Getting creative, a top priority in our household
Let me just start by saying that most teachers are amazing. What you guys do is of the upmost importance in the mini society of children. It takes a special person to become a teacher - especially of the little ones - and how you do it I will never know. You are in charge of teaching my child the schooling he will need to know in order to succeed in life. Without you, he's doomed. (Because God knows I'm not going to do it. We all are given special gifts in life, and teaching a room full of kids with similar versions of my own child's amplified persona is most definitely not a special gift of mine. No it is not.)
But this post isn't about teachers (and for the record, my kids have had absolutely wonderful teachers so far in their schooling career). Rather, it's about homework, and my utter disdain for the massive amount of homework kids these days bring home. I recognize that some homework is beneficial and even crucial for older children (teens and high schoolers), but for the little guys who attend primary school, I am completely against it.
Let me explain.
First, I would like to disclose that my two boys get zero screen time during the school week. I understand the absurdity of proclaiming to be against homework if I allow my kids to subsequently play on their iPads or watch TV. As much as I oppose homework for elementary aged children, I oppose screen time even more. (Come back tomorrow for "The Case Against Electronics" blog post.)
Monday through Friday, my kids get home at 3:30 p.m., after spending approx. 7 hours at school.
I don't know about you, but my two young boys have an intense amount of energy. So when they come home after a long school day, the last thing they want (and need) to do is sit back down and do more school work.
My kids sit in a chair in a classroom for the majority of the school day. They are sitting at a desk, hard at work (fingers crossed) and learning from their teachers. Yes, they get recess (not enough, in my opinion) and they get gym class once a week. Woop!
Can I take a second and ask where the heck the arts went? Math and History are two very important subjects, everyone needs to know math basics and historical facts about our world. It helps shape us and gives us knowledge and perspective. But why, I ask, can't the arts be just as important? To me, and to many others, they are, but look at most public schools and the arts always take a back seat. They have been replaced by things more "important" and I get it, there is nothing I can do to change this sad fact, it is what it is.
But the very last thing I am going to do is follow suite and act as if the arts aren't important in my own home. My oldest son Gunner is the definition of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Just ain't gonna happen. He beats to his own drum and gets reprimanded for "humming" too often in class. And again, I get it! I do! Him humming in the classroom can disrupt the other children from learning and he needs to learn how to follow the rules in certain settings. Schools need order and structure to work properly. Originality is cool, yes, but so is discipline. (And just for the record, he never gets in trouble at home when he gets bad marks for "humming." I just tell him to "try and keep it at home buddy" while secretly smiling to my rebel self.)
However, in my house? After being corralled and expected to fit a certain mold during the day? Hum away child! Hum wildly and loudly (outside please, you hurt my ears) and sing and dance and run and jump and for all that is holy, be a child!
By the looks of things, his interests and passions aren't going to lead him into a career of biochemistry. If they do, great! But wouldn't it be just as great if he turned out to be the next great artist or multimedia animator? You should see the kid draw...his talent is amazing, and he creates some of the most innovative lego structures strictly from using his imagination as a road map, that you would think there is no way he didn't use instructions to build them. Ask him what he wants to be when he grows up and he says, "a dad and a racecar driver!" Very respectable life choices in my opinion and school isn't going to teach him how to do either of those!
So he doesn't particularly enjoy school - too bad - we all have to get through it. And regardless of how I feel about the arts being basically banished, I unequivicoly stress to him the importance of always trying our best, of putting in the effort whether or not it's what we want to do. Life isn't a constant party and we all have to do things we would rather not. Work hard, play hard. Life mantra.
My kids have a bedtime of 7:30 p.m. This gives us 4 hours after school to be together as a family.
Now let me tell you what is very, very important to us during those 4 after school hours:
Play. I've always stressed, and I always will, the importance of play time. More specifically, outdoor play time. After sitting in a structured environment all day, kids need to get out in nature and just be. My kids are required to play outside for a minimum of an hour when they get home from school. It's more in the summer (much more - we're talking they are outside the majority of the day) but during the week, it's an hour. Which seems pretty insufficient when they have been sitting down for hours and hours on end. It's almost laughable - the amount of physical activity our kids get these days. Nonetheless, an hour is required.
But see here's the thing: if they are having a blast and want to stay out even later than an hour? My precious child, have at it. Go. Run. Explore. Play. Use that amazing imagination. You are young and little and full of energy that needs to be released. I will never take play time away from you when you are soaring through literal fields of wonder. Your homework can wait.
And when the weather warms up, they are going to have their own little garden to tend to, to take care of and to grow. It's something we are going to do together, as I want them to learn the importance of growing their own food.
Dinnertime. A long lost tradition where a warm home-cooked meal is the norm. It's important for me that my family sits down and has dinner together. I want my boys to see me enjoying the process of preparing dinner for my family. I want them to help me bring in food from the garden, and I don't want to feel rushed and have them think that ordering in pizza three times a week is what dinner is supposed to look like. It takes time and effort to prepare a healthy balanced meal, and I don't want to be throwing in TV dinners at the last exhausted minute so my family can be fed. (And for the record, my husband cooks just as much as me, if not more. Boys can do it too! Also for the record - before my family calls me out - no, my children do not always eat what we eat, but my point about the value of family dinnertime remains the same.)
Books. I read to my boys every single night before bed. It's something I have always done and it is something I will never sacrifice. It is precious time that we spend together, and reading books is something that I think is extremely important. I never want to dread going upstairs because we ran out of time and now I have to rush through our reading time. I want to be able to say "yes" when they ask for "just one more, please?" and do it with a willing heart.
Time with their father. I may get 4 hours with my kids after school, but my husband, their dad, only gets 2. Like most men, he works a full day and is up and gone before they leave for school. So that leaves him, their dad, only 2 hours a day for the majority of the week to spend time with his sons. My boys need time with their dad. My boys deserve time with their dad. So when they are using up that last hour before bedtime playing tag with their dad running wildly around the house, who am I to stop it? I might even let them stay up a little later for just "one more game." Dad time trumps after school math equations any day.
Someone once suggested to me to just let the kids stay up later, then they will have time to get their homework done and still have the family play time I value so highly.
Except, I know the importance of adequate sleep for my children. I know that if I keep them up later, they will wake up groggy and irritable and will do poorly in their classroom. I know their teachers have crowded classrooms and don't need more kids coming in over-tired and exasperated. I know their brain function isn't at top capacity when they don't get the proper amount of sleep that they need. Sleep is brain food, and I refuse to starve my children of those much needed supplements.
And also? My husband and I need down time together, just the two of us. It helps keep our marriage in tact and having a healthy marriage helps kids tremendously.
The Case Against Homework is a trickle down affect.
So you see? Four hours, that is how much time I have with my kids after their school day. Teachers have their time to teach them essential schooling, and I have my time to help them be respectful teachable children. The teaching of morals and values should fall on the parents, as it is one of our most meaningful and paramount jobs.
I also don't shun homework the second they walk in through the door, either. It isn't like, "ok kids! Fling your backpacks out the window, now it's time to have some REAL fun!" It's not like we NEVER do homework, but I will admit it does take a backseat most days.
If they have one page of math homework to do, we usually try and get that done. They also have a spelling test every Friday, and I know they get a sense of pride when they do well on it, so we have a time set aside each day to go up to their rooms and practice their spelling words. Some weeks go great and they get a good score on their test, other weeks are just "off" and they might not do as well. And that's ok, I just don't stress about it.
I do, however, stress greatly the importance of just being a kid. Of getting outdoors and playing in nature and for the love of God, learning about things that schools can't teach them!
Because see, they are also learning very important things at home:
Learning how to construct cities and cars and buildings using only their imagination and a thousand lego pieces.
Learning why and how we respect our siblings when they get sent to their rooms for 30 minutes while they think about their poor behavior.
Learning about themselves and their bodies and what they are capable of when they go outside for an hour and construct a makeshift bike jump from materials laying around the yard.
Learning to self soothe and direct their focus elsewhere when they get frustrated or bored, and are left to their own devices.
Learning how to fix a broken Powersport ATV engine while they spend time with their dad in the garage, tinkering around.
Learning how to be a good sport when they lose a game of Battle Ship.
Learning that time with family is just as important as time in school.
When their rope swing breaks and I tell them to figure it out themselves, they are learning that they do have what it takes, and that their abilities are great.
Learning to just be a kid.
Because trust me, there will be plenty of times in their lives where they will be stressed and stretched beyond limit with all the pressures and expectations of the outside world.
So for now, childhood it is.
(If you want even more proof that homework isn't good for little kids, you can read this and this and this and this and this and this - there is no shortage in what professionals really know is not in the best interest of little children. Why then, is it still happening?!)