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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

my gripe with homework. and I do have one.


Kids have homework. I get that. It's good for them to practice what they've learned in school so the learning sets in.

What I don't get is homework that takes both parents, four college degrees between us, to figure it out and then teach it to our kid. That when we ask how the teacher explained it we are told the teacher never mentioned this type of problem before. This is new. The first time she's heard of it.

Okay, so maybe she wasn't paying attention. Maybe it was taught and she missed it altogether.

That's where my second gripe comes into play. The evenings when she understands the larger, underlying concept but the homework is presented in a quirky, confusing, hard-to-solve way. Which again, requires one or both parents trying to figure out what the heck the question is even asking, let alone how to derive at the correct answer.

It's those evenings I want to sit down with the writers of the workbook and ask, What were you thinking? Were you at the last fade of your morning caffeine buzz, that point where your head starts to nod and your legs get restless and your mind starts to wonder if what's left on the bagel cart?

Or were you just smoking too much crack?

But let's leave the amphetamine-addicted, hallucinogenic-dropping, educational book developers alone for the time being.

Let's talk about my main issue.

It's the fact that my daughter is lucky enough to have two educated, willing, at-home, sober parents spending concentrated time helping her figure it out.

It's the fact that I'm well aware that too many kids don't have this advantage. This help at home. This step up.

And don't get me started on the projects. The projects where I can tell that the parent and child spent one day together buying twenty dollars worth of nifty, crafty materials at Michaels and then the next day assembling. Or was that Mom assembling for five hours and child losing interest after the second hour? Because that neatly-painted, sequin-studded, velvet-striped catepillar was not a first grader's doing.

My favorite science projects have always been the ones hand-written in #2 pencil standing bravely next to the Photo-Shopped, Excel-Charted, Word-Doc Wonders.

So my question is one that I know concerns a lot of caring parents, educators and therapists:

What about the kids who come from a chaotic, abusive ... nobody's home ... home? How fair is it to these kids that homework can't be completed without help? And they've got nobody at home to help them?

Or maybe they come home to a mom in a drunken rage or a dad hitting a mom in a drunken rage or a grandmother who can't pull herself away from her soaps or an uncle who can't stay out of the kid's bedroom at night.

Yes, my kids get good grades. I'm proud of them and their effort and abilities. I'm proud of myself being an involved parent, especially on those nights when I'd rather be at Antone's jamming to some blues.

But I'm not proud of an educational system that rewards parents who do the teaching. Or workbooks with assignments that require adult-hands-on-deck to decipher.

A too hard assignment leaves out too many kids. Too many kids whose grades reflect not what they can do but what they can't have: a nurturing home life. For that, they've already paid a heavy price. I don't want them paying twice, in the form of substandard grades.

25 comments:

Mental P Mama said...

Our children are lucky, indeed. I do worry about all the others...

Susan said...

I completley agree. I also think that some of the textbook are so poorly written and conceived that the average student would rightly give up trying to understand the lesson. My daughter has a history book which jumps back and forth in time and jumbles events in such a way that we end up arguing when I am helping her prepare for a test!

Fragrant Liar said...

So, so true. Perhaps this book was the cheapest one? Wouldn't surprise me with budget cuts.

Mary said...

This is so eloquently written and applies to our country too...

You have made me think tonight..

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

Kathleen Scott said...

Amen! It shouldn't take a master's degree to interpret homework assignments.

I don't want to talk about Texas' textbook process. It's too depressing.

Tammy said...

Gah! Don't get me started on school, homeowrk and grades... I home schooled my kids for a few years for those reasons. I don't believe in grades, except for the fact that good ones are needed for college!

Our kids are lucky to have stability and support to go home to, there are way too many that don't.

Jocelyn said...

I love you so hard; you've said exactly, exactly what I think all the time. I YUV this post.

Oh, and I'm bummed that I was an idiot about going to Austin and never thought, "Hey, wait, I could meet people." I was really focused on my friend getting her money's worth out of buying my ticket...and I wasn't online during cleaning days, so I didn't see your comment to email you until the night before we came back.

This is me, sucking.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

The kids you're talking about are just the kids I'm working with.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

Reluctant Blogger said...

I have to say that I don't approve of homework. Children need time to be just that - they spend enough time on study in school.

I refused to let my children do homework in primary school and the teachers were fine with that. They did the spelling sheets but that was all.

At secondary school I do not help my son. If he has a straightforward query I will look at it with him but I do not even begin to assist with the homework. I think it is wrong to do that. He will learn to think for himself if he has to struggle himself - and he will learn to ensure he listens properly to the instructions too and have the nerve to get clarification from the person who ought to be giving it - ie the teacher.

Maybe he won't do as well as some of the others but at least he will always be self-reliant.

I did the same with my daughter and she has done fine - is now at Uni reading History.

But I agree it is very unfair on those in chaotic households but really it is the middle class parents who help who make it unfair - but you do know that those from chaotic homes who get good grades are REALLY bright and self-motivated and will probably go far. I find many of my spoon-fed students from middle class homes seriously flounder at University.

Elizabeth said...

Homework is the bane of my existence. Truly.

Jenn@ You know... that blog? said...

Well said, and all too true!

Jocelyn said...

Back again, just to say that the post before my current one details a bit of my Austin time (didn't see TOO much, all in all, as we were working in her house lots). But there are some photos and stuff!

blognut said...

I've worried about the same thing - about the kids who come home with a ton of homework and no one to help them with it or at least supervise and see that they've done it.

Some of them make it, but I think too many of them probably do not.

phd in yogurtry said...

blognut -- good point. some of them may excel because they are forced to find their own way. their self-reliance muscles become strong. but yes, too many fail.

Jocelyn said...

I totally waved at you on our way out to The Salt Lick!

Hey, so my pal lives on Brackenridge, just a couple blocks off Congress there--a two-minute walk to the cupcake trailer.

Perhaps you have even treated her in your professional capacity! Heh. Just trying for an even smaller world here.

Gillian said...

Too troo.

Thanx for visiting...Now I'm following you. Cute blog...

Clueless said...

Having worked for almost 20 years with adults with developmental disabilities. Many have children without disabilities, it is so difficult for them to find good, affordable help once their child reaches the point where the parents no longer can understand.

Having friends who have written textbooks and having been a "reader" for new textbooks, it is a long process. And some of the books, people forget who is going to read them. They get into the mode of assumption without even knowing it.

...just my two cents

CC

Margo said...

this has been a big issue for me in our local school system... it's to the point where they did away w/a fabulous and diverse GT program (w/teachers who actually taught and didn't just hand out assignments and harp on organization and "life skills") and implemented an "accelerated" program that would means the chunk of change goes to the top 10% of the class - the achievers w/achieving/helicopter/squeaky wheel parents who didn't want little Susie or Johnny to not have the advantage of taking algebra I in the 7th grade - instead of the 3-4% of a given class that would have been designated "gifted." The whole thing has just led to the parents now having to teach more, sooner, with the aid of horrendous materials. Before I ripped Sparkle out of her school, I would look at this group of accelerated kids and note they were pretty much all the upper middle class white kids with parents who put up with this crap. Bottom line is it's a huge disservice to everyone.

Christie said...

Very well said. This is exactly what is wrong with education. And how can we fix it when more and more kids come from these types of negative environments? How can we ever even the playing field?

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Exactly. So well said. Exactly!

bernthis said...

I agree with you as well. I have a degree my sitter has a degree and sometimes neither of us can figure out what the fuck we/she my kid is supposed to do and my daughter is 6!

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

Much like test construction....there are those people who can do it, and then everyone else. I believe the same is true for homework.

When I teach I try to have all of the required readings and work have a purpose. My biggest pet peeve in school was completing "busy" work.

It is the teacher's job to teach, not the parents....too bad the latter happens more often than it should.

The Caffeinated Globe said...

I was glad you wrote this post. I don't have and will never have children of my own. But from talking to my friends who have children, and living in different countries, I have known that this issue seems to be the same for most parents.

http://caffeinatedglobe.blogspot.com/