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How early homework hell hits these days

Submitted by on Tuesday, 9 September 2008 No Comment

“Whoever created Big Guy’s homework sheet for tonight needs to be drawn and quartered.

Strike that: That’s not sufficient torture. Whoever created Big Guy’s homework sheet for tonight should be forced to sit at the kitchen table as a meticulous 5-year-old struggles against the frustration of trying to color in the lines of 1 inch by 2 inch monkeys, milk cartons and more.

Does the designer realize there are few crayons and markers on Earth with tips small enough to stay within the monkey tail or milk straw? And that the overall layout of the worksheet is cluttered and violates every eye track study known to man.

OK, so people who haven’t designed Web or print pages wouldn’t necessarily be aware of the eye-track faux pas. But the realization that the drawings were too tiny for small hands still learning fine motor skills should have smacked anyone up side the head.

Just as I want to smack myself up the head every night as Big Guy whimpers, pouts and shouts through his studies.

Welcome to my nightly nightmare.

It features a half hour of pouting “”no, later”" before he even officially starts. It then shifts to soothing a pint-sized perfectionist as he repeatedly impales the kitchen linoleum with his pencil. Finally, there’s a period of calm acceptance as he gets down to diligent work, but just as sure as Freddy Krueger never really dies, there will be a final loud protest at the end.

It’s month two of kindergarten, with the homework load increasing steadily. I think he does more than I did in high school.

In fact, I know he does, because I never did homework in high school. With the exception of a term paper my senior year, I finished everything before or during class. That’s not so much a salute to my intellect as it is an indictment of my school system. My junior English teacher used to assign such demanding spelling words as “”cat.”" She giggled so much I swear she kept a bottle stashed in her desk, so maybe three letters was as long as she could focus.

Big Guy’s already beyond that. He can write a three-word sentence: I can see. His teacher adds a new “”sight word”" — that’s the “”whole language”" method by another name — every week. There will be 25 total for the year. At least they use phonics, too.

It’s actually his third year of homework, except I didn’t make him do it when he was 3. I might have been learning to spell “”cat”" when I was 16, but I’m smart enough to not force an energetic toddler to sit every night and practice lines and circles.

Last year I did sit with him as he wrote letters and repeated sounds. There were bouts of pencil-throwing initially, but he soon accepted it as a given.

Once he gets over the idea that he can protest his way out of it, Big Guy enjoys the work this year, mainly because he’d move heaven and Earth to look good in his teacher’s eyes. Most nights, the quantity isn’t so bad.

There’s a worksheet and a “”sight word”" book to read each night — it normally takes 10 minutes or so, unless it involves coloring mini monkeys. Then it can stretch into a half hour plus a tantrum. We’re also supposed to read together for 15 minutes, but we’ve been doing that anyway since before he could sit up.

I like that it reinforces what he learned during the day, because he usually has amnesia about what the lessons were by the time I pick him up at lunch.

But, please, I beg of worksheet designers everywhere. Tiny hand, tiny drawings = bad combination.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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