Friday, September 28, 2007

Banging my head against the keyboard


I don't know if you've noticed it or not, but I've been a bit quiet this week. Well okay, quieter than is normal for me. The fact is, we've had a very frustrating week here in Jenworld. In fact, I'm almost speechless with frustration.

(Except for when I called Melissa on Wednesday, got her husband on the phone instead, and VENTED to Rich. Poor bastard. He probably curled up in the fetal position after we ended the call. I wasn't so speechless then.)

What's bringing gloom into our sunny world?

In a word, homework.

Yes, people, third grade homework is raining on my parade. As in, there's too fucking much of it. Like, 1-2 hours each night. As in, two emails to the teacher this week alone. I think we've reached a compromise, but I'm not completely satisfied.

Studies -- many of them, in fact -- have shown that homework is of no benefit to elementary school students. It's a waste of their time, especially when kids should instead be using their down time to ride their bikes, climb the monkey bars, and just be kids.

On a related subject, let me lay out some Jenworld trivia that I don't believe I've ever mentioned before:
  • I have a master's degree in EDUCATION
  • My mother is a TEACHER
  • My sister and her husband are TEACHERS
  • My brother is on sabbatical from TEACHING while he's in grad school and his wife is a TEACHER
  • My other brother TAUGHT last year, is now in a Ph.D. program, and could very well TEACH again when he's done.
Anyone noticing a trend here?

So, if I bitch about homework and how the quantity and quality suck, I do so with the complete confidence that I know of which I speak and that there's an intelligent team of educators who have my back. Furthermore, other teachers at our school have told me that they think the homework situation in our third grade is ridiculous.

So, the homework thing? It's getting me down. Such as the three days this week that Graceful had almost no down time at all from the time she got home until she went to bed. Especially on Tuesday night when Graceful was still working at 9 p.m. and wasn't done. Yesterday, however, was much better. We went nowhere after school and instead relaxed and had a good time. It was so nice.

In spite of my ranting, I'm still very pleased with the teacher Graceful got this year. She's excellent and Graceful adores her. Our girls go to one of the best elementary schools in town and Graceful is thriving at this school. We have never before encountered this sort of difficulty.

Moving on from my rather lengthy diatribe, it's also been a busy week at work and included a financial crisis that I believe has been resolved, but it was a tense couple of days there.

And, Pete and I had to have a conference with Elegant's teacher on Wednesday to discuss our younger daughter's attention span and lack thereof. It was a positive meeting and we came up with some good strategies, but I'm wondering how long these new ideas will work and how long until we're back in the classroom at the little table, with our knees up to our chins, brainstorming new ideas.

Which leads to another stress in my life. We are very seriously considering sending Elegant to a Montessori school next year and I'm visiting it next month. Our school is wonderful, but it doesn't seem to be the right fit for her. Sending El to a private school that is more suited to her personality is great in theory, but paying for it is going to be another matter altogether. We can do it, but it's going to take most of my net pay and therefore means that we are suddenly dependent on the money I earn. Remember that financial crisis I mentioned earlier? What's to say it won't happen again and they won't be able to pay me?

(And, yes, I realize that I'm fortunate to even have such choices as private vs. public school.)

But it's Friday and I'm in a better mood. We have nothing but fun things planned for this weekend. No errands. No cleaning. No house projects. Nothing but good times ahead.

Have a good weekend everyone.


Patience_Crabstick said...

I know, some of the homework that gets sent home is a ridiculous waste of time. One improvement for this year with my third grader is that he is allowed to read books of his choice for homework rather than lame stories created to teach reading that have absolutely zero appeal or literary quality.

Happy Working Mom said...

Our good friends have a third grader and they were told that this is the toughest year for elementary school. Why??? What happened to letting kids be kids? I have always hated how much our society has started pushing kids to do everything earlier. I didn't learn geometry until 10th grade...I'm fine. But no, our third graders are beginning it now.

Good luck on the private vs. public decision...I know it's not easy!

Linda and her Surroundings said...

1 - 2 hours each NIGHT? Talk about turning a child off school. At my son's school they have a homework sheet that has life skills the child has to do each fortnight (cook, clean, play recorder, read, tell parents about school, play games and stuff like that). We then make sure he completes everything. His school has decided that life and learning skills and being able to function in the world is vital to development. This is a fairly new concept at school and has been met with enthusiasm. Although I know in high school he will get more standard homework.

The Hotfessional said...

Gawd yes. I'm far past the elementary school homework, (Shortman is a Junior), but honestly, the amount he brought home then was ridiculous.

Play Day Designer said...

The homework thing is an ongoing battle for us. My son is in 7th grade now. We started with 2 hours of homework in 1st grade and it has increasingly gone up. This is homework, not unfinished classwork, I might add! Last school year we logged 5 hours a night at least 2 nights a week. We were told each teacher can give homework, and he's going to 7 classes in a day. So, therefore, he can easily get up to 5 hours! WHAT?! I stay completely stressed out. I wanted my son to excel (he's a straight A student) and be interested and enjoy school and get involved, etc. At this point I JUST WANT TO GET THROUGH IT without a nervous breakdown.

MizMell said...

I agree that kids should have the opportunity to be kids. Not much of that going on anymore, so good for you for speaking your piece where it counts.
Also, both my girls attended Montessori preschool (age 3) through Kindergarten. Would have kept them there had they had upper grades. I can't say enough good things about Montessori School (but, it is expensive).

Silvia said...

Dare I suggest trying homeschooling for the rest of this year? :)

Lisa said...

We are also drowning in 3rd and 4th grade homework this year. Not fun.
Hope you have a good weekend and next week is better.

Crazy Aunt Laura said...

Here's an idea: bill the school for your time. Fill out an invoice at the end of each week or month, and bill for all the hours you spend helping Graceful. And Graceful should bill for her time too. After all, this constitutes overtime.

I am only 1/2 kidding. On the days when I have to sit at my desk for hours past quitting time, I am so less than fully functional the next day. I can't imagine a 9-year old being able to handle that kind of fatigue. Good for you for speaking up.

Re: Montessori - if it feels like the right thing, the wherewithal will come. I can really see that as being good for her.

Have a great weekend.

Flutterby said...

I'll trade ya 9th grade AP geometry and 11th grade AP calculus homework for the 3rd grade stuff. Don't even get me started on everything else that has to be squeezed in. But you are right... that much homework will just turn them right off. I just want my kids to be kids as long as THEY want to be. But there's been pressure to prepare for college since 6th grade.

Jennifer said...

All: What I failed to mention (because I actually TONED DOWN my original tirade) is that not only is the amount of homework a problem, but the work itself is ridiculous. My sister -- an award-winning elementary school teacher -- is appalled that Grace spent two hours illustrating (yes!) each word. It's not such a problem when the words are dog, cat, house, etc., but it's a problem when they're middle school words such as solemnity, designate, condemnation. I am not making this up.

Silvia: We have discussed homeschooling. I'm certainly qualified to do so, but we're not sure it would be the best solution. Grace is actually thriving in our school and loves it. Ellie, however, is not thriving/loving and it is this child we would consider homeschooling if things get tough this year. Luckily, I work from home, but I do still have a job for which I am responsible and my income is vital for paying for her tuition next year. That said, I COULD make it work if necessary and I am doing the requisite research in case it comes to that. We're giving it a little longer before we make any drastic decisions.

Sue said...

TWO HOURS IN THE THIRD GRADE? That's ludicrous. I'm so glad we're still in first grade - Meg's homework for the week takes about 15 minutes. Probably not quite challenging enough. I'm not looking forward to what you are dealing with.