Thursday, September 08, 2011

9/8/11 Homework load

Anyone think their 9-year-old could -- more importantly, would -- finish this in 60 minutes?

- Write 12 definitions related to magnetism, some not in the dictionary (e.g. "temporary magnet.").

Draw an illustration for each.
- Make up 10 sentences for each of 10 spelling/definition words (e.g. "chrysalis").
- Two pages of cursive practice.
- 22 math problems.

This is all one night's homework at the not super-academic school in the district, with a principal who's working on reducing homework load, and a conscientious teacher!

Ironically, the only thing that goes quickly is the math, because if you understand it (and most kids at our school do), it's often (not always) a lot less writing.

An example of tonight's math homework problems: Round each number to the place of the underlined digit. 1) 589,932. Gabriel's answer was "580,000 or 590,000" and he'd circled 590,000.

Another problem: Write these numbers in order from least to greatest: 690,172, 349 699,074,213 69,010,342. Answering that involves a fair amount of writing, though at least he didn't have to copy the numbers out of order first.

(Any other 4th-grade parents there have any input? I think this is in line with 4th-grade difficulty -- actually this is pretty easy, but it's the quantity I'm griping about.)

But making up sentences with words like "synonymous" and "crystalline" and "inaugeration" takes at least 3 minutes per sentence, if the kid is concentrating. 10 sentences, about 3 minutes a sentence -- do the math. With everything else, there's no way this all takes 60 minutes.

This is crushing. All we do the entire evening home with Gabriel is deal with homework. At some point, he just gets burnt out and putzes around, plays, writes things in a goofy font, reads the dictionary instead of copying definitions out of it. I absolutely hate that my entire interaction with him in a day revolves around motivating him and focusing him on this work, and that it hangs over his head the entire night.

He actually did most of tonight's homework, minus 7 of the 10 sentences, but I cut him off at 8:30 upon threat of losing a playdate this weekend and said he had to go to bed. He doesn't believe me, but I know he'll have an easier time finishing this in the morning.

I blame the other parents. I have to blame someone. They complain privately, and to other parents, but they don't even tell the teacher. They let their kids stay up later, their kids get home from school earlier, they are generally just fewer of them (kids that is), and many just think piling on homework will improve test scores.

This can't go on. I have to start working with Julian on his book report -- something that I've learned is brutal for parents, especially the first 2nd-grade report, but that has far more value. I wasn't expecting to have to spend so much time and attention keeping Gabriel motivated. He's never blown anyone away with his work ethic -- so many friends have kids who finish their homework on their own -- but he's no excuse factory like Julian. (Julian has also discovered that math homework is much easier and faster than language, and often I have to fight with him to get him to do his definitions or sentences instead of the math.)

On another note...

One of many great things about having a geeky husband is that when your computer dies and you just don't have time or energy to figure out what you need for the next one, you say, "sic'em!" Dave is closing in on a new computer for me -- a laptop this time -- and I'm thrilled and grateful for this huge investment in time and energy he's put into it. I know he likes doing it, even if it isn't a Mac -- the only thing better will be when I need a new car!


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