September 28, 2004

more homework

In her comment on yesterday's post, Rose says she disapproves of homework for elementary school kids unless the child wants to do it. I'm theoretically in agreement with her. A few weeks ago, I would have told you that the emphasis on academics in kindergarten is ridiculous and that children don't need to drown in homework at such young ages. I still believe this. And god knows, when Damian doesn’t want to color in the alligator on his homework, the mom in me wants to say "Okay, then let's forget it" because childhood is too short and his life is too full and why not learn through fun and not through tedious or irritating tasks? Why expect a still-young child to act older than he is? He should have time to grow up later.

But I have a child who balks at these visual motor skills because they're hard for him. I have a son who refused to write his name on a friend's birthday card a month ago even though he's known how for a year or two. I have a six year old who almost never draws of his own accord and whose handwriting used to be so shaky you'd think he had Parkinson's. This child will never want to practice his letters, never want to improve. And he needs as much practice time as he can get. He's in a half day kindergarten, not that much class time to get up to speed. And if I ask him to do more at home without the "It needs to be turned in tomorrow" external pressure, he'll never go for it. I know. I've tried.

Children with Asperger's Syndrome often get special permission to bring their laptops into school because their fine motor or visual motor skills are so poor. If it comes to it later in Damian's academic career, we too can ask for this. But isn't it better if we can give him the extra time now so he won't be that different from his peers later on? I think so. And in the past week and a half, I've already seen improvements. His lines are stronger, more sure, his letters sized more proportionately. He's getting it. And I think part of the reason is his fifteen minutes of homework every night. Copying the same shape across an entire page gives him that repeated motion, that hand-confidence he needs. And doing it at home means he's generalizing. He's no longer just writing in the classroom, he can do it in real life too.

Does he like it? Nope. Do I? Not really. Do I think it's a good idea? Yes. Surprisingly, I do. Is it right for every child? Probably not. But I do believe it's right for mine. Will I continue to think homework is worth the time this entire year, next year, the year after? Up in the air. But right here, right now it's what he needs.

Posted by Tamar at September 28, 2004 09:33 PM

I think, developmentally, most kindergarterners are being pushed a bit academically. I think the reading and writing processs are easier when they are developmentally ready, and I think there is a wide age range in readiness. There is a dichotomy in public school achievment and expectations. We seem to keep falling farther behind other countries, and in response, push academic skills on ALL of our kids at younger ages, when only some are ready. . My 16 year old, who is not diagnosed but probably on the spectrum NEEDED to write when he was 3. He was always making lists-states,sports teams, friends. My 11 year old, who has NLD HATED the writing process, up until this year, and then it clicked.
There is a wide range of skills at this age, but by the time they get to 3rd or 4th grade, things seem to level off on their own in my experience.

Posted by: rose at September 29, 2004 08:47 AM

Now this I agree with wholeheartedly! I wish schools didn't feel this artificial need to push academics so early. It's another reason I'm glad we waited a year to put Damian in kindergarten. At age six, he's got the ability to sit and listen, which a lot of the five year olds in the class don't. And they shouldn't have to, not at that age (or even at age six!). Extremely frustrating. (And yes, I think reading and writing and arithmatic all come at different times for different children. It's one thing I really like about the Waldorf method and others like it. Why rush?)

Posted by: Tamar at September 29, 2004 10:07 AM

It's funny you mentioned Waldorf. There was a whole paragraph I deleted because I was thinking if I had so much to say, I should get my own blog!
When my oldest started Kindergarten, our disctrict was starting a pilot program. The first class was a K,1,2 combination. At the same time, our local Waldorf school was closing, so 5 of their second graders joined the program. The teacher confessed at Christmas break that she was a little worried about having 5 2nd grade non readers, but she said they picked it up AMAZINGLY quickly, and were at grade level or beyond within 2 months.

Posted by: rose at September 29, 2004 08:42 PM