Everybody knows that homework is useless for little kids. I know it every night as I cajole my first grader through another fill-in-the-blanks worksheet. She doesn't refuse to do it, exactly. She just falls out of her chair a few times. She hooks her arm under the crook of her knee and tries to write that way. She asks for a peeled orange next to her paper as motivation, and then drifts into a monologue about ground-breaking new snacks. Could she please take a break and try to make her amazing recipe? That would be more educational, but I tell her to finish her page and then we'll talk about it. "It. Is. Just. Six. Words. You could be done in three minutes," I remind her, faux patiently. She sighs longingly at the orange segments.
The weird part is that we do the homework only because my daughter wants to earn a sticker for a completed packet each week. I'd long ago asked her teacher what we should prioritize, since we were only going to do ten minutes a day. She said to skip the worksheets and do reading practice. But reading practice doesn't come with a weekly reward, so we do the worksheets too, even though we all (teacher, child, parents) know the homework is, at best, useless. Research-based anti-homework screeds go viral every year, after all. Yet good teachers keep assigning it and families like ours keep doing it. It's just what people do nowadays.
How did we reach the point where it feels normal to make our kids sit doing paper and computer work all day, and then make them do more of the same at home? Is it some twisted training program for the adult working world, in which moms and dads regularly pull overtime shifts or tote their work laptops home? We were all kids once. We kind of remember it, when our brain space is not filled with exact knowledge of where in the wash cycle certain pieces of pajama sets can be found. We would never wish this work pattern on our kid selves. Let's not force it on our kids.
What if we could create the perfect homework page: an uber-worksheet that fits nearly every child and occasion? What if every tattered homework folder across the land could have a paper tucked inside that shows the truly important learning done at home? Wouldn't it look about like this?
Name: __________________________ Date: ____________
For Homework Today I (check all that apply):
____ Ran and played outside
____ Did an art project
____ Did chores
____ Learned how to ___________________
____ Did a science experiment
____ Used my imagination with friends or brothers and sisters
____ Built something
____ Played an instrument
____ Helped someone by ___________________
____ Went to a sports class
____ Sang and danced
____ Invented something
____ Put on a show
____ Wrote something creative
____ Prayed or did some other spiritual practice
There, now, isn't that more realistic? I have a printer. I even have a stapler. I could make an authentic-looking weekly homework packet with these simple tools. I'll go out on a limb and assume that you, too, know how to copy and paste. I'll be brave enough to slip the uber-worksheet in the dreaded homework folder if you will. Maybe we can even sweet-talk the teachers into accepting them ahead of time.