A few weeks ago we wrapped up my oldest son's first-grade year. He gave his first research presentation (on Jackie Robinson), developed an obsession for studying (and handling) fish, tadpoles and frogs; started doing this crazy thing called "spiral math" and, at the end of the year, blew the hair off my head by begging that I buy a copy of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid", which he devoured in two days. We've come a really long way, baby.
That way was not the easiest, however. At all. First grade has become much more sophisticated than I remember. The work is multilayered and simultaneously engages different parts of the brain. Sometimes the approach is just plain foreign to us, making us feel ancient before out time. My husband continues to grumble about the fact that Jr. is still allowed to feel his way through his writing, scrawling out some words the way a 7-year-old imagines they should be spelled. I understand the approach to be one that allows each child to learn to spell according to his own wiring, but Aaron thinks memorization lists worked just fine in our day. This comes from a man who can memorize lists with ease, while I've never been able to hold onto someone else's verbatim thoughts.
Yesterday's New York Times featured an article stating that parent help (or interference) with homework has little positive effect on a student's grades. This struck an obvious nerve with parents, as we live in a generation where helicopter-ing seems to have become engrained. Maybe it's because my parents are older (I'm the youngest in my family by 13 years) or because this was our first year of real homework, but hovering over Jr.'s math worksheets makes me uncomfortable. Over the past couple of years I've become keenly aware of my own learning processes, recognizing that the way I take in and interpret information has its own unique code. I feel pretty sure that, to some extent, the same is true for most people. At this stage in Jr.'s life, when a trained professional is guiding him through the development of that code, it would surely be confusing if I imposed my own when he brings work home that is meant to reinforce a subject or process that has already been learned in Jr.'s classroom. I try (*try*) to let him do the homework on his own, then show me and explain what he did afterward.
I'm curious, because this blog has thoughtful and intelligent readers (thank you all for that!), where do you stand on homework help (besides hating it--I know that many of you dread it!)? I'd love to hear some thoughts to keep in my back pocket as we get deeper into this in second grade.