Home > Education > Soul-crushing number-crunching

Soul-crushing number-crunching

You know how I usually try to be eloquent?

Not tonight.

‘Cause, you know …

You know what’s even worse than three hours in traffic daily?

My first grade son’s homework.

After 90 minutes of driving, we get home at 4:30 p.m., which early arrival is thanks to a flexible work schedule at a company I’m excited to call my employer next week.

Do I get to spend my evening at-home time hanging out with my kids, having fun and celebrating our closeness?

No. I get to spend it trying to keep my six-year-old on task through an hour of homework that doesn’t challenge him to be more inquisitive, more incisive, or better prepared to rock the workforce when he later enters it.

By the time he’s done with his soul-crushing number-crunching, his younger brother is already in bed, and it’s time for me to start his bedtime. So I’ve “helped” him complete a bunch of banal worksheets that don’t much appear to enhance his learning–not a knock against his lovely teacher, just how things are nationwide currently–at the cost of getting to spend an hour just sitting and joyously being together, the way I remember once doing with my siblings.

Categories: Education Tags: , , , ,
  1. December 8, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Amen. As I sit here with my own six year old who is supposed to be drawing pictures to illustrate his spelling words…. Grrrrr.

    • December 8, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      “Grrrrr” sums it up perfectly. Tons of cost, no benefit, as far as I can see. Grrrrr. And aaargh, just to bring in Mutant Enemy and make me feel less rage-y.

  2. December 8, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Homework. Ughghghgh. My son is now 24 and a college graduate. I still resent the time we had to spend on it in elementary school. Kids need downtime. So do parents.

    • December 8, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      I remember doing homework for the first time in fifth grade. I did it by myself, and it took about twenty minutes, because I was already old enough to do such things autonomously.

      To have such uselessness steal all my evening time away with my first grader? Well, it makes me glad that Zuckerberg is donating billions to personalized education, the better to avoid this drain to all on the slight chance it might benefit some student, somewhere.


      • December 8, 2015 at 6:16 pm

        Jacob has pretty severe ADD (No H). Homework was horrible, horrible, horrible.

        • December 8, 2015 at 6:17 pm

          Ach! I’m so sorry. What a waste, especially in light of how meaningless homework seems to be in terms of overall learning. ><

          • December 8, 2015 at 6:19 pm

            Or the fact that the kid learned how to use a calculator rather early …

  3. December 8, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Thus encouraging the queen even more to home school…
    Which isn’t an option for everyone. And shouldn’t be the fallback because “education” has fallen to such… crutches? Is that the right word? I’m not sure. I am sure that I’d be tempted to do D’s homework for him if it really is as pointless as you are implying. His time with J is more important. Your sanity is more important. Right?

    • December 8, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      I remember quickly and definitely rejecting homeschool while I was pregnant with Li’l D. Now? Not so much. If there’s a point where it becomes viable, I easily see taking it.

      Also? Also, I remember seeing a study saying a lot of parents did their homework for their kids. I remember thinking, “Why?” Reading your comment, it’s not so very perplexing at all, and indeed seems the far better choice between that and sacrificing any meaningful time with my boys four days a week.

      Your “right” at the end? RIGHT. Thank you!

      • December 8, 2015 at 6:22 pm

        My parents did mine for me a couple times when it was the only option that made sense. I don’t remember having a lot of homework early on, and then when that changed I did it all at recess and lunch so I wouldn’t have to miss play time at home in the evenings.
        I guess my question for the schools now is: with all the homework you are sending home when is there time to be a kid? To learn an instrument? To play a sport? To do scouts? And get the sleep that is still crucial for their mental growth and well being?

  4. N.
    December 8, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Poor baby 😦 schools are getting more and more ridiculous with what little kids are supposed to do! My 5 year old nephew is currently spending his entire afternoon preparing for his ‘exams’ that start next week instead of playing with his his visiting aunt and cousin like he wants.. I feel sorry for him, I really do..

  5. December 8, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Hiss and spit And sigh.
    Despite the ‘wasted’ time, at least it was something you could share.

    • December 9, 2015 at 2:00 am

      It’s a sharing of extended fidgeting and frustration as I try also wrangling his brother, so not something that ends up feeling one bit like sharing.

  6. December 8, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    It is all busy work. They need to start teaching children life skills like how to maintain a budget, use a credit card, and do taxes – you know things we actually have to do as an adult and most adults have no idea how to do.

    • December 8, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      Teaching about credit cards and taxes in school would definitely be a good idea, but maybe not aged 5 or 6……

      • December 9, 2015 at 6:26 pm

        I think that goes without saying at that age. But, I think the principles of learning and thinking outside the box can be implemented earlier. I don’t blame teachers directly. They follow orders and do the best they can. It is the system that is broken. We already expect too much from teachers today. Many parents expect teachers to raise their children and that is not their job.

        I took a Home Economics class in junior high and while it was poorly established and taught, there were ideas there, that paired with the right teacher, could have really bloomed.

    • December 9, 2015 at 2:07 am

      Those would dedinitely be useful in later grades! For me, fostering curiosity and creativity would be a more useful foundation–if less easily measured–than oodles of duplicative worksheets, particularly (with homework) in light of how little evidence there is that homework yields any benefits.

      I am concerned by how cultural obsession with KPIs and the like means we sacrifice greater, less easily measured good for what’s easily measured … especially when it extends into dictating the lives of five- and six-year-olds.

      • December 9, 2015 at 6:28 pm

        I agree. With the technology present today, there are some really wonderful ways to stimulate thinking and creativity. I just hope that with all the technology we don’t lose sight of personal interaction and speaking skills. They are critical to being successful in life no matter what path you choose.

  7. December 8, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    *hugs* That’s just depressing… Are you sure he was supposed to do all of it though? We had sheets sometimes where we had to do every third question, or fourth, or whatever.. I don’t remember doing homework until I was about 8 or 9, and even then it wasn’t nearly as much as the kids here (and apparently there) have to do. Homework has always sucked, in pretty much all subjects and at all ages – there’s always something more interesting / sensible / enjoyable to do…. (even if not learning vocab means flunking the vocab tests and having to redo them during breaks…)

    • December 9, 2015 at 2:14 am

      One hour a day, four nights a week, after an eight-hour school day, this in contrast to the 20 minutes a night I had starting in fifth grade. As a fifth grader, it was a minor frustration to which I easily adapted by myself … not something that sucked up the family’s entire evening allotment of time together.

      Not doing the homework has a significant negative impact on grades, as well as meaning recess–needed playtime with friends–must be sacrificed in favor of trying to make it up. Blech.

      We’re doing a great job of fostering drones, not autonomous thinkers.

  8. December 9, 2015 at 6:35 am

    homework in grade one! despicable!

    • December 11, 2015 at 5:14 am

      He had a little bit of homework in kindergarten, so I thought we were well prepared for this, and/or that it might be about the same … just a little bit, that I’d still disagree with but which’d feel much more doable. Nope, nope, and nope.

  9. December 9, 2015 at 7:11 am

    It’s hard to believe they give that much in first grade – yikes!

    • December 11, 2015 at 5:15 am

      Right? I started getting homework a few years after that, and even then it wasn’t an hour’s worth, understandably frequently interrupted by six-year-old sidebars!

  10. December 9, 2015 at 7:34 am

    My daughter’s kindergarten homework has actually been less time-intensive than her preschool homework was. And while I do appreciate the need for homework, there isn’t always enough time for parents to offer the help necessary.

    • December 11, 2015 at 5:15 am

      I don’t appreciate the need for homework, honestly. After all the reading I did last year, homework is pretty much a great big time-suck with negative to no benefit on student learning. So, yeah … not down with it on any front. :/

  11. December 9, 2015 at 9:06 am

    I’ve always thought that homework was designed to reinforce material covered in class on a level that a student could complete independently. (Because not all students have parents who can/will help them.)
    It should never be something that takes the whole evening though and I rarely assign it.
    What the what?

    • December 11, 2015 at 5:27 am

      A little homework once in a while would be most welcome … especially if it were creative stuff instead of worksheets!

      The good news is that I’m thinking more broadly about how to resolve the problem after reading Matt’s comment. Before I’d thought in terms of incentives and disincentives, but now I’m seeing a lot of different ways to approach this in the near and long terms. 🙂

  12. December 9, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Such a familiar parents’ lament! I think “soul crushing” is the perfect description, and it surely ought to be different! 😦

    • December 11, 2015 at 5:29 am

      So agreed! The more I read up on changes in the education system, the more I’m disheartened by how teachers’ success is gauged on how well their students perform on standardized testing. This creates extraordinary, negative ripples through teachers’ lives, through student’s lives, and through parents’ lives … without enhancing joy of learning, nor any of the other traits that will genuinely benefit a child once he or she has grown and will need to begin solving problems creatively to succeed.

  13. December 9, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    It is heartbreaking. Six-year olds are meant to be outside & engaged in play. They learn tremendously through their play. A watchful teacher can learn tons about your child as he/she plays. Learning can & should be fun. An hour’s worth of nightly worksheets (after sitting at a desk all day) takes away the love of learning and well, as you aptly put it… crunches a child’s soul. Home time should be family time. Progressive education. It’s worth a look and most schools offer aid of some sort if folks need it.

    • December 11, 2015 at 5:33 am

      Love of learning is exactly what I’d love to foster in Li’l D! We’ll be taking on exciting exploratory projects at least once a month so he knows learning as something not constrained by school walls or assignments.

      I was looking at charter schools here. In the vicinity, options aren’t great. I’ll keep eyes and ears open, but in the meantime know that D loves his teacher, who truly (thankfully!) sees not failures but learning opportunities. D’s excited to see her every day, and for that … for that I’ll continue trying to find ways to make the homework more manageable, as well as to improve focus in a way that makes homework a less time-consuming portion of each evening.

      For the short term, “less time-consuming” is OK, but for the long term, I definitely want to ensure Li’l D’s thrilled to be learning, not just seeing learning as school and school as a set of hoops to jump through.

      • December 11, 2015 at 7:42 pm

        He’s a lucky boy. 🙂

  14. December 10, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Soul-crushing is right. Little Man took 45 minutes to get through a single worksheet tonight. He knew all the right answers, but he had to break things down in the ways they wanted and it’s such a struggle. Utterly pointless and on top of an 8-hour day with little time to play and be a kid, depriving them of much needed family time. The year I taught, I had a parent give all the teachers a book about no homework. I rolled my eyes at the time, but now I get it.

    • December 11, 2015 at 5:38 am

      Aaaaaaaargh. Before I had Li’l D, I, too, would’ve rolled my eyes. Now I see how that time to play and unwind is so critical for learning. It’s kinda like me in the workplace. What I’ve found especially the last few months is that more time “breaking” makes me more effective with the time I am working. Filling time with activity for activity’s sake means I am more tired, more spread thin, and less focused. And I’m an adult, for pete’s sake!

      I saw it summed up perfectly in three words on a work poster a couple months back: “activity or achievement”? Is the goal to fill every minute and show you were doing something for its own sake? Or is the goal to actually achieve a given end result? Achieving homework completion is not a valuable end result to me. The end result homework achieves–at least for youngsters, though I recall there being some mild benefits in some areas for high school students–are detrimental. Activity without achievement or enhanced love of learning. Yuck!

      • December 11, 2015 at 10:42 am

        The only home wow I’m a fan of is LM having to read 20 minutes each night. He mostly would anyway, but him reading for pleasure is beneficial in many ways. Far more so than doing a fifth worksheet for the day on the same math concept.

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