Year-End Project

By Kelly

The state of Minnesota apparently took an Instant Summer pill today. It’s so beautiful outside, it hurts. (Or maybe that’s just the 97-degree sunshine hitting my arms.) The kids in our neighborhood are riding bikes, shouting greetings, begging for another popsicle. According to one little girl, her whole body is boiling! As if we live on the sun or in Houston or something.

But my daughter, my seven-year-old who loves to draw with sidewalk chalk and pet the dogs and ride her bike to the pond on the corner, isn’t outside. Rather, she’s restricted to the kitchen table this fine afternoon, working on a year-end project assigned by her second grade teacher.

Lest I be misunderstood, let me say up front: I revere teachers. I taught high school for a year and a half – a media class, which isn’t even a real subject – and every morning, I woke up and prayed for the flu. It was that miserable. Teaching is a calling, a gift, a ministry. I’m in awe that there are people who love this job and love my kids and pass on knowledge with creativity and wit and patience.

But the homework. Oy. The homework. And in the spring, no less.

This is new territory for me, since Natalie is my oldest. I’m still a guppy in the school of school. But I’ve heard the grumbling about homework for years. What does it really accomplish? Isn’t it just busy work? Wouldn’t it be better for kids to have that time for their family? What happens when projects are assigned that are clearly beyond the ability of the child to handle?

And then, the biggest irritant of all – the year-end project. Seems teachers just can’t resist assigning one last, comprehensive project a mere feet before the student cross the finish line – and that project is almost always something that involves the whole family.

It’s like those college professors who pile on the paperwork near the end of the semester, right before finals, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they aren’t the only professor in the world.

Doubling the pain for us in the Upper Midwest is that, by the middle of May, it’s finally nice enough for the kids to play outside. I don’t mind gigantic projects in January, when there is nothing else to do but watch the snow fall and the thermometer break. But when it’s 85 and sunny and the lilacs are blooming and the gardens are being planted? Homework seems downright malicious.

But what can a guppy parent do? Nothing, I think.

So tonight, we’ll eat ice cream indoors, while we fill her covered wagon with things a typical pioneer family might have taken on their trip out west. (I’m not sure the Ingalls’ horses were as glittery or as purple as the Polly Pocket horse pulling our wagon. Clearly, our wagon is headed for Vegas.) (Come to think of it, Natalie did add a small deck of cards a few minutes ago. Double-down, Pa. Double-down.)

Then we’ll pack it carefully for the trip to school tomorrow and turn it in with a flourish.

Because nothing says Instant Summer like no homework for three months. Hallelujah and amen.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well — once she’s done with her homework, of course.

10 Responses to Year-End Project
  1. Liz
    May 20, 2009 | 8:52 am

    I know this blog was about homework, and I could go on and on about that, but what I really have to say is this: You live in Minnesota?!!? I grew up in Minnesota! I LOVE Minnesota!! Say hello to Minnesota for me, will you? I miss it. (I grew up in the little town of Excelsior, west of Minneapolis)

  2. The Gang's All Here!
    May 20, 2009 | 11:05 am

    I’m so fed up with the homework load assigned to our children. All four of my school-aged kids are high achievers academically and it feels like they are being punished for it by MORE homework than the “average” leveled classes of some of their peers. So much so that we are taking the older two boys home for a year of on-line homeschooling. Yippee, in the fall, I might actually see MORE than the back of my sons’ heads on a daily basis. And they’ll have time to be kids after school – imagine that.

  3. Mocha with Linda
    May 20, 2009 | 2:15 pm

    Three months without homework?

    Oh friend, just wait until middle school and high school when they have a summer reading assignment and a paper(s) on it due the first day of school. Don’t EVEN get me started.

  4. Happy Geek
    May 20, 2009 | 4:39 pm

    As a former teacher (6 years) I really really don’t get homework.
    It’s supposed to be extended practice. Not a new concept to learn at home, and definitely not a big project that the parent ends up doing most of the work for. But when I choose not to give my second graders a big home assignment there were many parents angry at me for “cheating” their child out of extra learning. Seriously. Because filling a wagon with pioneer stuff will guarantee Ivy league acceptance. (I also taught High school where I used sarcasm as a discipline tool.)

    We are looking at school choices for our oldest and limited homework is an important part of our decision.

  5. Kellyn
    May 20, 2009 | 10:45 pm

    Hunter has had a year end project each year since 2nd grade, and it drives me nuts. Mix in Track and Field day, and the poor kid is all confused. I know that Boo will have them soon, and I dread the day. Not fun especially in the Spring.

    With the warm weather that we finally have, what kid wants to be inside, let alone focusing on something other than playing in this 90 degree weather.

  6. Louise
    May 22, 2009 | 9:52 am

    The school where my mother teaches doesn’t get out until the end of June.

    June is the Only Nice Month in the entire year in that part of the world.

    School officials either have never been children or have never had them. They have certainly never taught them.

  7. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)
    May 24, 2009 | 1:48 am

    I am dreading homework! My girls are only 4 and 19 months, so I still have a few good years.

    My mother still complains to this day about being a mother of kids with too many school projects!!! She is 68 years old and she still hasn’t gotten over how much it messed with her life.


  8. Amanda
    May 29, 2009 | 10:46 am

    I teach second grade, they are actually at library right now. I gave my last homework assignment last night. I think homework is important for extended learning. Mind you, I only assign homework if we covered it in school. I don’t like to assign big projects toward the end of the year because they don’t put much of any effort into anything around this time.

    Mocha with Linda is right… wait until highschool. Even with the big Senior Project! That’s life ~ that’s school. There will be homework. Teachers need to see if the student master the concept by assessing them to see if they could do it independently.
    They will have 3 months to forget it all anyway… *sigh*

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