I’ve wanted to write for quite some time. Needed to write. It’s an urge that builds for me, until I find myself crafting paragraphs in my mind at stop lights. I forget them immediately, of course. Which is why this post is likely to be about nothing at all.
The start of school this year has been rough. Charlie is in first grade after repeating kindergarten. Emma is in kindergarten. Liam is in pre-K. Nothing has gone exceptionally smoothly — but perhaps that’s because I’ve had to face the reality of parenting: these kids are here to stay. School is here to stay. Water bottles, healthy snacks, lunch money… all here to stay.
But beyond the mundane, I’ve worried most about one issue: HOMEWORK. Charlie has often gotten a pass on homework simply because he is physically too tired by the end of the day. Low muscle tone tags along with a Down syndrome diagnosis, and that means his little body has to work extra hard to do what a typically developing kid does every day.
But Emma is a typically developing kid. She’s sharp. She can keep up.
Yet, tonight was the first night Emma didn’t devolve into tears while doing her homework, and it’s because I didn’t force her to do it all. I let her bop around the house a bit, then sit and refocus. I let her draw pictures beyond what the directions required. I let her quit when she wanted to quit.
SHE IS IN KINDERGARTEN. In my day, we went for half a day and even that included quiet time on a mat. I barely remember picking up a pencil in kindergarten, much less reciting sight words and “rainbow writing.” The level of expectation on our kids today feels unreasonable and stressful. I dare someone to find me research that says success in life is predicated on whether you knew 127 sight words by the third quarter of kindergarten.
It’s just too much. Is it because we as a society want too much from the next generation? Are we so disgusted with how WE turned out, we’re projecting our perceived failures onto their reading logs? I don’t get it, but it’s something I won’t ignore. Kids need to be kids. They need to run and play after a long day at school. Sometimes they need to veg in front of the TV or read a book they’ve chosen, not one we’re pushing on them. We ask these tiny bodies and developing minds to march into school, follow the rules and work, work, work — then go home and work some more?
Enough. There’s got to be a better way.