This post comes to us from early childhood writer/speaker/wise woman Heather Shumaker, author of It’s OK Not to Share. Tomorrow her new book comes out: It’s OK to Go Up the Slide , which includes Free-Rangey chapters like Safety Second, It’s OK to Talk to Strangers, and Ban Elementary Homework. It even offers sample scripts and ideas for how to opt out of the homework-heavy culture, along with her renegade views on technology, kindergarten, princesses and more. Her books, blog and podcast are at: www.heathershumaker.com.
What I appreciate so much about Heather is how she sees that the more we parents are expected and required to do for our kids, the less they see that we trust and believe in them. Resist that culture and everyone gets more freedom and respect. - L.
Sign your kid’s homework? Forget it! by Heather Shumaker
“You have to sign my spelling list.”
I looked at my first-grade son blankly. A parent signature for spelling words? I peered at the prominent blank line. This tiny act collided with everything I believed about supporting a child’s learning.
Before this, I’d never heard of parents signing anything except field trip permission slips and report cards. Welcome to the new world of jailer time for parents and kids.
Requiring a parent signature on homework papers – anything from reading logs, spelling, daily planners and online portals to music practice sheets – sends a clear message to kids: We don’t trust you. We don’t trust you really did the work. We don’t trust you care about your own learning. What’s more: Your parent is your Homework Patrol Cop.
The signature mindset sets up this relationship: “It’s my parents’ job to see I do my work.” You can see where this goes. The child slides into the role of Chief Grumbler, a kid who learns not to start assignments until she has been thoroughly nagged. The parent becomes the Homework Patrol Cop, and likely stays that way until the child is through high school.
This is a role I knew I never wanted to start. Our family supports learning but bans homework for kids in the elementary school years. When kids are old enough to get homework, they are old enough to handle it themselves and take charge of their learning.
If parent signatures bother you, try explaining your concerns to the teacher. This got our family out of signatures successfully for many years. “We’re involved. Trust us. We’ll read his daily planner. Signing it goes against the values of responsibility we’re trying to instill in our family.” Some teachers even stop insisting on signatures for the whole class when one family speaks up. If schools insist on a signature, suggest the right one. The child should be the one who signs her own reading log, not the adult.
Watch out, though. The punishment for a parent not signing papers might be that the child has to miss recess. Kids know enough to say “that’s not fair!” but it may take longer for adults to see the logic.
Whether it’s “sign here” lines or other issues like recess policies or homework in kindergarten (yes, and even homework given in Extended Day after-school care!), decide what kind of relationships you want. If you don’t want to become Homework Patrol Cop, don’t sign up for the job.