When I started shopping around for a day care for my oldest child, I ticked off all the questions on my list, but it never occurred to me to ask: Are you going to be assigning my 2-year-old homework?
When I started looking for a day care as a freaked-out new mom, I was most concerned about cost and safety. Because of the many day care horror stories in the news, I wanted to make sure my kids were left with a caring, attentive provider for half their day. Check. And because day care can cost more than a mortgage in most states, I wanted to know I was getting the best value in my area. Check, check.
Fast forward two years later, and now I have both of my toddlers in the same day care program. The teachers are kind, my kids are fed two hot meals a day, and we have never had a disciplinary complaint.
The day care also happens to be very educationally focused, which any parent would agree is a wonderful thing. My kids have already started to learn all their shapes and numbers several years before preschool — and they're bringing what they've learned home with them.
Homework at our specific day care facility begins right at the cusp of toddlerhood (read: as soon as a child can walk and hold a crayon), and is intended to encourage family participation.
It's hard to criticize a day care that wants to enrich your children at a young age, but I'm going to take a leap and do it anyway.
While the intention is good, and even noble, my husband and I soon realized we were spending 99 percent of homework time cutting, pasting, printing off the computer and coloring since our kids don't even know how to use scissors yet. Sunday night rolls around, and we are not only changing dirty diapers and trying to get the kids to bed, but we're grumbling under our breath because we forgot that two worksheets were due Monday morning. I never dreamed I would be spending two to three nights a week completing worksheets, creating collages and doing holiday projects with both of my kids, far before they started kindergarten.
Family participation? Check. Parents who have gotten so frustrated that they have started doing their day care homework for their children? Check, check.
As an average working parent who is still struggling to strike that elusive work-life balance, I'm ready to run up the white flag. A 2015 study published in The American Journal of Family Therapy confirmed that young kids, as young as elementary school, are getting three times more homework than necessary. This homework overload is only expected to get worse by the time kids reach middle school and high school, taking its toll in the form of stress, sleep deprivation and resistance to learning. And Sydney University researchers point out that piling a large amount of homework on young children can actually be counterintuitive by compromising standardized test scores.
If I was looking for results, in a certain Tiger Mom-type fashion, I've got them in droves. Both of my kids continue to surprise me by what they have learned at day care each day: new words, numbers, letters, animals and conversation skills.
That's exactly why I haven't done anything more about this day care "problem" than complain about it on the Internet.
The providers are top-notch, and the day care is cheap. I don't want to ruffle any feathers by whining about how much they are asking of our very young children.
I can't thank my kids' day care enough for how much they have cared for and invested in my children.
Which means I'm stuck doing their homework because I'm just not ready for them to do it themselves, not when they have no less than 12 years of a homework-packed course load ahead of them.
It's not too much to ask to preserve my kids' last carefree (and homework-free) years as toddlers.
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