Should Kids Have Homework In Early Grades?

At the start of the school year, I saw a lot of talk about whether kids should have homework.  Increasingly, it seems that many educators feel that homework is no longer needed.  Some schools have backed off from assigning homework entirely.  Our two younger kids (2nd grade and kindergarten) are both in the same elementary school, but there is not a set policy.  We currently have one kid that has regular homework and one that does not.  After a few months, I have my opinion on the question of should kids have homework?

The Case For Homework

Many people will argue that homework is a good thing.  There are many different arguments in favor of regular homework, even in early grades.

  • Homework establishes a pattern at a young age.  Patterns are important.
  • Assigning homework keeps kids minds working after school.
  • Working on homework gives parents more opportunities to be involved
  • Homework gives parents more insight as to what their kids are learning.

The Case Against Homework

Many now argue that kids should not receive regular homework.  This seems to be a growing trend using many different thoughts.

  • Younger kids are increasingly busy with activities and don’t have time for homework.
  • Kids minds need a break from learning and more time for fun.
  • Homework could make tired kids even more tired, which then impacts their classroom learning time negatively.

Our Mixed Homework Situation

Our kids school doesn’t have a set policy for homework.  Each teacher is allowed to do what they please.  We actually have a mixed approach this year.  Our son’s 2nd grade teacher does not regularly send homework.  He only has assigned homework to review for upcoming tests.   However, our kindergarten age daughter does have homework.  She receives a packet at the beginning of each month with about 20 worksheets.  Each worksheet takes about 10 minutes to complete.  In order to keep on top of things, we try to have her do one worksheet per month.

The mixed approach has honestly not been easy in our house.  Since our daughter has regular work where our son does not, it creates drama.  When our daughter has homework and our son does not, she doesn’t want to do it. We’ve tried getting some workbooks and worksheets to have him do, but he knows it’s not required by school.  Also, we often don’t know the day to day stuff they’re doing, so we sometimes find stuff that is too easy or too hard.

Image from Morguefile courtesy of arker

I know that many schools have school wide policies, which would probably make things easier for us.  That way it would be both kids either expecting to do homework or not having it on their list of things to do.  This mixed approach is not ideal.

Our Thoughts: Should Kids Have Homework

Having seen both sides of the coin, and at the same time nonetheless, my wife and I agree.  Our thoughts:

  • Homework is a good idea for our kids.
  • A small amount of homework is ideal for younger kids.
  • Homework sent home monthly or weekly is a better approach than having nightly assignments.
  • A school wide (or district wide) policy would be beneficial.

We’ve seen different approaches and we like a little bit of both.  Of course it isn’t up to us, but if it were, we would have our kids do assigned homework.

Readers, what do you think about homework?  Do your kids get homework assigned regularly?  Should kids should get assigned homework at a young age to prepare for what comes later?  Please let me know your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

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10 Important Money Concepts For Kids & Where Ours Stand

Our children are growing right before our eyes.  At ages 7 (my son)  and 5 (my daughter), they are learning more and understanding how the world works and how they fit in.  It is important to my wife and I to teach them good money habits and knowledge.  It seemed like a good time to see where our kids stand.  Here are 10 important money concepts for kids, and where ours stand.

Knowing What Money Is

Both of our kids now recognize money, both paper and coins.  They both know how to recognize American money, and understand that money is represented differently in different places.

Knowing That Money Holds Different Values

Our 7 year old ties his math skills with money, so he properly recognizes different amounts and how they relate to each other.  Our 5 year old still sees all bills as equal and all coins as equal, but that seems fairly normal for her age.

Realizing Larger Amounts Than What They’ve Seen

My son has a $50 bill, and that’s probably the biggest that he’s seen.  So, when he asks how much something costs and it’s a really big amount (like a new car), he grasps the concept that money is a very big and far reaching concept.  My daughter is starting to get this as well, but the size of numbers is something that she hasn’t really learned.  Both are where they ought to be.

Understand Money From Multiple Angles

Both our kids understand that money is earned and spent.  This is important as, even at this age, they see that you don’t just ‘get’ money and that it comes from somewhere.

Get The Importance Of Saving

Our oldest definitely gets this.  He loves setting aside his money for bigger things.  This is definitely a change from even a year ago, when he would often think that he should go out and spend money because he had it.  Now, he enjoys holding onto his money just as much as he enjoys spending it.

Our daughter is starting to come into her own in this area.  For her, since she doesn’t really recognize the different amounts, she just know that she ‘has money’.  For her, as long as she has some, she’s cool.  I think both have a great foundation here.

Recognize Ownership

This is one that both are working on.  They both know that money has value, so if they see it lying around, they see a way to immediately increase their ownership.  They don’t go taking it from places where it’s put away, but we’ve had a couple of times where we’ve found money in their rooms that they later admitted they found.

Know The Importance of Safekeeping

They both have a spot in their rooms where they keep their cash.  They know exactly where to go to put their money and to go look to make sure their money is safe.

There will be no lost money with these two, I’m guessing!  And that is a good thing.

Know When To Expect Money

Our kids both get an allowance.  We give them a weekly amount equal to $0.50 for each year of their age.  Friday is allowance day.  My son knows this and will ask on Friday to make sure that he gets his allowance.

Are Giving With Their Money

My daughter really aces this one.  When we talk wistfully about things that we would love (e.g. a big vacation, a new RV) but probably can’t afford, she always offers that we can put her money towards it.  Or, if she wants something (e.g. ice cream), she’ll offer to pay for the whole family so that she can get her wants fulfilled!  We don’t take her up,

Our kids wouldn't know what one of these is, but they still seem to be doing great learning about money!
Our kids wouldn’t know what one of these is, but they still seem to be doing great learning about money!

on these, but  it’s heartwarming to see her want to use her money to take care of her family.

Understand The Concept of Paperless Money

So much of what we do these days involves no actual money changing hands.  We swipe a card.  Paychecks get deposited directly into our account.  We send a payment in.

I always worried that the shift to mostly electronic handling of money would be harmful to kids learning about it.  But, our kids seem to get it.  They understand that I go to work so that we have money.  They get that we swipe a card but later have to pay for it.

All in all, our kids are pretty smart, including with money.  I’m hopeful that we’re helping them along the right path so that they grow up with a solid and wise understanding of money.

Readers, what do you think of where our kids are?  Have I forgotten anything?  What money lessons did your kids learn or do you wished they learned during the early years?

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The School Supply List And Gratefulness

My wife had with a conversation friend, that quite frankly, rubbed me (and her) a little bit the wrong way.

They talked about the school supply list that was sent home, which contains a list of supplies that each parent is asked to get and send in.  Many of the items are shared between kids in the classroom, while some are kept individually.  I think this proportion changes as the kids get older.

My wife was a little taken aback at one point.  The other mom kind of laughed and said, “Well, you don’t really have to sendmb-2016-09-list anything in.  They’re just suggestions, and really, the school is supposed to make sure everything is supplied.”

Here’s the thing, actually a few things.

Schools Aren’t Sitting On Cash

Our district, like many in Michigan, and probably many across the country, doesn’t get an excess of money.  Back in the days when the Great Recession hit the country, Michigan had already been in one for several years.   The Great Recession battered an economy that had already been taken to the woodshed.  The state cut school funding levels many times, and the amount per pupil that is distributed is still at or below levels from the early 2000’s.  This doesn’t even factor in inflation, which probably puts them back to levels over 20 years ago or pretty close.

Point being, while funding levels have steadily been increasing over the last few years, it’s not like districts are swimming in money.

People Can Afford The School Supply List

My wife’s friend can definitely afford to grab the list of supplies and send them in.  They’re not 1%’ers but they’re definitely not hurting.

So, I just can’t understand why they are going to decide to draw the line here.

Supplying Is Helping Others

There are some families who are hurting.  Our district is relatively small from a pupil count perspective.  It covers a pretty big geographic areas that includes a pretty broad mix of economic scales.  Simply put, there are a lot of families that simply do not have the means to supply that list.  Maybe there are some circumstances where refusing to subsidize people who might be too poor to afford to chip in is appropriate, you’ll never convince me that it is justifiable when it comes to children, especially when it’s a pretty nominal amount.

The whole conversation kind of bummed me out and I think actually helped contribute to my recent case of the money blahs.

See, we’d never considered, and even after the conversation my wife had, nor would we ever consider skipping out on the supplies.  My wife and I count as one of our blessings that we can afford this cost.

Would we rather spend the money on something else?  Of course we would.  Who wouldn’t?  But that isn’t the point!

Between the transmission problems on the car and laundry list of things we had done to the camper, we dropped over $1,000 just like that.  Would saving school supplies helped offset the sting of that?  Sure.  But would I ever go there? Not a chance!

In my last post, I talked about how I started to get out my money blahs by taking time to see how blessed we actually are, and I look at the fact that we can contribute the full school supply list as a blessing.  (Well, my son did leave two boxes of tissue on the bus so while it certainly ended up at the school, it may have ended up in a different classroom…but that’s OK *lol*)  We’re directly helping make a positive environment for both of our kids.  Plus, we may even be helping others as well.

Isn’t that worth the cost?  I think so.

My wife never followed up on the conversation as far as I know.  It’s very possible that her friend sent in all the supplies anyway.  Who knows?  Maybe this post is sort of a moot point.  I hope so!

I just wish more people saw their sending the supplies as what it is: A blessing.

Readers, do you have a suggested list of supplies to send to school?  What is your take on the matter?

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How Parents Can Teach Their Kids Not To Be Rapists When They Grow Up

I was out of the loop on a lot of news stories at the beginning of last week, so the first I heard of the frenzy regarding convicted Stanford rapist Brock Turner was a report where his father suggested that even the six month sentence, basically the minimum possible, was too harsh.

I read that story and went backwards, catching up on everything, and my opinion ended up seeming to match the majority, was that Turner got off way too lightly.  Way, WAY too lightly.

The Defense

mb-2016-06-newspapersThe father argued that his son shouldn’t be punished that harshly for an act that took 20 minutes, completely setting aside that the victim, while maybe unable to remember those 20 minutes, has to live now with what happened every single day for the rest of her life.  Yeah, even six years, which I think was the maximum sentence, is too light.

The dad making his statement is what I couldn’t got over, and it got me to wondering if better parenting could have maybe prevented the whole thing from happening.  I started comparing it against the context of my own life, and three different events struck me that ended up giving me my answer.

I present these three events.  Note, they are given in reverse chronological order.

Event 1: A Drunken Frat Party, roughly 1995

I went to a pretty small college. One of the big things to do when people wanted to go out on the weekends was go to one of the fraternity parties.  I was never in a frat but I was close to a lot of members of one of the houses, so when they had a party, I decided I’d go.  I don’t remember the specifics of who I went with or what, but at a certain point of the night, as often happens, I found that I was feeling pretty good.

No, I’ll take that back.  I was drunk.  (But feeling good)

I ended up in a room with a few people, including a girl that I had seen around and said hi to on a few occasions but that I definitely wasn’t close with.  Somehow, we started flirting and it was going well.  At a certain point, probably by some unspoken rule, the other people in the room filtered out.  It was just us left.

We started kissing and making out a little.  I was always a pretty shy and nervous guy, and this type of thing just didn’t happen all that often.  So, I remember thinking that this was going well.  In fact, it seemed to be going REALLY well.  In fact, I probably could have gone over, engaged the lock on the door, and continued on.

But I didn’t.

Because as I had these thoughts, I also had a realization that, like me, this girl was not exactly sober.  She was probably less sober than I was, and I was, well, not sober at all.  So, it occurred to me that, as much fun as I was having and as much fun as she was exhibiting that she was having, there was just too much alcohol involved.  Anything that happened after that would be a bad idea.  I knew that I’d be taking advantage of her.

I stopped.  Yes, I, a guy, stopped things.  And I didn’t just stop things and walk out, because I think a part of me knew that it might absolve me of any personal guilt for that night, it wouldn’t necessarily stop her from being taken advantage of.  So, I not only stopped, but I insisted on walking her back to her room.  I did.  I got her to her room, got her out a bottle of water, and left, making sure that I heard the lock latch behind me.

Event 2: My First High School Date, circa 1991

I went to an all boy high school, and the school would put on dances on a Friday night every couple of months.  Girls from different areas were invited, and it was usually pretty fun.  I mentioned how I was pretty shy, so for me these events were largely standing around with my equally shy friends watching the activities, occasionally venturing out in hopes that some girl would fall into my path somehow and we’d end up dancing together.

That never happened, except for the one time that it actually did.  I found myself dancing with someone, and we danced more than a few songs and exchanged numbers and agreed to go out the following weekend.

We talked and set up plans, and as we did so, I kept my parents in the loop.

As I was getting ready to go, my step-mom pulled me aside for a conversation.  At the end of it a few points had been drilled home.  I’m pretty sure I had to even repeat them word for word:

  • I was going to the door to get her (no honking the horn)
  • It was expected that I would meet her parents
  • Her mother would be given at least one compliment
  • My date’s car door was to be opened by me
  • My date would arrive home at least 15 minutes before the time she was due
  • She would be treated with respect
  • I was going to remember that I barely knew her
  • Nothing would be expected to ‘happen’

And there may have been a few other things.

And I’m also pretty sure this happened on just about every date I went on through high school.

Event 3: Sixth grade detention, circa 1985

I had three awesome teachers in a row between 3rd-5th grade, where I connected with them, got along with them, and felt that they always had my back and understood me, even when I’d be a pain in the rear.

Not so much with my sixth grade teacher.  He didn’t put up with any nonsense, and now that I look back, I think he was more getting us ready for the eventual realities of junior high more than anything, but I found myself in trouble with him more than once.  Unfortunately, one time I got myself in so much trouble that I was issued detention, so that I had to stay 15 minutes past dismissal, and I had to be picked up by a parent when it was done.

I took the detention slip home and presented it to my parents.  As I knew would be the case, they were very displeased.  But I felt a little bit of hope when one of the things my dad got upset about was that he would have to come and pick me up.  This meant him having to leave work early.

I was hopeful and I thought that, if he couldn’t come and get me that maybe he could call and get me out of the whole thing.  (After all, I’m pretty sure that whatever it was I got in trouble for wasn’t my fault, right? *lol*)

Well, I made that suggestion to him and he looked at me as if I’d just suggested that we all wear wigs and go travel around pretending to be The Grateful Dead (yeah, they were kind of big around this time, if memory serves).

In other words, it wasn’t going to happen. In fact, I’m pretty sure that my dad said something along the lines that, if anything, I would be staying LONGER than the 15 minutes I’d been written up for.

Bringing The Three Events Together

When you look at the first story of what happened in college, it’s pretty obvious that things could have gone a different way.  One of the things, as I look back on, is that I probably could have continued things and gone all the way with that girl that night.  After that, I’m not really sure.  Would she have seen it as having been taken advantage of and done something or would she have just attributed it to a drunken decision and moved on?

I’m not really sure and I’m glad that I did not put her or myself in the position to find out.

I went down a better path and it was because of two things that tie back to the other stories:

  • Respect

  • Consequences

Here’s the thing.  Even with what was probably a blood alcohol level way over what was legal, I realized that I would be doing this girl wrong.  She never said the word ‘No’, but I realized that I needed to stop anyway.  Why? Because the conversation as I headed out to my first real date was not just about that date.  It was about teaching me respect.  That’s why it wasn’t just a one time conversation. It was drilled into me, and though I dreaded the conversations each time they were going to happen, I also remember the feeling of surprise the first time I went out on a date and the conversation didn’t happen.  Looking back, I think that showed me that it worked.   The message had been received, and I only received it because my parents spent the time to teach me respect.

Now what if I had made a bad decision and had gotten in some sort of trouble for it?  What if I’d gotten her pregnant or what if she realized the next day that she wasn’t in the right state of mind to give consent?  Either one of these outcomes would have resulted in me having to tell my parents that I was in trouble.  What would they have said?  Well, I’m not going to speak for them on exactly what they would say, but I’m going to tell you exactly what they wouldn’t say.  Words I know I never would have heard would have included “We’ll get you out of this” or “We know it wasn’t your fault.”

Why do I know this?  Because I was taught that actions have consequences.   My first lesson in this was back in sixth grade.  Here I learned that my parents were not going to get me out of things.  If I got myself in trouble, it was on me to stand up and take responsibility for it.  I’ll tell you what, knowing these truths definitely guided me to different and better decisions.  This happened in the case of the drunken frat party, but also in many areas of my life.

What My Parents Got That The Stanford Rapist Parents Still Don’t

My parents love me.  Brock’s parents love him.  I’m sure of these truths.  But where my parents and Brock’s went different is that Brock’s parents try to shield him from the world.  This includes trying to shield him from his own mistakes.  My parents didn’t do that.  My parents didn’t want me to make mistakes and tried to steer me down the right path, and I’m going to give Brock’s parents the benefit of the doubt and think that may be they tried to do this too.

But the difference is how they reacted when mistakes were made.  See, all kids make mistakes.  No matter how much you teach them, kids make mistakes.  I see it every day.  But, my parents never took my mistakes on as their own burden.  My mistakes were made by me and it was up to me to live with what happened.  You can tell by the statement made by Brock’s dad that they didn’t follow that.  They likely saw him make mistakes along the way but would step in and shield him from the consequences.   My dad made sure I served my detention, no questions asked.  Do you think Brock’s dad ever tried to get him out of detention?  I kind of so.

And now his kid is going to jail.

So, parents, take this as a lesson.

Teach your children respect.  Make them say their pleases and thank yous.  Make your sons understand the importance of showing respect to their dates and their dates moms and everybody else.  Repeat it until they roll their eyes at you and then repeat it a few more times.

Teach your kids consequenses.  If your kids get in trouble by their teacher, don’t go complain to the principal.  If they come home with a black eye, don’t call the parents of the other kid and blame them for how they raised their kid.  Here’s the thing, you can support your children while letting them handle the consequenses of their own actions.  Let your kids know that mistakes are OK, but that if they make them, whatever happens next is something that they have to be prepared to deal with.  If you teach them this at a young age and reinforce it, they won’t like it, but I tell you, they’ll have a much higher likelihood to grow up and not rape people.  And, probably will do much better than that.

Epilogue – Event 1

A few days after the frat party, the girl sought me out.  She thanked me for having taken the high road and for having made sure that she got home safely.  She was glad that nothing happened that she would later have regretted.   We actually got to be friends.  I found out she has a greater gift of sarcasm than I do, which I never would have otherwise learned.  Even though we’re in different parts of the country, we still keep up via social media to this day.  I cherish this and know that it turned out for the best.

Readers, what do think about the Stanford rape story?  Parents don’t likely actually say “Don’t rape people” as a way to teach their kids not to be rapists.  Still, how do we do our part to guide them down the right path?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.