This is the box that contained the pizza we had for dinner tonight.
Those holes and that big gash in the box?
That is the result of a homework meltdown tonight.
It’s not the first meltdown we’ve had here.
It’s not the second.
It’s not the third.
Between my second, third, and fourth grader, it’s conservatively the twentieth homework freak out of the school year.
Today was our 31st day of school.
Three of those thirty-one days were the first three days of school. There wasn’t any homework on those days.
So that brings us down to twenty-eight days of school.
Of those twenty-eight days, five were Fridays. There is no homework on Fridays.
One Friday we had no school. So there was no homework that Thursday.
So that’s five Fridays and one Thursday without homework.
That brings the total down to twenty-two days of school where homework came home.
We have had homework meltdowns on twenty out of the twenty-two days that homework has been assigned.
That’s 91% of the nights there has been homework.
Statistically speaking, 91% of my afternoon and evenings will include an episode of crying.
I’m not talking about a few tears.
I’m talking about hysterical crying/rage inducing/pizza box demolishing fucking freakouts.
Episodes that take anywhere from thirty to sixty minutes of our afternoon and/or evening.
They are frustrating, they are exhausting, and they not fun.
For any of us.
It’s not always the same kid having the meltdown. So this is not specific to one grade or one class.
And I know that having three kids at that age increases the frequency that I’ll have to deal with them.
But 91% is a lot.
Before I go any further, let me make a couple things very clear.
I love all the kids’ teachers this year.
I do not believe this is the teachers’ fault. I do not believe it is originating from them.
Also, I have my masters in elementary education, and I was an elementary school teacher for ten years until I got married and had kids. I taught fourth grade — the same grade Number 5 is in right now — for six years in Wilton, CT, which is one of the best school districts in the state. Like consistently in the top 10.
I know what it’s like to teach in a super competitive (and wealthy) district where the expectations for both students and teachers are very, very high.
I have some experience in this department.
At the risk of sounding like a jerk, my kids are pretty smart.
They have limited screen time, they have responsibilities at home, they are (usually) well-mannered, they are kind, and their teachers would tell you that they are good kids.
At least most of the time.
My point is that my kids are not poor students. They have support at home. They have early bedtimes, get plenty of sleep, eat well, are physically active and super healthy, and are the kind of kids most teachers want to have in their classrooms.
And they are very often struggling with their homework.
Math homework in particular.
I can only imagine what a kid who really struggles in school is going through with the homework.
And I can only imagine what a kid who has a less than ideal home life goes through.
The homework that is coming home is too hard.
IT IS TOO HARD.
I am not a fan of homework to begin with.
That’s no secret.
And when the kids were in kindergarten and first grade, I told their teachers that if any homework came home, I was not going to force my kids to do it.
And I didn’t.
I am not opposed to having the kids do something when they come home so that they get used to the concept of homework.
I’d love to sit down and read every night with my kids. Separately. For enjoyment.
How nice it would be to sit down with each kid for fifteen minutes and simply read.
But that does not happen on meltdown nights.
Because once we enter meltdown mode, the party is over.
I know the teachers tell all us parents that if your kid is stuck on something let it go after ten minutes.
But after a long day at school, after a day at school where the demands placed on the kids are WAY TOO HIGH ALREADY, it doesn’t take ten minutes of frustration to get to a Level 10 Freakout.
It takes about one.
And once you are going down that road, there is no coming back for quite some time.
This is not about the “new math” or Common Core or whatever it’s called now.
I was a teacher when the new math was just starting. I understand why and how it is taught.
In fact, I got filleted a couple times myself by parents who had no understanding of why math was being taught the way it was. I was a fan then.
I’m a fan now.
I have even come around with Common Core.
But what I am not on board with is the pace at which this stuff is being forced — yes, forced — on the kids.
It is too much.
And when my kids get home from school they are shot.
And I know all the things I need to do to help them.
They have nice, clear, uncluttered places to work.
They come home and eat before they do anything, because they are usually famished upon walking in the door.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they have no activities after school.
Number 5 and 7 have swim practice three times a week. That’s it.
Number 6 is doing cub scouts. That meets two-three times per month.
They are not over scheduled.
I give them time to just chill out before the h-word is even mentioned. They do not use electronics on weeknights at home. I encourage them to unwind and blow off some steam and decompress for as long as they need to before they think about anything else.
And then I clench my teeth and brace myself for the meltdown.
Because chances are one is coming.
And so do you know what I do when the meltdown comes?
I DO THEIR HOMEWORK FOR THEM.
I give them the answers and I sometimes I even write them down myself.
Which totally defeats the purpose of the homework anyway.
But telling them that it’s okay for them to not know what to do, and that their teacher will understand and that she (or he) wants to know what students are struggling with so they can help them only leads to one thing.
My kids have four hours from the time they get off the bus until the time they go to bed.
That’s their down time. Their recharge time. Their fun time.
I refuse to fill any of it with unnecessary meltdowns and freak outs and stress and hysterics.
I’m not going to do it any more.
I do not know how to make change in our public school systems.
Other than, at this point, to make it clear that the expectations placed on the kids are way too high.
The pace and the focus of what is important in elementary school is way off.
It’s too much.
I love my kids’ teachers.
My kids love their teachers.
But my elementary schoolers also tell me every day that they don’t want to go to school the next day.
All three of them.
Every. Single. Day.
This is not what a seven, eight, and nine-year-old should be feeling 182 days a year.
I get that kids have to do stuff they don’t want to do. That life isn’t one big party. That you have to learn to do the stuff you don’t like so you can do the stuff you do like.
But the balance is out of whack.
When you are beating the shit out of your dinner in response to homework stress, then something has to change.
I want to reiterate that I do not believe this is not coming from the teachers.
We have put teachers in nearly impossible positions. Catch-22’s. Between a rock and a hard place.
This problem is coming from the administration, the school boards, and ultimately,
We have somehow gotten to this place where testing and test scores are the most important measures of success for our kids.
No matter what the cost.
And I’m not okay with it.
I may just be one person, but that’s a start.
What am I going to do?
I honestly don’t know.
But one thing I do know is that a kid’s time is just as valuable as an adult’s.
And just as I don’t think any adult should tolerate a job that pushes them to the point of tears on a regular basis,
parents shouldn’t tolerate that for their kids, either.
And I’m not going to do it anymore.