In Kindergarten, it seemed to me that Darla was doing college-level work. She learned to read full words and was even required to write in a journal once a week. The start of Kindergarten was a horrible experience for both of us. In preschool, Darla spent her days running around on a playground and sometimes doing a few minutes of work in a workbook. In Kindergarten, she sat at a desk and cycled through Math and English from the beginning of the day to the end. She sat more than she ran.
When Darla finally came home, she had to sit some more and do homework. Our nights were mired in frustration and anger. Darla would scream for hours. She was like a wild horse, fighting against domestication. She wanted to dance and be free, but we were forcing her to sit, be quiet, and work incessantly.
If you asked me my thoughts about homework when I was in kindergarten, I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. I knew about jump rope, playing tag, getting in fights with my older sister, and kitchen play sets; I knew nothing about school work, so I knew nothing about homework. When I was in first grade, I had barely begun to learn my ABC’s. I was impressed by David Murphy when he read “it” (the word, not the clown horror book by Stephen King) midway through the year.
“He’s a genius,” I thought. “I’ll never be as smart as he is.”
Much to my surprise, I eventually did learn to read the word “it” by the end of second grade. By third grade, I could read books well. By fifth grade, despite not being given homework in kindergarten, I read Steven King’s It.
As I fought against her unwillingness to be contained, I felt like a hypocrite. I was frustrated with her for not sitting down and doing what I asked her to do when I was precisely the type of kid who couldn’t sit still when I was five. I was like Darla. I would sing and dance whenever there was enough open space to twirl. I, unlike Darla, was a terrible student for most of my elementary and high school career.
I got my first D in 7th grade. I got my first F in 9th. Despite getting A’s my senior year and eventually loving school, I was still ranked 238th out of 240 kids in my graduating class. My mom stopped paying attention to whether or not I did my homework sometime around 8th grade. I rarely brought my books to school. When I did hand in homework, I had to root around the bottom of my backpack to find it. I'd eventually put it out to see it covered in grease stains from the lemon muffin I bought from the snack counter during lunch. If my homework assignments were ever done well, chances were high that my mom had carried the weight of the project. My most top priority then was hanging out with my friends and laughing, which I’m happy for because I don’t have time to do any of that now.
At some point between thirty years ago and now, someone somewhere drew a false correlation between homework and achievement. Kids and parents are now paying the price. Nights, which could otherwise be spent reading, playing games, or talking are now spent arguing. Homework should just be done away with altogether. There’s no proof that it has any benefit, whereas quality time between parents and children in the evening has shown to make kids more well-adjusted and happy.
These kids are only going to be this young and carefree for a short amount of time. Darla, like all children, wants to hang out with her friends and laugh. For some reason, we adults want to limit this for all kids; indoctrinate them into the workforce and world of discipline only a few years after they learn how to talk. Sometimes I forget that she’s just a child and get increasingly frustrated by her inability to sit still for ten hours a day. Then I remember how little and sweet Darla is and immediately regret all the times I’ve grown frustrated with her for not being more mature at the age of six.