in silence. Homework should be age appropriate, realistic and as fun as possible at such tender ages. Also, if you feel the homework has begun too early, discuss that with the school as well and see if you can meet at some middle ground. If they insist on expecting what you’re convinced to be too much at a tender age, I would subscribe to you enrolling your child in another school which meets your own values and expectations. This is better than than getting into the habit of doing homework for your child or becoming a non-compliant parent because in the long run, these are values which we silently pass to our children.
So dear moms, that’s my own two cents on the matter. What’s yours? At what age should homework begin? What do you consider as age appropriate homework? Has inappropriate homework ever pushed you to ‘impersonate’ your child behind the closed doors? Or perhaps with plenty of excuses lined up, you’ve simply not minded turning in that incomplete homework every other day?