Bug,  spilling my guts

Homework for Breakfast Part Two

Homework drill sargent

Wow. I had no idea kindergarten homework was such a hot topic! Instead of responding in the comments I figured I’d write a second post because I still have a lot to say on this subject.

First, I feel a little sheepish because I exaggerated a bit about Bug’s homework. I wanted to be funny and those were my feeeeeelings at the time. While I still feel that her homework is excessive and our battles over it are still quite epic, I think a lot of my frustration with homework and Bug are based on her sense of timing clashing with mine and not necessarily how terrible the homework is itself. I meant to get into that in my post but I ranted on about how stupid the homework was and ended my post before I even got to that. Sometimes my posts write themselves and when I find myself with a pat ending, I just hit publish instead of making sure I covered my topic well.


I do agree that the homework is excessive. I don’t understand why she has to do a packet of 20-some pages that takes us easily an hour every night, three nights of the week (it’s due on Thursdays). However, the work for the most part is on target for what she is learning. It’s actually easy for her. She’s aced nearly every test she’s ever taken in school and when she focuses on the work, she can get through it. She just likes to take her sweet time. Which does not mesh well with my sense of urgency or schedule.

I’m a classic first-born, over-achieving, people-pleaser. I always did well in school and I want Bug to too, of course. Thankfully, she’s a bright kid and she learns easily. I can probably blow off the homework and she’ll still do fine. It’s just hard for me to fly in the face of authority like that. I will talk to her teacher and bring this subject up.

I know Bug struggles with getting all her work done in school too. We’ve talked about it, her and I. She tells me that her teacher tells her not to worry about it, “she can do it later” so this is probably something I should apply to homework as well. I know they aren’t going to fail her if she doesn’t complete the packet. It just goes against my grain to turn in something half done.

However, I realize that is my pride talking. Like some of you mentioned, I don’t want to beat the fun of learning out of her. My nieces went to this same school and I think that happened a little bit with them. They both struggled with getting homework done and part of me wonders if maybe it was because there was JUST TOO MUCH.

I think I would like a school that banned homework. I think I’d probably even like a school that banned screen time but right now with our situation, I cannot homeschool and I cannot afford private school. This is the best school I could get her into in the town we live in. It’s public school.

I think public school sucks right now in most of California, maybe even the country. BUT I don’t think it’s going to hurt her. I think she is going to learn just fine because she’s smart and learning comes naturally for her. We work on learning new things at home independently from school so I think for the most part going to school for her is just for socialization and learning to accept authority other than me.

In fact, she is thriving outside of our homework battles. Bug’s teacher is WONDERFUL. I love her. Bug loves her. Pretty much the sun and moon set around her teacher. I bet even her teacher thinks the homework is bogus. I’m going to talk to her about it the next chance I get. I think it’s a school-district policy to have them do these packets and she is just following orders. Maybe this is what works for the common denominator and obviously Bug is not the common denominator.

What I needed to ask you kind readers, and I failed to get to it in my last post, is how does one deal with a child who is a dawdler? Many of you touched on this in the comments and I want to know more. Are there any dawdlers out there who have grown up to be normal adults who can help me understand this behavior through your eyes?

This is something I love about Bug. She finds wonder in everything. We can walk down the street and she will admire every tree, every branch, every leaf, every crack in the sidewalk… The world through her eyes is amazing. But she also takes five minutes to fasten her seatbelt every time we get in the car and has to be drug down the street so that we can actually get from point A to point B in a timely manner. Is there a way to mesh my people-pleasing, over-achieving, driven style of mothering with her independent streak? What is it like to be nagged endlessly by someone like me? Is it as horrible as I feel when I’m doing it? Is there a better way to get her do something? Can someone like her be hurried? Or do I just need to let things fall apart?


  • Beth

    my youngest was a dawdler…specially art projects…she had to have it just right! alot of her teachers said they didn’t want to squelch the creativeness, but they needed to teach her to finish things! on time! they always told her, there would be time later, i think b/c they needed to move on to the next subject, and not lose the kids who were done, and ready to move on! But i am not sure she learned how to use her time..wisely and efficiantly (sp? sorry :( my spell checks batteries ran out!)

    as a mother and wife, she is a good person…but if you want her there on time!!! tell her 1/2 an hour earlier! but….thats just my baby girl…I Love her so <3

  • Katherine

    I’m a high school teacher, so I have no idea if my advice will apply to kindergarteners, but one thing I try to help my students understand is context. Behavior that’s okay in one situation may not be okay in another. (For example, you can swear with your friends, but not in my classroom.) Perhaps it would be helpful to talk with Bug about situations (activities or times of day) when dawdling is fine, and times when she needs to be efficient. If course, this means you’ll need to decide when it really matters to you. :) I don’t have kids, but my mom always talks about picking your battles, and I think that makes sense.

    P.s. Thanks for understanding that, even though our educational system has some problems, not all teachers are evil.

  • Mrs. Wilson

    I am also a classic first-born, over- achievieving people-pleaser. And my four-year-old is a dawdly dawdler. IT DRIVES ME NUTS and so I can relate to your plight. I don’t know what it’s like to be nagged by someone like you, but I’m sure Liliana does, because I do it to her, too. I’d say (to you AND me) that if there is a time restriction, like getting to school on time, nag away. But, if you’re on a photo walk or something, let her dawdle all she wants. Seems fair, right?

  • Catie

    I don’t know if procrastination counts towards dawdling, but I am a procrastinator and after years and years of beating myself up about it and buying books that claimed to have the cure, I have finally accepted that I move at a slower pace and the best and biggest gift I can give myself is to schedule in procrastination time into my day.

    Maybe you try this with Bug. You make the deal with her that she gets X amount of time to freestyle it and then she’s got to buckle down and get serious for X amount of time.

  • lynne ATL

    A quick word about public vs private. I think 99% of kids get what they need in public ELEMENTARY grades. It’s the middle school and high school grades when I think it is money better spent. Don’t worry about not sending her to a private school now.

    I had two ADHD boys and we found an old fashion kitchen timer worked, 15 mins of work followed by 10 or 15 min off, Repeat as necessary.

    This way you aren’t the nag, the timer is. I spent way too much energy being the Homework Police.

  • Madge

    Emily was the exact same way as Bug at this age. In fact, when she was in Kinder the homework wasn’t mandatory and we never, ever, ever even looked at it. I think the first week of school we turned it in but that was it. She hated coloring, writing, all that fine motor skill stuff that she thrives on now.

    I’m happy to report that Emily is now very efficient, does her homework the moment she walks in the door. She attends Chess Masters, is in the school band and just received straight A’s on her report card. I had NOTHING to do with this. She is the first born over achiever who sometimes cries at night because she’s worried that she forgot something in her homework that night.

    I really think that if time is an important factor and YOU need Bug to hurry it up, set parameters and strong consequences if she doesn’t meet your time frame. “I’m sorry, I gave you plenty of time, warned you that you were dawdling and you didn’t complete the task I asked of you, therefore you are going to miss out on (whatever)”

    Other than that, choose your battles and know that eventually Bug will learn to police herself. You know how I always say that Ems is like the nutty professor. She’s a whirlwind of messy papers, absentminded and somewhat forgetful, but she pulls through with flying colors every time it counts!

  • Tina

    Here are some ideas to maybe help with dawdling…maybe. I’ve turned it into a race sometimes (I’m working on this project, can you get done before me? I’m going to chop vegetables, can you do that page before I get done? I usually have my son doing homework at the table while I’m making supper so I’m THERE but not hovering and he has space.) Or we race against the timer. Or they get a reward if they get things done by a specific time. (I saw a friend had a chore chart/homework thing for her 1st grader. If he got everything done by 4:30, he got 3 stars, by 4:45 he got 2 stars, by 5 he got 1. When he got 15 stars he got a reward. I’ve not tried something that rigid but he might need it. I’ve done more “once you get it done you can play.) I also try to remind him to focus when I’m seeing him wander, but yeah, that does get annoying. Oh, I also have been known to make my son take laps around the house to get wiggles out. I don’t make him work right when he gets home but let him run/play a bit. And we eliminated all screen time during the week…but it could be a good incentive for her, nothing until she gets __ pages done each day, so the work is more manageable.

    Some of it is just teaching them the more they fiddle around, the longer it takes, the less fun time they can have. I feel like we have to deal with that with my oldest every year at the beginning of school to get him back in the homework/work mindset. I know this year he started off taking FOREVER, and now he’s more focused and just works right through it, knowing once he’s done he can go play more. The tricky part is getting him now to SLOW DOWN and check his work! :-) Its always something, isn’t it? Good luck! While it is tempting to just cut back some because its only kindergarten, you do have to remember that its only going to get worse. What habits do you want to start working on now, while the work is easy? :)

  • cath

    Seems to me you are goal oriented and she is experience oriented. To get down the street and meet your needs maybe you need to look at what her outcomes are. How many experiences does bug need/want and how can you turn that into a goal for you.

    Make it fun…it will work.

    xx cath

  • Sarah

    Bug sounds like me as a kid. I was — ok, still am — a dawdler. I was a smart kid who could get by with a minimum of effort and I knew it. It was always a constant battle with my mom (who was the type to get it done early and was always frustrated with my non-interest). Probably the biggest sore point for me was this: because of my habits of procrastinating we eventually got to the point where my mom felt like she had to remind me to do stuff before I’d even had a chance to work on it (eg in the car on the way home from school she’d remind me I needed to do homework that had gotten assigned that day). I felt it was *so unfair* since I hadn’t had the chance to show whether I’d get it done in a reasonable time yet (although deep down inside knowing that I probably wouldn’t have). But that feeling of being unfairly reminded was a big, big problem for us. Reminders that I knew were fair I didn’t necessarily respond gracefully to, but I did feel differently about them.

    I wish I’d failed more in early years because it was hard when I became an adult and hadn’t developed as much of a self-policing ability since I had always (without really realizing it) relied on my mom to yell at me to get something done. I know she was trying to do her best, though. And also because I had teachers who would let me get away with handing things in late. (Not that it is all my mom and teachers’ faults! I’m 33 now so I do hold my own self accountable). I still struggle with not dawdling, especially when I feel like I have plenty of time to get something done. Something that worked when I was a kid — and I take advantage of still working now — is the time-limit thing suggested by a previous poster. If I have a limited amount of time then I feel challenged and then I engage. That’s why if I have lots of time I procrastinate until I’m short of time and then hustle!

    I also need to constantly remind myself that it feels good to have something finished. I think I’m not so good with delayed rewards! Homework always seemed like work (even if it was easy) or at least like something that I’d rather not be doing. So it was easy to give in to not doing it or to dragging through it because I was hating every minute of doing something I felt was “stupid”. This totally still applies to stuff today, but having learned that reminding myself of that good feeling of accomplishment that I will soon have is helpful.

    Doing things in short chunks also helps me because if it is a huge pile then I feel intimidated by how much I have to do and it is hard to get started. My mom’s advice was helpful here — she always made an analogy to how you don’t put all your food for the week on your dinner plate at once. That made me feel better about thinking about a project in small pieces.

    With all that said about my horrible work habits I should add that career-wise I’ve done totally fine. I have a PhD and I’m doing work I love. I’m sure Bug will be ok — she may not have the same habits as you, but she’ll know she has your unfailing support and that is the most important thing :)

  • Ami

    My son is a dawdler too. Sometimes it drives me crazy! THe racing idea that I think Tina had above works for us most of the time. Also, here’s an idea that I found works in various situations. Address the issue with Bug and ask HER what she wants to do about it. “Bug, do you like it when we get in arguments in the morning? Because I don’t! I’m your Mom, and it’s my job to teach you life skills, like getting assignments done. But you seem to want to do it differently than I want you to do it. How do you think we should solve this? The deal is, your work has to get done. I want to help you and support you, and I want the teacher to have evidence that shows how smart you are. But I don’t want to have to yell at you to get you to do it. What do you think we should do?” and see what she says. She might be too young to totally offer real suggestions, but what she does offer will probably give you some insight into what motivates her.

  • Amber

    My daughter’s kindergarten homework was ridiculous, as was second grade. This year in third grade she hardly has any. I guess it just depends on the teacher in our school. I will say that the only way I can get my dilly-dallier to be on task, is to start reminding VERY early. Every year our mornings start earlier and earlier to accommodate her getting ready for the day.

  • Amy

    My daughter is in K and she has only had a few little things to do for homework so far–usually reading a little book to us. Today she had her first worksheet to sit down and do. It was something that is very easy for her, and she was eager to get it out and get right to work as soon as we got home. But then the whining started. “Mamaaaaaa! I neeeed hellllllllppppp!!!!!” She totally did NOT need help. I couldn’t help but see myself as the middle school parent that has to hover to get her to do anything years down the line. (I’m a middle school teacher, so I am all too familiar with the absurd things some parents end up doing in an attempt to get their kid to do homework.) I would go over to her, point to the question, ask her what it was, listen to her tell me, and walk away as she wrote it down. I told her I KNOW she doesn’t whine that she needs help with this stuff in school. I know she’s also testing the waters for what doing homework will look like in our house. I better figure that out soon, because I don’t know yet!

    Personally, I hate homework. I don’t often give it to my middle school students. I’m glad my daughter’s teacher has pretty reasonable expectations for occasional, short assignments at home.

  • Andrea

    Homework in kindergarten seems ridiculous. surely kids that age are tired enough as it is after school? I’d talk to the teacher about what the policy is……and on what pedagogic basis they are giving kindergarten kids homework?

  • Lacey

    I am like you, an over-achiever. I didn’t even have homework in Kindergarten… I got done with my assignments before every one else and to keep me from going desk to desk helping everyone with theirs, the teacher gave me more… and I happily did it too. (The whole class had to get done with paperwork before playtime… I was always first.) My son hates homework, always has and he is in 5th grade now. Nothing I have tried has ever worked 100% of the time, and my son’s grades show that (homework is counted individually in the class grade, so every zero affects his grade). He makes solid B’s which make me cringe, but he is satisfied. The work isn’t hard, it’s a time-consuming hassle to him. All of the tricks mentioned above, I have tried. I hate to write all this and not really have any new advise to give, but I just wanted to let you know that there is no one magic cure. Use any/all of the ideas, find out which ones will help in different situations. Here are the observations I have made:
    If you do homework everyday after school, it will eventually become routine.
    The timer/racing seems to help alot when combined with some sort of reward.
    Always have a snack first.
    Don’t start if she’s in a really hyper mood, it will save time to let her have a little playtime first.
    I own a stapler. I unstaple first thing! A book of stapled papers somehow seems more daunting. # the pgs so you don’t get them out of order, and then hand them out individually. Take a fun break every 15 min or so (you’ll figure out the time frame, by how quickly she gets squirmy, daydreamy, or whiny)
    Sometimes teachers will give you an email address. Ask about the directions, or better yet request that she handwrites the directions before making the copies.
    One of the better things for my son is timing homework time right before a favorite TV show. Finish in time, and you can watch your show.

    You’re not alone, it will get better.