Thursday, February 14, 2013

No homework, no cry

I am a child of that time where the definition of being "intelligent" was only limited to whether you can do mental Math or you can spell "floccinaucinihilipilification" without batting an eyelash. Never mind if you're good at music, sports, arts or what-have-you, back in the 80s it just didn't fit the bill. My parents jumped on to the bandwagon and set a study routine for me - on my first year in school. I still remember this pink cartolina posted on the bedroom wall where my schedules from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon were written. I was only allowed two hours of play on weekday and no TV except on weekends. I was scared of the punishment so I never tried disobeying my folks. The schedule was also imposed on my younger brother three years later but they didn't have much success with him.

Image from Photobucket
I have long "forgiven" Mom and Dad for making me their guinea pig and actually thanked them for developing my study habits. Had it not been for their training I would not be the achiever that I was in elementary and high school. Sadly, when I went to college, I got burned out and wanted to take a breather. I wanted to be free from all the schedules. I was not the best student at the time where it should have mattered most. Think of how I had to explain my less than stellar performance at every job interview that required me to submit my transcript after I graduated!
Fast forward to 2009 when I became a mother. I promised myself that I will take a different approach once my daughter would start school - thanks to my more than five years experience working for a foreign-funded education project. :) When I started chugging learning theories and approaches from the teachers we work with, I realized there could have been other ways for Mom and Dad to encourage me to excel in school. Surely, the sight of Daddy's leather belt hanging from a chair every night I study was hardly encouraging!
This is why I don't let my three-year old do her homework.
Okay, before you start typing your comments why you think I'm a bad Mama below, let me explain first. You see my daughter is still in nursery. Leia started late in school because I wanted to wait until her third birthday last August then I asked her if she wants to go to school like her diaper friend Dylan. I believe it was the right time when she said yes sans any hesitation. Imagine my shock when I was handed her books and work books  after I enrolled her in Montessori! Sure she cried the first two days but after that she was the one telling me to leave the classroom because mommies are not allowed inside. Waking her up every morning is an art I am still trying to perfect but she refuses to be absent. When classes were suspended last month due to bad weather, I had to explain why it was not safe for kids to go to school. She cried. When I would want to cuddle her on cold mornings and ask her to just stay home and love-love Mama, she would tell me she will have to go to school and be back afterwards then we can play. I think this is emotional intelligence sprouting!
For me, this is the stage where formal learning is slowly introduced to her and I have to make her feel un-threatened. I want her to see school as a place to discover things along with other kids, not where your brains are pitted against each other and see who's best. I want my heiress to develop a love for learning because it's fun, not because Mama will get mad if she'll do otherwise. I want her to have a thirst for knowledge not to be ahead of everyone else but for the sheer joy of it. I'm actually thankful that schools nowadays discourage competition inside the classroom.
Two of Leia's assessments :)
I still open her notebook and take note of her assignments. I would ask her if she wants to do this or that and if she's up for it then homework gets done. If not, then I make a mental note what to have her do the next time she's feeling Einstein. I spoke to her teacher and explained why Leia does not have a perfect record of assignments. It's better that nothing is done than to have other people do it for her and she learns nothing because that's cheating. She smiled and assured me it's fine. But I use other forms of teaching her like patiently answering her questions or asking her questions out of the blue - babe, what color is that,  how many are there, what is this and that. Maybe I'll take a more proactive approach when she's in kindergarten in preparation for first grade.
For now, Leia and Mama will take learning one step at a time. No rush, no schedules, no pressure. She will discover learning and I will discover her strengths and weaknesses and guide her all the way within bounds. I will be sensitive to her needs and encourage her until she develops confidence in her skills. But I will never do her assignments for her. 
And no, I will never ever have a belt hanging on a chair. :)



  1. I couldn't agree more:-) Doing the same with my Mikko boy - in fact whenever there's simple activity that needs to be done a home he's the one forcing me to help him do it; I'm a lazy sometimes. Hehehe... I am very glad also that I enrolled him in a progressive school where kids are not pressured to know something by memorizing things. He loves school so much that I need to come up with a very convincing reason why there's no class during summer. Hehehe... Flordy

  2. I have two younger brothers - one a highschool freshie and the other in third grade. I pity them when I see the loads of schoolwork they have to finish. The older one of the two even has days when classes start at 630am and end at 530pm. When they come home they're like zombies already... WTH happened to the educational system in our country? :(

  3. Hi Flords,

    Somehow I just know you'll be one of those reading this post and I thank you for doing so. I'm always encouraged when I see your photos with and updates on Mikko. God bless you and your little man!

  4. Hi Cham,

    Thanks for dropping by - you captured the essence by saying that your siblings already look like zombies when they get home from school. It's a pity that students learn less and less because schools now create a very stressful environment. Quality is definitely not synonymous to tons of school work and more than 10 hours is school!