Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer homework

I've noticed a trend in schools: assigning homework over the summer. Mostly this means tracking reading, journaling, summer reading lists.

I don't ever remember getting summer homework in school, so I'm not sure when this trend started. But I find it irritating.

I understand that the schools want kids to read over the summer. They are trying to prevent skill loss. That also seems to be the motivator behind so many 'balanced calendar' and year round schools, and the shortening of summer break.

But I contend that making reading homework can actually be counterproductive. Because reading, something that should be enjoyable, is becoming a chore. Homework is work.

Last year, we had to track reading minutes for both boys. The schools tracked reading minutes, with classroom goals. Some days, the boys wanted to play or draw or do something creative. And we had to make them stop so they could get their reading minutes.

For 1st grade, the teacher set a goal of 200 minutes per week. That's about 30 minutes every day. Not so bad. Except if even one day had 0 minutes it was pretty difficult to hit that goal. Which can be hard on a 6 year old.

(Oh yeah, these goals are for 5 and 6 year olds. Who aren't so good at tracking this stuff, meaning mom and dad are keeping track.)

Now, some days they were really into reading, especially with the right book. On those days, they would read for an hour or more. But other days they just weren't in the mood. And making them read made them dislike it.

This summer, I haven't used the charts to track reading minutes or books read. Looking at them, we maybe haven't hit the goals for each day, but have my boys been reading? Yes. Yes, they have.

Reading a Spongebob comic--on vacation!
They discovered a love of Spongebob and Angry Birds comics. They giggle at Shel Silverstein poems. They are in the midst of listening to Daddy read The Hobbit to them. And they are enthralled, waiting for the next chapter each night. They enjoy listening to audio books in the car, usually following along in the physical book. They discovered Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I find Dr. Seuss books strewn across their bedroom floor after hearing them laugh their way through Hop on PopThe Cat in the Hat; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; or Green Eggs and Ham.

Is it more important that they learn to love reading, learn to enjoy reading, or that they read a certain number of books for a certain number of minutes?

Now, there are kids who love the challenge of summer reading programs. And that's great. But I question the wisdom of making reading homework that has to be tracked, at least for new readers. Because I want my boys to want to read, not be forced to read.


  1. I agree that summer reading assignments are annoying, and I'll go a step further: I think they're total BS. Kids *need* free-form play and learning, just like adults need vacation. (Though we seem to be in denial on both counts in the U.S.) Summer should be officially outside teachers' jurisdiction.

    1. I really do understand the schools' motivation. But I agree, kids need time off. Play is just as important as learning to read. And there are studies showing that year round school doesn't really improve test scores (don't get me started on that!) or knowledge retention, at least not appreciably, but that family time and play time is more important.

      And honestly, at least at this age, I'm the one being assigned homework because I have to help keep track of it! I have my own homework during the school year, thank you very much. I don't need grade school homework too!


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