Homework for preschoolers… what is your response to this practice? Well, let me first clarify what kind of homework I am referring to. It’s the kind that requires a child to copy numerous pages of alphabets or words. And if the child is learning mandarin, it would be copying pages of chinese characters. With regards to this controversial issue, there seems to be 3 kinds of parents:
- Parents that laugh at the idea of preschool homework. They say it is absurd and unnecessary. Repetitive writing doesn’t do them any good. Children at this age should play because that is how they learn. Homework takes out the fun in learning.
- Parents that say it is necessary. How else are parent’s going to know what their children are learning in preschool. Revision and practice is a must, even if it’s boring,. Plus it gives children an opportunity to learn discipline. They need it if they are going to be ready for “real” school.
- Parents that are 50/50. They totally agree that playing is important. But they also agree that homework has some benefits too. Problem is they are confused:
- Learning should be fun. Homework is not fun. It will kill my child’s enthusiasm to learn.
- But homework must serve some good. If not why haven’t they thrown out that idea.
- If I don’t bother with the homework, it’s still OK as there are other ways to learn. But if I don’t bother with the homework, she won’t learn discipline. And later when she goes to ‘real’ school, she will also slack in her homework assignments.
So, which am I? The one that spells C-O-N-F-U-S-I-O-N.
The following is a typical roller coaster I go through. I’m sure many parents are familiar with the following process:
Reminder: “Have you done your homework yet?”
Direct order: “Do your homework now!”
Supervision: “Stop playing around and focus on your homework.”
Attempt to encourage:”Come on, you can do this. Just get it over with then you can go play”
Frustration:”You are not done yet?”
Threatenings:”Finish your homework or else ….”
Resignation:”Aiyah, you want to do or don’t want to do, it’s up to you. I give up.”
So much unnecessary stress and tension. There has to be a better way to handle this homework battle.
After much reading and thinking, I’ve come up with 6 things that will help release the tension:
- I chose the preschool. By doing so means I indirectly agree to their ideas and ways. So if there is homework to be done, do it. No point going to the teacher to debate on whether such homework is of value and blaming them for your high blood pressure and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome. If you don’t want the headache of homework, look for a preschool that will grant you that wish.
- Communicate with the teacher. Find out how they deal with unfinished homework. Are they the monsters that we make them out to be? The ones that hold a rotan in one hand and fiery criticism spewing out from their mouths? Or do they allow the child to work at their own pace?
- Don’t focus on the negative. Ignore the crooked, mangled looking writing. Instead praise the decent looking ones. More important is the effort they put in and not the outcome of that effort. Praise often to make homework a pleasant experience.
- Do other activities that give meaning to their homework. Reading aloud to them everyday will teach them that the letters and words they write can make beautiful stories. Find all the “a” words in that story. Sing songs like “Ant on the Apple”. Use playdough to create that alphabet. Be creative. There are tons of ideas from books and the internet to help you. If you have no ideas, refer back to the teacher. Make their homework a blend of exciting activities and not a stand alone boring chore.
Talk with your child. Find out how they feel towards homework. What is the problem? Sometimes all they need is to be heard. Don’t brush off or put down their feelings. Find a solution together. This is what I do with my daughter Karina:
Mom: What time are you going to finish your homework?
Karina: After dinner. I’m tired now.
Mom: Ok. What can Mommy do if Karina doesn’t do it then?
Karina: I will sit time out until I decide to finish it.
Mom: Sounds good. Do you need help with your homework?
Karina: No. I can do it myself.
Mom: That’s great. Let’s write down what we just discussed. Anything you want to add?
Karina: Yes. I get ice-cream once I finish my homework.
Notice there is no yelling. Her feelings and ideas are respected and she takes responsibility for her actions. I especially like the idea of making an agreement. When promises are put in writing and the child has to put their signature to it, there is added weight to the promise. The child feels valued when she see her words are important enough to be written down.
- Be close by. Assure them you are available when help is needed. Let them know they are not alone to tackle tough assignments. Don’t take it for granted that what looks easy to you may be tough for them.
So my conclusion about preschool homework… why have a cow over it? If it’s boring, let’s make it a pleasant kind of boring. It takes effort to figure out how to do that. And then it takes more effort to fight that nagging desire to play dictator. But with a plan in hand and some digging into our bag of tricks, it can be done. Yes, preschool homework can be stress free. Decide today and go for it.