Last Weekend’s Inappropriate Kindergarten Homework
Homework or draw Hot Lava Man? Hot Lava Man wins!
Published in ChicagoNow, March 17, 2015
I really do not want to keep writing about this, but it is just so wrong. In the hope that schools and teachers who think kindergarten homework is the best way to prepare children for all of the homework that is coming down the road, I’m going to keep shouting STOP. Your developmentally inappropriate homework made my grandson cry, fight with his mother, and miss playtime outside on the first warm weekend in ages. So here the latest assignment that forced him to buckle down and stop drawing hot lava man:
“Choose a story from home or the school library to read with your family.” Not a bad start. I’m a firm believer in reading to 5-year-olds. But here’s the next step. “While you are reading, listen for the problem the characters are having in the story. Then listen for the solution (how the characters fix the problem). Complete the chart (a box with columns labeled “problem” and “solution”) to match your story by drawing pictures and words.”
Let’s see how well that goes. I don’t know what book he selected, but I have a ton of them in my house that he loves. Let’s say he selects one of his favorites, the old Dr. Seuss classic Cat in the Hat. What is the problem the characters are having? Bored by the rain? A crazy cat messing up the house? An annoying goldfish with the conscience of Jiminy Cricket? Being left alone by their Mother? And the solution, the fix for the problem, is what? Imagination as the cat arrives (or does he really) to create some fun? Magic as the cat cleans up the mess? Getting the irritating goldfish back in his bowl? Mother returning (or perhaps that goldfish should have called the child abuse hotline)?
Imaginative but he hates homework.
There is no right answer here. In fact, most kids don’t see too many problems because order is magically restored in the end, and the chaos was funny and not very problematic for them. Dr. Seuss told us to “Think and wonder, wonder and think.” He would have hated reducing his imaginative stories with language children love to a problem-solution approach. This man, who told us that,” Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living,” would have been pretty distressed by this part of the assignment.
This one actually shouldn’t have been too terrible. The letters of the week are “Qq” and “Jj.” So, he had to draw three pictures that started with the /j/ sound and three that started with the /q/ sound. But that wasn’t enough. He had to label each picture with a noun (naming word) in his best spelling (which isn’t very good yet). His drawings were restricted to nouns as well. That is pretty frustrating when he wanted to draw “jump,” complete with a trampoline.
High Frequency Words
This week’s sight words were “here” and “me.” Fair enough. But he had to write each one five times in the rainbow writing he dreads, using his best handwriting. But he’s still not done. He has to read the word aloud every time he writes it and write a sentence for each one. Would “Mom’s here with me doing this homework” count?
“Write a sentence about how you come to school.” That’s doable, I guess. Of course, he has to use capital letters, spaces and end marks. Will he get credit if what he draws doesn’t match his sentence? I doubt it, but he really got into drawing a train around his sentence about coming to school in a car. Much more interesting and imaginative, don’t you think?
This is only the language half of the homework. There is also a math sheet with several sections to be completed. All of this wasted four hours of beautiful weather. It kept the rest of the family homebound instead of going to a park or zoo to enjoy the first hint of spring.
So, I am writing to pose a problem and give a solution. The problem is that homework and the expectations for learning it reflects are inappropriate for children in kindergarten. The solution is rather simple. Stop this insane practice. Let this little boy go outside to play hot lava man.