Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What I Did Over My Summer Vacation: Homework!

The seventh grade math/science teacher sent home packets with the kids yesterday. Each packet consisted of a bunch of "help" pages and 27 math assignments (each one is both sides of a piece of paper, plus a "show your work" page). And an answer key. Mark, being Mark, was fuzzy on whether this homework is going to count for anything, or if it really needs to be passed in, or really *any* helpful details.

The seventh grade language arts teacher sent them home with a reading assignment. (just "read a book you haven't read before"...gee, with the seventh Harry Potter coming out next month, THAT will be a hard one.)

I remember having summer reading assignments for English. A nice list of books that had to be read over the summer. (Man, I HATED Moby Dick. I'm going to re-read it soon to see if it sucked as bad as I remembered, or if it was just resentment from spending my week in New Hampshire having to slog through it.)

I understand the purpose of assigning these math lessons, and of course I understand and fully endorse pushing kids to read as much as possible (although it's not like I've EVER had to push either of my kids to read). There is such a backslide of progress over the 2 1/2 *months* the kids are out of school, as evidenced and reinforced by standardized test scores (don't get me started on the whole debate of those...but I am using them to back up my point here, so let's just keep going), with a marked decline in scores between spring of one grade level and fall of the next. A great deal of time is spent just getting the kids re-familiarized with work they've already done. While there's something to be said for the technique of hitting a subject over and over until it's pounded into our skulls (grin), it's frustrating for the teachers, and it's frustrating for the kids, who weren't thrilled the *first* time they had to go through it. Assigning work over the vacation to "keep it fresh" might have the desired effect of shortening the time required re-teaching the material.


IF kids spread it out over the summer, instead of either jamming it into the beginning to get it over with, and then ignoring it all summer, which effectively negates the entire purpose, or cramming it in just before school starts, in which case they'll start the school year already burnt out from homework overload, and probably with little-to-no retention of the work they've just done.

Now, since there are 72 days of summer vacation left, and 27 math assignments, if Mark does 2 or 3 of these lessons a week, he'll have it spread out nicely. (actually, about 1 assignment every 3 days)

Now doesn't that sound like a great school vacation? Doing math assignments every 3 days? I already know I am going to have a hell of a time convincing Mark that this is a good plan, to spread it out over the summer.

What will be even more of a thrill for him will be if he finds out before school starts that he's gotten into the pre-algebra program, which is under a different teacher. Who might not even want the homework packet.

I love learning. (yeah, I'm geeky that way.) But I'm also a huge believer in letting kids have some downtime. There's a lot of pressure on kids these days, between schoolwork and their other organized extracurriculars. Being in a rural area, everything needs to be driven to, also, which makes it all more complicated (ah, the days when I was growing up and everything was within walking or biking distance). Summer vacation is a time to escape all of that, to relax and enjoy just spending the days swimming or reading or sleeping in or hanging out. A time to recharge the mental batteries, and to just be a KID. To get used to all the body changes that are happening, and figure out what all this mess that is "growing up" sorts out to.

So, am I for or against this summer homework? Honestly, I don't know. Mark will do it, of course. I don't know exactly how it will schedule out, but it will get done.

But I'll be making darn sure my kid has lots of time to count the fireflies, too. mk


The Beast Mom said...

That's a hard one. I've been debating how much I need to keep helping Bryant stay fresh in his math skills. Math is very hard for him, so to go all summer with no practice could be bad for next year. But I agree, summer break is supposed to be a BREAK too. I NEVER did homework over summer break. If I took a fun hobby type of class, that was different. I sure would NOT have wanted actual school work. So what to do...


Anonymous said...

I know this blog is about 4 years old right now (8/5/2011) but I would like to share my 2 cents for future readers. I have 2 children who were behind (per the standardized tests, yes, I also have heartache with their accuracy) BUT, they were behind when they came to us from the other parent to live full time. I have observed them and yes, I agree they are behind. The oldest is starting 4th grade where many of the areas she is behind in will NOT be covered again, but assumed to have mastered. SO, I am the unpopular parent this summer, we do work every day - they use Summer Bridge Books, I print worksheets from online (there are TONS) and they read every day for an hour. As a kid I had no homework in the summers, or in school prior to 6th grade, but the world is different, my kids have different needs, and I am ok playing teacher over the summer.

markira said...

Anonymous: Bravo for stepping up and working with your children to try to get them back up where they are supposed to be! I admire that dedication greatly and applaud you for it.

But here's the difference between what you wrote and what I was writing about: -you- are 'playing teacher.' This is not school-assigned work that was given to EVERY child to complete over the summer, where the same work was given to those who do well and those who do poorly in school.

This summer my son was given a reading assignment complete with essay to complete before the first day of class. When he received his official class schedule, the teacher who assigned the work was no longer the one teaching the course. When he got to school, the new teacher didn't even have that book on her syllabus. So he spent hours writing an essay that was never graded.

Admittedly, this is uncommon, but it still speaks to my point: during the summer break, the kids are BETWEEN classes. They have not yet started the new class year. Is it fair that they be assigned work for it?

The world is different, yes, but kids are still kids. They have the rest of their lives to work year-round...I say if they are on summer vacation, let them -be- on vacation. mk