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The Hands-Off Approach

“Good news, Daddy. Homework!”

Thus did Simon announce the inaugural homework assignment of his academic career. We’ll see if the enthusiasm carries over to next year or, indeed, next week.

Mr. Sowder at Brandeis and Ms. Candy (the kindergarten teacher) at KIP have vastly different theories of homework. For Ms. Candy, homework is designed to reinforce class lessons, is to be completed with a parent, and should not be returned with errors in it. For Mr. Sowder, homework is designed to reinforce independent learning, is to be completed by the student with minimal assistance once the directions are read, and should be returned in whatever state the student gets to in the allotted time.

On paper, I agree with Mr. Sowder’s approach.* In real life, it’s proving to be more of a challenge than I expected. Like when Simon was cutting out boxes for his living or non-living science sorting? He totally left some sides of the squares uncut, creating lop-sided pieces. My eye twitched. But did I admonish him? I swallowed hard and did not. Or when he then pasted the squares into their respective larger squares, but did so willy-nilly instead of neatly lining them up. Did I correct him? My eye twitched, but I held it in. What about when he went to copy his planet words in ABC order and nearly skipped a line. Did I point that out? I nearly bit a hole in my lower lip, but no, no I did not.

Or how about the fact that the directions said to write “planet” words in ABC order based on the upper-case first letter, and I noticed that “moon” was included on the list when it is (a) not a planet; and (b) was written with a lower-case “m”. Did I make note of that? And when Simon wanted me to write that Pluto was a dwarf planet, did I let him do that?


We all have our limits; next week I’ll work harder at letting go. Baby steps, Jessica. Baby steps…

*Actually, on paper I think homework in kindergarten is ridiculous, especially after a 6 1/2-hour day. Finland seems to be nicely kicking on our collective tushies on every educational metric without having school at all until 7 and no homework until much later.

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