How to deal with Kindergarten Homework?!
September 23, 2023 10:15 PM   Subscribe

I can't believe I'm asking this, but how do I deal with my kid not wanting to do their homework in kindergarten?

There are many layers to this.

1. I don't believe homework is necessary in kindergarten, so it's not like I'll say " buck up, buddy, you're in real school now. Do your work. "

2. He seems to know how to do the work (he did the first few weeks of homework quickly and reluctantly, so I'm not worried that he's not understanding it.

3. This week, he tore up one page of work. And then just colored a page entirely with one color (not following directions)

4. I haven't mentioned this to his teacher yet because I don't know how to approach it.

5. At Back to school night, his teacher said "if your child doesn't want to do homework, don't force it, it's not worth it." This gives me hope I will be able to come to an understanding with the teacher.

She said we could keep the homework over the weekend and turn it in later and we have done that. But tonight I tried again to encourage him to do just one page. He proceeded to try to tear up the page and I just took it away and stopped. I read books every night to him which is part of homework.

He isn't reading yet and he seems on par with math concepts. So it's not like he isn't needing the instruction.

I'm an educator myself but for adults and I just feel so angsty that he's not motivated. And I also don't want to challenge the teacher even though both my kid and I don't like the "nursery rhyme" part of the homework that is the reading instruction at home. He said "I hate this... it gets stuck in my head" but he loves more complex stories, so in my mind, he needs some material he likes, but I don't want to be presumptuous about it with the teacher.

I'm just so aggravated that 1. Homework is even a thing in kinder 2. My kid won't just do it even if I know it doesn't mean much that he's refusing.

My own issues with school shit are getting in my way in my head.

I've read and searched all the parenting groups and subreddits I'm in, but still need some advice.

I'm Neurodivergent self-disagnosed. I don't think my kid is.... but I don't know!
posted by AnyUsernameWillDo to Education (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Leave it alone completely and then bring it up in parent-teacher conferences. The homework itself is definitely not important. The general struggle may be an issue at some point, but no amount of conflict is going to solve that now.
posted by vunder at 10:23 PM on September 23, 2023 [4 favorites]

Talk to the teacher about it and advocate for your child not to be doing it, assuming they're not benefitting from it (either because it lacks challenge and/or the struggle to get them to do it is overall detrimental to their engagement with learning). I agree on abandoning any sort of struggle.

As a person with late-diagnosed ADHD who could easily understand the material in school without doing homework (i.e. the homework was not challenging), my homework struggles began in elementary and never stopped.

At a certain point I stopped telling my parents what the homework was and struggled with it alone, because their attempts to get me doing it were so painful on the whole. This was even with them advocating for me not to have to do pointless colouring homework.

I really think the whole guilt/shame complex with struggling to do homework has followed me to this day and built on itself over time, through 20 years of schooling and now career. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and wearing one's self out with the struggle to do pointless things early on just isn't worth it.

In my opinion, avoiding struggles like this, even if it slightly delays learning certain things, would create a better overall foundation for learning.

I would also consider seeking assessment for your child for ADHD, as the seemingly mysterious inability and struggle to do what seem superficially to be easy things is very familiar to me. If nothing else, reading more yourself might help you help them to manage this.
posted by lookoutbelow at 11:29 PM on September 23, 2023 [6 favorites]

I'm just so aggravated that 1. Homework is even a thing in kinder 2. My kid won't just do it even if I know it doesn't mean much that he's refusing.

Alternatively, maybe it does mean much, where the much is: fuck kindergarten homework, he knows that, and you know that, and the thing here is that you're feeling duty-bound(?) to play some role where you sort of in practice deny that?

Say what's true to your kid and their teacher (who between the line doesn't maybe disagree) and hold the line against bullshit.
posted by away for regrooving at 12:25 AM on September 24, 2023 [18 favorites]

Slate has talked about homework for young children a few times - in case it's useful, here is a link. Homework: Who Needs It?
posted by paduasoy at 12:41 AM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

Absolutely refuse to have him do it. Bring it up formally that you do not want him given homework, requested or reminded about homework and that you think this is a bad policy for this age.

If he does bring it home, put it all in a cute happy box near his play area and call them "quiet time fun" and encourage him when he wants to do them. I used to sit next to my kid and draw quietly while they worked on homework, quiet music playing so it was a together activity. Vocalise to him that at this age, kindergarten is for learning and friends, and that tests and homework are for Big Kids.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:55 AM on September 24, 2023 [19 favorites]

I'm not an educator but I am a children's author, and I firmly believe that one of the most important lessons you can teach a little kid is that learning in general (and reading in particular) are joyful activities. Fighting with your kid about homework is going to drive home the idea that school is a source of misery and conflict. And making him listen to (or read) stories that he hates is a very effective way to suck the joy out of books.

So I agree with the advice to just not do it. Take the time you would have spent fighting with him about it, and spend it reading him the kind of stories he loves.

You mention that you are self-diagnosed neurodivergent, and I wonder if as a result of that, you don't trust your ability to interpret the subtext of spoken statements. Obviously I can't know for sure without being there when the teacher said it. But based on my own experiences, I think you can take the teacher's statement "Don't force homework, it's not worth it" at face value. I think the way to approach it is to say, "Homework was a big fight with my kid so we're not doing it, but I'm making sure to spend time reading them stuff they enjoy."

I suspect the teacher will be very happy with that. And if they're not... well, that's their problem. This random internet stranger gives you permission to trust your own parenting instincts and drop the homework.
posted by yankeefog at 1:22 AM on September 24, 2023 [13 favorites]

Had a similar situation with my kid and the teacher genuinely meant the “if your kid doesn’t want to do it, don’t force them” statement.

I just let the kid’s teacher know that he was fighting the homework and I didn’t want to make it a battle and she said ok.

So try just letting your kid’s teacher know.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:47 AM on September 24, 2023 [8 favorites]

I would be tempted to just ignore the homework until they say something to you, and then if they do, tell them that you're glad they are offering it to those who want to participate, but it's not a good fit for you/your student.

Act like it's an optional field trip, maybe be politely confused if they don't seem to get it.

Finally, if they really want to force the issue, you can tell them you're a little surprised they are so out of step with modern practice and research, which shows that homework has little (or no) benefit at this age, and often does harm.

See eg here or check out the book mentioned, The Battle Over Homework.

Basically from a scholarly perspective, they are totally Doing It Wrong and personally I would fight this to the end or change schools if I could. Life is too short to saddle your kid with the damage done by shitty ignorant schooling.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:54 AM on September 24, 2023 [3 favorites]

The teacher literally said not to worry about it, so don’t worry about it. She may be required to supply homework.

I wouldn’t let hin get in the habit of destroying his papers though.
posted by jeoc at 5:20 AM on September 24, 2023 [9 favorites]

I’m going to join the chorus here and say let it go completely. I don’t know why they send it home and then say, “Don’t bother.” I didn’t even do the daily reading charting because 1) that was busy work for me, 2) we read all the time and it’s not a skill we need encouragement on, 3) the teacher gave out prizes and they were the standard penny plastic toys and pencils. I asked my kid if the prizes were important to her and she said, meh. So we didn’t do those at all.
posted by amanda at 5:49 AM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

Even the teacher said not to force it. The moment you go past "would you like to do this worksheet?" you're forcing it, on some level, because you're the parent and hold so very much power and can employ so many adult wiles. Him destroying the paper is a sign of that, because it's one of the very few ways he can definitively fight back.

Reading together regularly is genuinely beneficial, and in a way it's more your "homework" to make time and space for than it is his. Worksheets are not genuinely beneficial. They should be regarded as being available for kids who already love them so much they want more. My kid was like that about a couple types, which was cool and all, but yours plainly doesn't love these ones, and that's fine too. You're doing great. Both of you.

If you think it'd actually be beneficial in some regard, look online for work he might actually enjoy, and let him try that. But really, kindergarteners don't need homework. If however-many hours in the classroom isn't sufficient to impart something, taking away from family and rest time after school isn't going to make a difference. And here, you don't even seriously think he's lacking for anything: your suspicions are that he'd do better with something more challenging! So either try offering that, or let school be enough.
posted by teremala at 5:49 AM on September 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

I'd agree with the chorus of folks saying to believe the teacher when they say the homework is optional.

Why is it even "assigned" then? Some kids LOVE homework. My kid in K was like this, played school in her spare time, and delighted in these little worksheets. It was not "academically" necessary by any means, but contributed to her sense that learning was a game that she could continue on her own time. If she didn't enjoy it, forcing her would have been counterproductive. At this age, just make room for them to be follow their interests.
posted by hovey at 6:40 AM on September 24, 2023 [6 favorites]

I fought this kind of crap (plus plenty of other crap) all throughout my son's K-12 years, so be prepared to brace your feet. I was so glad when he graduated from high school and so I didn't have to deal with it anymore. There are excellent teachers, and there are shitty teachers. But do know that no teachers are gods. Meet with the teacher, along with the principal if you feel that might be needed, and work out a deal. In other words, let them know that the homework is stupid and so your kid ain't gonna be doin' it ... but perhaps be more tactful than that. :)
posted by SageTrail at 7:10 AM on September 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

Teacher here, upper elementary. If the teacher said don't force it, then don't. The nursery rhyme stuff is to develop phonemic awareness, which is an important precursor to reading, just FYI. It can be developed in other ways, and the teacher is also guaranteed to be working on it in class, daily.
posted by Temeraria at 7:15 AM on September 24, 2023 [5 favorites]

A way to think about it is- what would happen if he did not do the homework? He won’t fail kindergarten, it’s not a requirement. He won’t not learn, you say he is picking up concepts. His teacher won’t be upset, they’re saying not to push it. Etc.

My kiddo has a homework workbook in kindergarten but it’s not required to be turned in. The teacher lets us know what they’re learning and asks us to help reinforce at home. I told my kid, this is what your teacher has asked us to do together. We’ll try each morning for a bit. And I just ask each morning, shall we do a page or two from the book? Some days it’s a yes—and maybe we actually do it, or we talk it out and they color randomly in it; some days it’s a no, and they’ll play legos. I think about learning in the grand scheme of a year, and not fight for a win each week.
posted by inevitability at 7:46 AM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

He isn't reading yet and he seems on par with math concepts. So it's not like he isn't needing the instruction

Sounds like he doesn't need it for math, and for reading (this is kind of amazing to me since I'm from the time when reading wear only taught starting in first grade but regardless) you can informally, casually, just read him books a lot (unless he hates it). If, much later on in the year, he really does seem to be behind at reading, then there are phonics games and other activities that you can try introducing. But it doesn't actually need to be the kindergarten's assigned homework: you can do your own stuff, on your own schedule, and find things that work for him.
posted by trig at 7:51 AM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'm an educator myself but for adults and I just feel so angsty that he's not motivated.

He shouldn't feel motivated. I think this is a good thing.
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:59 AM on September 24, 2023 [5 favorites]

Um. I'm ADHD and 1 of my kids is ADHD and they're both in early elementary school but I'm going to say something a little different.

Is he eating a snack when he gets home? Very important.

A big part of kindergarten is going to be forming great routines that'll support him throughout the next years of school. You're putting a LOT of baggage on this homework (I get it, I did too). But it's about getting used to it and finding ways to do it in a not too stressful way!

So, my number one thing is doing routines together. It's hard and sometimes it sucks but that's the best way I've found to actually make it work.

Write out the steps in the routine, post it on the wall, and do it with him. Ours is:
Have a snack
Put shoes away
Sort out backpack (throw out trash & look at papers)
Do homework

And then my kids get screentime. In doing homework, there's probably going to be frustration and screaming sometimes. Try to remain calm, ask them if they'd like your help, and remind them that they can go play or take a break and come back to it later. Don't spend more than 20 total minutes working on it (you may need to start at 5 or 10 minutes, so he knows it's not going to be a slog every time)
posted by Baethan at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2023 [5 favorites]

I think people have covered the fact that shouldn't stress over the homework. But something else struck me in your post, which is that you seem to be giving this teacher very little benefit of the doubt, and seem to have a lot of pent up anger at educators in general, which is likely not serving you or your kid:

4. I haven't mentioned this to his teacher yet because I don't know how to approach it.

5. At Back to school night, his teacher said "if your child doesn't want to do homework, don't force it, it's not worth it." This gives me hope I will be able to come to an understanding with the teacher.

I'm confused why you think you haven't already been able to identify this teacher as an ally, and why you're so hesitant to talk to the teacher, and that seems worth thinking on a bit. Yes, sometimes teachers do harm and the kids they harm require an advocate, but it's in nobody's best interest to have a knee-jerk adversarial response to your kid's educators. Many teachers, especially of little kids, are sweet people who are drawn to this work because they love children, and love helping them develop into the best versions of themselves.*

Good teachers are happy to answer questions like "My kid is struggling with homework, and I myself am confused on what the goal is so perhaps I'm approaching it wrong with them - can you help?" Good teachers have expertise in early childhood development, and are happy to share that expertise with parents. They can be great partners in the job of raising your kid. Yes, there are bad ones out there, just like there are bad doctors, incompetent lawyers, etc. But have the expectation that the teacher should be good, and thus will be able (and be willing) to help.

*My mom taught K-5 art, and most of her best friends taught young children, and I overheard a lot of teacher talk growing up- and a variation of "Ugh, [parent x] is putting so much pressure on their kid to get perfect grades - and they're only 6!" was pretty common - a lot of practices in early education (homework, grades, etc.) are just designed to get kids used to the idea/rhythm of these things, and teachers work to make sure they don't become stress points. Which often involves having to coach parents.
posted by coffeecat at 8:29 AM on September 24, 2023 [6 favorites]

He is absorbing a lot of changes, so let this one go. It might feel like one more thing at the end of the day, but it sounds like he might be at his limit. Keep it simple and positive. Let the homework go. My first refused REFUSED to learn capital letters…”I already know the alphabet, I don’t need this” so I ignored it/took it lightly after getting feedback from the teacher. He came around eventually when it made sense to him. Generally these early years are about making progress on skills, not grades.
posted by childofTethys at 8:30 AM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

I have kindergartener here as with homework that is optional. The teacher doesn't want it back or turned in so that helps. We absolutely do not push any homework or have fights about it. We do foster conversations about the papers she brings home. Like we Ask her how to do things that she's doing, encourage her to take tiny steps like oh can you do just one problem? Can you show me what you know? If it works, yay and if not we move on.

Kids will get more self control as they grow up a little bit more. They also will have better emotional regulation and won't be quite as tired. School is hard and it's work so I don't stress if she's done mentally no amount of fighting about the homework is going to teach her anything about the thing that the teacher wants her to learn.

My kids reading well so we focus on the math a little bit more for the homework. But we also spend lots of time doing reading activities at bedtime, snuggling and having a nice time. We encourage even a teeny bit of reading with negotation when she's done done, such as sound words. But if she didn't want to that's okay. Discussion of stories, hearing them and fostering a good relationship with reading is pretty important on its own for a kindergartener so we concider it a win.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:56 AM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

A friend who was in a similar position told the teacher, "We're not a homework family," and that was that.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:01 AM on September 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

Ask the teacher to help you know the objectives for kindergarten. It should be stuff like learning to deal with schedules, nap time, using crayons and pencils, social standards, the alphabet, numbers, and colors. Manipulating objects. It looks like reading, addition, and subtraction have become kindergarten objectives. I'm not convinced this leads to better long-term education, but it's the standard.

Talk to your child and ask why they don't like/ won't do homework. Do they like/ dislike school, teacher, other kids?

Look at the homework tasks; it's fair to require that your child bring them home. If it's a picture, work on using markers, crayons, colored pencils effectively; spending 15 - 30 minutes should be possible, no more than that. Your child might be able to help choose tasks. How can we use markers and shapes today?

"nursery rhyme" reading instruction at home. "I hate this... it gets stuck in my head" That's reasonable and articulate. Rhyming is useful for learning words, but not required. He can make up his own rhymes or do other reading.

Talk to the teacher. I'm absolutely against homework, it was a mess for my kid, and teachers were unable to work with us on it. Being an advocate for your child will get different results from different teachers, but it's the best thing you can do. It doesn't require unpleasantness.
posted by theora55 at 12:08 PM on September 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

I made the mistake of being "good" about homework with my eldest. He recovered, but it wasn't good. He was resistant for a lot of reasons, which I now recognize as being an introvert coping all day and needing the evening on his own schedule.

My advice is, take the teacher up on just not doing it, but send a note saying what you did instead. "read X book together" "coloured a bit" "child made a Lego world instead." It will be fine. There is always a chance to build habits later. Right now you're maintaining joy and that's so important.

Also, a lot of teachers assign homework because otherwise *other parents* complain.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:52 PM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @coffeecat, I don't know how to approach it because I know how much work teachers have cut out for them, and I'm a recovering people-pleaser/ teacher's pet/ imposter syndrome, etc.

I want to make sure I am picking and choosing my battles to take to the teacher. I've already had to discuss something else which took me a couple weeks to think on.

Racism is also something I worry about that is just a constant undercurrent that white folks won't understand the way people of color experience it. You worry about everything because you never know if your kid is gonna be dealing with micro or macroagressions. So if you sense some anger, that's where it comes from. (From my own upbringing and it's more salient with my son because of who he is and how he is perceived). He is at a PWI (public open school but not very diverse) which I felt angst about, but otherwise we like it.

So every little thing I do to advocate for my kid is something I have to think harder about because I'm still getting to know his teacher who is a white lady. So far, things look good, but this is why I'm cautious. There's been nothing to indicate that she's done any "anti-racist" work outwardly. So that also makes me feel cautious. No Black Lives Matter signage, etc. Which would help me breathe a sigh of relief. Not sure if anyone will get this unless you're a person of color. But that's what's going on.
posted by AnyUsernameWillDo at 2:32 PM on September 24, 2023 [5 favorites]

At Back to school night, his teacher said "if your child doesn't want to do homework, don't force it, it's not worth it."

Lordy, snuggle up to this statement, embrace it, take it to your heart.

Every now and then if it meshes nicely with something maybe ask 'you want to play around with this' e.g. the homework but otherwise don't sweat it at all. The most important thing is developing a friendly, easy relationship with learning.

The word 'homework' shouldn't be anywhere, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, straight up, through school, never. College, okay. A highly technical high school class, some English essays in high school maybe?: okay, fine.

But classrooms are like workplaces (grrrrr) and half of school is busywork. School is school and home is home and work is work. Letting those things bleed around the edges has led us all to madness, because if those boundaries are breached by choice it is a matter of personal choice but when it's taken for granted it's a recipe for a shit society.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:01 PM on September 24, 2023 [4 favorites]

Have you read Michelle Obama's book, "Becoming"? Here are some excerpts from her book:

Pages 17-19:
When Michelle was in kindergarten:
"I liked school right away. I liked my teacher [Mrs. Burroughs], a diminutive white lady...". "We were assigned a list of colors to study...". "In class, Mrs. Burroughs quizzed us one student at a time [on how to spell the colors]...".

When Michelle tried to spell the word "white", she couldn't remember how to spell it. She suddenly remembered how to, but the teacher had already moved on.

"The next morning in class, I asked for a do-over. When Mrs. Burroughs said no, cheerily adding that we kindergartners had other things to get to, I demanded it. I like to imagine now that Mrs. Burroughs was impressed with this little black girl who'd found the courage to advocate for herself."

On page 21, Michelle talks about her second-grade class. She describes it as, "a mayhem of unruly kids and flying erasers...". "All this seemed due to a teacher who couldn't figure out how to assert control - who didn't seem to like children, even."
Michelle told her mother about what was going on. "If my mother were somebody different, she might have done the polite thing and said, 'Just go and do your best.' " "Without telling me, she went over to the school and began a weeks-long process of behind-the-scenes lobbying, which led to me and a couple of other high-performing kids getting quietly pulled out of class, given a battery of tests, and about a week later reinstalled permanently into a bright and orderly third-grade class upstairs, governed by a smiling, no-nonsense teacher who knew her stuff."

If I remember correctly, the students at her school primarily consisted of people of color, but perhaps these excerpts from her book will still help you.
posted by SageTrail at 6:33 AM on September 25, 2023 [2 favorites]

One piece of info that may be useful for you and for others in this thread: One reason that some Kindergarten teachers give homework even though most research shows that very young children do not benefit from homework, is that some parents demand it and are interested in more "academic" environments for even very young children.
posted by vunder at 9:20 AM on September 25, 2023 [2 favorites]

Here's my random weird idea: save all the homework assignments for the week, then on Friday or Saturday, let your kid pick his one or two favorites. By making it normalized to think of a task in terms of good and better -- in terms of "favorites" being possible -- you're sending the message that this can, and should, be fun, and that learning and executing is _fun_.

Then, don't force your kid to _do_ their favorite - make it something they can decide to do, or earn.
posted by amtho at 10:38 PM on September 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

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