Thursday, September 04, 2008

Homework non- issues

I just read a post on parenting message board about "homework issues." Now that I have a kid in school, I'm more interested than ever in discussions about school issues and the approaches different families use. Here are the sorts of homework issues parents are having: "How do I get my 12-year-old to do his homework without it turning into a major battle?" Or "My 6yo is so tired and burnt out by the end of a full school day that he's too distractable and tired to do his homework." Or "At what point do I just let my teen sink or swim on the issue of homework and assignments? He's never done any of it without me needing to remind and nag."

My smug silent response is "maybe you should have just waited until your child was mature and craving systematic academic study before sending him to school." Erin seems to be handling 'homework' with enthusiasm and drive.

Averaging the past five or six years out I'd probably say that Erin has done less than 10 minutes a day of academic work. There were spurts when she'd do half an hour or an hour a few times a week. But there were also long stretches of many months when not a stitch of such course work was undertaken.

And so this week when she headed off to school for some academic rigour, reaching beyond her age-grade level for extra challenge, it was a big departure. Consider math. She hasn't thought much of math since she was quite young, and I was surprised that she wanted this to be one of her areas of study. But she's full of surprises, including this one: What I thought would be part of a morning at school has turned into all day. Why? Not because the school is expecting lots of her -- in fact two of her three courses haven't started yet. I certainly expected her to be lighting out by mid-morning each day, at least until Science and Writing have kicked in. But she's staying because there's math to do, and she likes working hard at it, working systematically, doing every exercise, reading every paragraph, filling pages with tables and calculations. She has been spending all five available hours of school each day on math ... and coming home with work she wants to do at home as well. Not because anyone is setting up these expectations, but because she has always learned best this way, full-on and self-motivated, immersing herself in something. And because this coursework is something she wants to be doing.

She's got gaps to fill in math ... she hasn't really completed any math curriculum levels since she did Grade 7 Singapore a few years ago, though she dabbled her way through the better part of an algebra text. The academic-track Grade 10 course is a bit of a stretch for her in that she sometimes needs to find ways to fill in her gaps before she can move ahead. This is only her second full day at school and she's already more than 10% of the way through the course.

Shall we just say "homework is not an issue"?


  1. I love reading stuff like this!

  2. Anonymous12:19 am

    Ya, but sometimes smug comes back to bite you...

  3. Well of course I don't expect Erin to continue to eagerly gobble up 7 hours of math work a day. But the thing is that if she doesn't want to do it any longer, she has the option to stop doing it. Most kids don't have that option, so if their motivation sags they fall back on resistance. If Erin's motivation sags she has the power to make a choice. We won't be having battles, that I can say for sure. If she can't find the motivation to continue, she can put it on hold, or decide to tough it out ... it's totally her choice.


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