With kids just in the first years of school, we are starting to navigate the "homework" issue. I'm sure my ideas and philosophies will change and evolve over the years, but right now, I've adopted the "don't do something for your child that they can do themselves" motto.
What does this look like in real life? Well, two examples from this week are what brought this to the forefront of my mind. The first was a story Colin had to write. It needed a beginning, middle and end, and must include a problem and a solution. So he meandered up to my bedroom with his pencil and paper for some guidance. Mostly, I let him do the talking. I tried to confine my remarks to asking him questions to help him think about the assignment, and did my darndest not to influence him in any way I thought would be right. (Because really, who am I to say what's "right?") He then proceeded to fill the page with his story. When he got stuck on a word, he made a comment about how he would just write it all out and then I could correct it for him. I agreed initially, but as I watched him sound out words and make his best guesses, I rethought my position. If I was to take his paper, correct all the spelling mistakes, and then he re-wrote it to hand in, well then, the teacher doesn't really know where he's at. What she sees are perfectly formed sentences and impeccable spelling, neither of which is an accurate assessment of his current language level.
Now, I do think it's important that kids understand where the errors are, so that they can learn. But the teacher can correct the work and then my child can see where he needs to improve. There were a few words Colin asked me about specifically, and so I helped him with those. But if he didn't ask, I let it go. The next day Colin came home and told me that the teacher said it was a good story, but Colin was also a little disheartened because there were so many mistakes. Then he told me it was okay, because I'm sick and I don't speak French a lot. I asked how his friends did. He said his friends dictated their story to their parent who wrote it out first, and then the kids copied that into their homework book. I let the conversation go there, but I did make a mental note to help Colin understand why I chose the method I did.
The second example was Colin's first big project - to build a model of his community. This one was a lot harder to keep the "hands off" approach and let him do it all himself. First, it was a big project that took a lot of time. Second, it was actually fun to do some of the cutting and gluing together. Third, I wanted to give him a couple of ideas that were new to him - like using materials like astro turf for grass or popsicle sticks for fences. But I bit my tongue on how to lay it out or execute it. I can imagine some kids will show up with these amazing models that their parents micro-managed. I hope Colin doesn't feel down if this is the case, and feels like his is "amateur" next to theirs. I think his teacher understands our approach, and I don't think he'll be penalized for it. In fact, I hope he is rewarded for his independence. Because, to me, that's the best way for education to really blossom.