Summer is over. Or just about. The kids return on Wednesday. They're excited. Frankly, we're excited. But there's one thing nobody is excited about: the homework. Even our fish are dreading it.
Let me just say before I go any further, I never had homework when I was in elementary school. Never. Not until I got to John Muir Junior High did I even start to get homework. These days? Ha! We have homework in preschool and Kindergarten. Hours and hours in third grade. Oh, my head hurts just thinking about all the hair pulling, crying, foot stamping, and pouting—and that's just me and my wife! And the kids won't like the homework any better than us.
Over the years homework has come and gone in cycles. Like any contagious disease, it goes through periods of dormancy when it's manageable and non-threatening, then, out of nowhere, it roars back to life, snatching everyone's free time in its greedy, snapping jaws. Parents and kids run screaming—but there's no escape. Heck, now there's even the summer book report! If you listen very carefully you can hear the steam coming out of my ears.
These days, we certainly seem to be in a "more is better" phase of homework philosophy. I even hear parents asking teachers for more work for thier kids. Forget play! They have to get ahead in the world! It's as if they believe you can't learn by playing and pretending, you must do stacks of worksheets if you want to be smart.
Let me state my position clearly: homework stinks. Too much homework stinks to high heaven.
First, it takes away time to play catch in the yard, run up to the park to shoot baskets, invite a friend over to build a fort, or walk the dog with the family. Second, it crushes the desire in kids—at least my kids—to read for fun. What third grader wants to read for fun after three hours of teeth-gnashing worksheets, math problems and studying for this week's spelling and vocab words? But worst of all—and I mean WORST—are those time consuming and essentially pointless projects that suck up every last moment of joy out of busy weekday evenings and sunny weekend afternoons. You know the ones I'm talking about, right? The six-foot collage, an old president's head molded out of clay, the toothpick teepee, the map of the United States made from different kinds of pasta noodles. I swear just the sight of a glue gun gives me hives now.
Perhaps this year will be different. Perhaps. Besides, we'll squeeze in our fun reading somehow. We always do. And then there's always next summer...