We’ve been tremendously lucky when it comes to homework with Elena. And when I say lucky, I mean that she rarely has more than 20-30 minutes worth a day. There’s even a day or two a week when she has no homework at all. For being in 6th grade advanced classes, that’s pretty amazing. So this post is absolutely not about us complaining about the homework situation in our family. But it is about making a decision to say no to homework every now and then.
Elena is in the school band, and as part of her class grade she is required to practice her instrument at home. She has a practice card she turns in weekly, signed by us, and the more she practices, the higher her grade. The other evening, she pulled out her alto saxophone and started trying to figure out the notes to the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen.” She worked at it for close to an hour, writing down notes, playing them, thinking, erasing, and trying again. By the end of her session, she had it figured out.
After she played it for me, her shoulders sagged. When I asked what was wrong, she said she wished she hadn’t spent so much time on it. Now she needed to practice her actual band pieces so she could write down her practice time for the week. Whatever excitement and pride was there from figuring out the music to a favorite song had vanished and was replaced with a sense of dread.
I’m not sure what her band director would’ve said, but I said, “No way! That certainly counts toward practice time.” And I signed her card without any reservations.
Not long after, she spent the entire time between the arriving home from school until bedtime (taking a break for dinner) on my laptop. She was hard at work on trying to develop her own app (Frappy Bird, if you care to know! It’s a riff on the ridiculously popular but impossible Flappy Bird app, only instead of pipes it features Elena’s other obsession: frappauccinos.) She had other things she could’ve been doing. She had vocabulary words to work on, a test in a couple of days, a book to read, a messy room.
In both instances, I decided that working on something she was passionate about was more important than homework. I want her to understand that there is value in the play that excites you. Sometimes feeding the soul and indulging in a hobby takes priority over busy work. I’d like to think that what she learns when she writes a song or fiddles with code will translate into learning. Maybe it won’t help her learn the song they’re working on any faster, or earn her a A instead of a B on a math exam, but it will build skills and spark further learning later on down the line. And I’m okay with saying no to homework if that’s the case.
Have you ever let your kids choose another activity over homework? Or do you feel like homework, as it’s assigned, is the top priority?