It's true, I dread the first day of school, I always have. I dread the early morning wake up, the strict adherence to routine and, more with each year, the amount of homework confining my children to the dining room table every day. Our afternoons are a race to finish homework, shower, eat dinner and get in bed, because they have to get up at 6:15 to start the race again. It's exhausting. And I'm lucky, battles over homework are rare. If anything the battle is mine, asking them to please stop what they are doing and take time to eat dinner. More than once I have put away the notebooks before the work was complete, choosing well rested children over ones who have finished their vocabulary work. They don't usually agree, which is understandable, both afraid of being the child with unfinished work to start the day. But they're alert, fed, and clean, and that matters to me.
Homework started in kindergarten, which was then only 10-15 minutes, and which I understood as a means to teach them responsibility and scheduling. It has grown each year; in the past three years my children have devoted between two to three hours each day to homework. They get out of school at 3:00 and go to bed at 8:00. That leaves only a few precious minutes to be a child, and spend time with the family they don't see all day.
This year the principal at the girls' school has implemented a new homework policy for the K-2 students, homework is PDF: Play time, Down time, Family time. There is no assigned homework for students in kindergarten through second grade. My children, in fifth grade, are not directly affected but it seems that the philosophy of PDF is reaching upwards: homework in their class will generally be confined to reading, something my children love to do but, given the amount of homework assigned over the past few years, was not time permissible during the school week. They are both very happy, as am I.
Today after school they played with their friends outside for over an hour. We went to Trader Joe's. They helped put away groceries while acting out a new game played on the rock climbing wall at school. They told me about a science project having to do with magnets and one asked for advice after admitting that she has been getting in trouble for talking in class. And, while I made potato soup, they escaped to opposite ends to read books of their choice.
That's a great school day, one that gets us ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Realizing that by writing this I am breaking my unspoken policy of not discussing where the children go to school, I share this link to an article from the Chicago Sun-Times, highlighting the new homework policy at Hamilton Elementary. Thanks Principal Gray.