Yes, I made my gifted second grader do homework over Thanksgiving break

I sent my second grader back to school today after being home since last Tuesday afternoon. His Thanksgiving memories consist of turkey, dressing, lots of pumpkin pie, a visit from grandma and his second cousins, a trip to the Field Museum…and computer homework and piano practice.

It’s true. I made him do unassigned homework over Thanksgiving break. In total it was about two hours of work spread out over five days including the weekend. However, before the mean mom-shaming starts, before my comments section is filled with pleas of “let kids be kids” and “just let him play”, I have a few very good reasons why I made him serve some screen time.

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In any given week, his homework usually consists of one reading or math worksheet Monday through Thursday nights. There is also a list of spelling words he has to review in advance of Friday’s spelling test. He also has to complete homework for his gifted and talented program which most of the time is one worksheet for the week plus at least 30 minutes a week on a math computer program. In addition, he has to practice piano each night for at least 15 minutes. The workload really isn’t too bad and with the exception of the addition of the gifted and talented homework, it has remained the same since Kindergarten.

Am I happy he has been assigned homework since Kindergarten? Of course not but school has changed since I was a second grader over 30 years ago so it gets done.

It is not lost on me that I am extremely fortunate that my son’s homework is not a source of frustration for him. When he comes home from school each day, he inhales his snack the way that growing boys do, grabs his homework worksheet, and runs upstairs to his room. No more than 5 minutes later, I hear those same feet rushing back down, he tosses me the sheet and exclaims, “Done!” There are no tears, there is no hitting or growling. I simply check it over and put it in his take-home folder and we don’t have to think about it until the same time the next day. Sometimes he has a question or I have to make him redo something but not every day. So I knew having him get some work done would not ruin his vacation.

Last week my son’s first trimester report card came home. The only item he needs to work on is spending more time on his computer homework for his accelerated math class. The requirement is at least 30 minutes a week. When it comes to time spent on homework, those of you “Office Space” fans will appreciate the fact my son is a minimum-pieces-of-flair kind of guy. When I say 30 minutes, he gives me 30 minutes, nothing more. Well, I figured there was no time like the present to have him start two 30-minute sessions a week to get him up to 37 pieces of flair. Tuesday afternoon I had him work for 30 minutes and then again yesterday afternoon.

I know, I am so mean. Homework over break and on a Sunday afternoon. At least his work on Tuesday was done before his grandmother arrived.

As for piano, he has a recital coming up in less than three weeks. Aside from the fact that piano is an instrument that really needs daily practice, taking five days off so close to a recital could seriously jeopardize his performance. It doesn’t help that his teacher just gave him one of his two recital songs so he needs all the practice time he can get. You think I am mean now, just wait until the week before the recital. I usually have him double up on practice time to make sure he is ready.

At least I didn’t make him practice on Thanksgiving day. I am mean but not cruel.

One of the concerns I had once my son started getting placed into gifted and talented programs was that too much would be pushed down on him too soon. I started to see this last year in first grade when he was assigned homework for his accelerated reading program over spring break while the other first graders were told to have a nice vacation.

The fact of the matter is, while he is in second grade, in some instances he is completing third, fourth and even fifth grade work. In those grades there is more homework and yes, some of it is assigned over the weekend and during vacations. That is the reality of the level he is at.

I also believe if we lived in another country he would be spending far more time in school and on school work, especially for STEM. This article discusses how gifted students in the US and India spend their time and concluded that “Indian students spent about seven hours more per week than US students on academics generally, with significantly more time spent on STEM subjects…on the weekend, we found that US students in our study spent essentially no time on academics, whereas Indian students did.”¬†Also per the article, students in both countries got enough sleep and spent roughly the same time on after school activities and with family.

So maybe I am not so mean.

Let me be clear, the priority of Thanksgiving for my son was exactly that, Thanksgiving, the turkey and all that comes along with that, including time spent playing with grandma who flew nearly a thousand miles to be with us. After all that’s how it should be. And it was.

What do you think? Is homework over prolonged breaks necessary or are the kids better off leaving the books and computers alone?

The article quoted in this post was included in my gifted and talented article roundup from October which is here. The November roundup is also here.

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