Tip #559: Let’s Call Homework Something Else

“There are overtones and undertones to a word, and lateral echoes, too.” Knut Hamsun

I made an interesting and unhappy observation this weekend. My two little granddaughters stayed with me and that meant we had to work together on their homework.

When I asked the kindergartner about her homework, she groused and complained, saying that she hated homework. That really surprised me. Where did a kindergartner get that attitude?

(Later, when I worked with her second grader sister, I discovered that she had the same negative attitude about homework. Since the little one copies everything her older sister does, copying her attitude about homework was a foregone conclusion.)

So, what was this terrible homework? She had to read 12 short words (I, we, and, play, etc.), then cut them out and make one sentence. She also had to look through the house to find geometric shapes and either draw them or take pictures. To me, it sounded like a lot of fun.

I told the kindergartner that I loved this kind of homework. After she read the words and grudgingly cut them out, I told her that we would really surprise her teacher if she came up with more than one sentence. I teased her, asking “How about three sentences?” “How about 10 sentences?” She ultimately decided that she wanted to create 20 sentences- and, by golly, she did, with great imagination and pride!

Then we walked around my living and dining rooms, where she found lots of different geometric shapes (an oval leaf, book bindings that were rectangles, a round dream catcher with triangle and diamond threads crossed inside of it, a leaf pattern on the couch that looked like a triangle, and many more.) Again, I appealed to her competitive side by asking her to find as many shapes as possible! I took photos of each, we printed them out, and she labeled the shapes in each picture.

So, we made it fun and she enjoyed it. I’m hoping that she will turn any homework she gets in the future into something fun. I also tried to explain to her that it was wiser not to have a negative attitude about homework, because that made it so much more difficult, and then it would also take longer to do.

I do know that the term “homework” can be problematic. Perhaps it is the word “work” in “homework, which connotes difficult tasks. As the kindergartner solemnly told me, she didn’t want to grow up and become an adult, because then she would have to work.

A wise trainer, Sharon Bowman, taught me years ago that “homework” has a negative connotation for adults. For this reason, she calls any outside-class assignment that she gives to participants “home practice,” and I have followed suit in my own classes. Perhaps it would be useful if elementary and secondary schools called it home practice as well.

May your learning be sweet.


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