I realized that my daughter's kindergarten was going to be much different than her preschool long before I put her on the bus that first day. Gone were the quaint little emails from her teacher outlining the few required supplies and hopes for a "super fun year." Instead, I bought a $50 prepacked supply box online and attended at least four introductory events. Gone was the amazing student-teacher ratio (last year, it was one teacher for every six kids). In kindergarten, she'd share one teacher with 20 other students.
I was grateful that the insanely short school day, just long enough to run to the grocery and maybe grab a coffee before pickup time, was gone. But I missed how, in preschool, academic life ended the minute the kids were released from the classroom. Once that three-hour day was done, neither of us had any school-related responsibilities beyond me going through her cute little canvas bag to decide whether that day's crafts were going in the "keep" or "covertly toss while she's sleeping" piles. Kindergarten is a lot more work — for both of us.
The differences start with the schedule. I now wake up my daughter at 6:30 a.m. every morning so she can make her 7:27 a.m. bus pickup time. She's delivered back to me seven hours later, an unthinkable span that somehow still seems way too short some days (I blame her 2-year-old brother). I get emails constantly, from PTO, the school board, the school district, and her teacher (who must have been a saint in a previous life because she's been happily teaching for 30 years), all of which are usually asking something from me, either directly or indirectly.
My daughter still brings home the occasional craft, but mostly her take-home mail folder is stocked with completed worksheets . . . number worksheets, spelling worksheets, worksheets teaching her about the days of the week, the seasons, and weather in general. Sh*t has gotten serious.
Nowhere is that more obvious than the second folder she brings home each day: the homework folder. I kind of thought it was a joke at first. Like, wink, wink, let's let the kindergartners feel big, like real students. I was wrong. She has legitimate homework, and she's 5. Am I the only one who feels slightly weird about that?
Her teacher explained to us that she would only send homework designed to reinforce concepts that had already been presented during the normal school day. As parents, we wouldn't be responsible for introducing anything new, just helping our kids practice things they had ostensibly already learned. I appreciate that, mostly because even getting my daughter to fill out the simplest worksheet is a battle once she's home.
After her long school day (full-day kindergarten is mandatory in our district), she wants to do the following things: eat 10,000 snacks, play with her dolls and/or iPad, change into the booty shorts I won't let her wear to school, and order me and her little brother around. What she does not want to do: listen when I tell her she needs to do just one more thing for school.
I asked her what she thinks about homework, and she had the following response: "I don't like it." Why? I probed. "I don't know, and I don't want to talk about it anymore, OK, Mom?" I had to agree with her assessment. There's nothing inherently wrong with sending home a few practice sheets (though on the weekends, it's often more than a few) to ensure she's grasping the new concepts she's learning daily, but something about it feels icky to both of us. She's still a little kid, but it's like she has almost zero time to act like one.
Still, the decision of whether to force her to do her homework isn't an easy one. Do I let it slide, sending back unfinished sheets with a note saying, "She was too tired"? My inner people-pleaser and former honor-roll student rejects that notion. Plus, I don't want to teach her that following her teacher's instructions is optional. That seems like a bad long-term strategy for both of our lives.
For now, we've settled into a routine of doing what I would describe as half-assed homework. She does the bare minimum to look like she tried, and I'm satisfied with that. Hopefully her teacher is, too. I mean, she's 5, and homework, even now, is hard.