On Homework in Preschool
Dear Preschool Teacher,
I completely intended to sit my son down this weekend and make him paste pictures in his alphabet book and copy his name another fifteen times so that he would be eligible for a "prize"...right after he got home from riding bikes with his dad. But then there was a birthday party in the afternoon and when we got home we were all tired and just wanted to eat some dinner and get ready for bed - we’ve been reading the BFG as a family and we HAD to know what was going to happen next. This morning I totally meant to do it, but he was drawing this really awesome picture with all kinds of letters on his dry erase board and it didn’t seem fair to stop him because he was very into it. And then he asked me to read his words so I read “Gooorrrrrrvvvvbooddyyy,” and “Yyooooioioioggrovnow” and we laughed and laughed because it sounded so funny and he made more “words” so I would read them. Right now would be a great time to do it, but he’s outside wandering around the yard singing to himself with a box on his head which he says is his new helmet, because the other one broke. I guess I could interrupt him or...well maybe we’ll do it this afternoon but to be honest, probably not. Because he’ll be doing something great then too. He’ll be on a lizard hunt in the yard, or dressing his sister up in a weird costume, or painting, or making up a new dance, or inventing a recipe or... any number of awesome things that make perfect sense for him, as a four-year-old to be doing. Homework is not something that makes sense for a four-year-old to do. Homework is something that comes with responsibility and discipline and supplementing lessons that are difficult to grasp during class time. And while there will come a time when it is appropriate for him to learn those things, I’m comfortable with my child not being there yet.
Yes, I can wrestle him away from whatever he’s doing, and I can force him to focus on something he’s not interested in so that he can get a cheap plastic toy. But here’s what that won’t do. It won’t teach him the joy of learning, it won’t expand his horizons or widen his skill set. It will teach him that school is boring and about doing things you don’t want to do to get shallow rewards. I guess I’m not very comfortable with that either.
I appreciate that you are a public school teacher and are required to give homework as part of your job (even to preschoolers). I just don’t see why we have to be required to do it. He’s been learning a lot in your class. He’s been learning to get along with other kids, he’s been learning his numbers and letters and playing really cool games that make him think. I very much respect what you have offered him during your time with him each day. I just ask that you have that same respect for the time I have with him. I don’t want him to do homework. I want him to do just what he is doing now, which is exploring his world, just like a kid should. So we’ll be forgoing the prize. I don’t believe he should be rewarded for something he didn’t do, but maybe next time you plan to give my child a prize for something I don’t agree with, you could give me a little heads up.