Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to School and Homework

The children are back at school and continuing their enjoyment of the US educational system. To me the most dreaded words I can hear with respect to homework are: "graded on effort." When my 11 year old (now in 7th grade) gets a project with this qualifier, I know we are in for a long night. Her view is that the total possible amount of effort is equal to the time she gets home from school to the time she leaves for school the next day. Our view is moderation is in order. I suspect that is the teacher's view too but she is going to be handed 12 flashcards -- each a separate work of art -- today.

Child No.1 takes homework serious. She does it early and she does it often. In the US, responding to studies that demonstrated that over the long, three month summer break, children lost some large amount of knowledge, the children all received summer homework. Of course, for Child No.1 this meant doing the 30 pages (!) of maths problems in the first two days of summer which, if I am to take the studies seriously, was exactly not the point. It took her longer to get through her 5 books and book reports. Put simply, we are in the unusual position of having to regulate the amount of homework she does. Our threats are in bizarro land: "if you spend more than 3 hours on this, there will be no TV for you." Suffice it to say, we may have to actually pay her to stop.

This is not an issue we face with our young two. Our 9 year old son (now in 5th grade) keeps forgetting he has homework but that is fine as he can do whatever it is in less than 5 minutes. He is speedy although I pity the teacher that has to read his handwriting. They really need to let him type it up; if only for their own sakes. He had to be badgered to reading his summer books as he took offense to the restriction on his liberty. He ended up liking the books but it was the principle of the thing.

Our youngest didn't have to read any books but she did have a summer math calendar. with activities for everyday in July and August. Sadly, we didn't discover it until half way through August which meant that there was an intense amount of activity. Suffice it to say, recording the temperatures for 5 days was tricky! Nonetheless, in contrast to Child No.1's summer work, at least this was back-loaded.

All this does make me wonder how many other families actually completed the summer activities. It is challenging; what with camp and all.