My son’s new teacher may hate me already

My kids are starting school tomorrow.  Actually it’s today, because I’m up very late.  I’m just getting around to really looking at the letters their new teachers sent a few weeks ago.  I mean, I skimmed them when they came in, but then I set them aside for later.  Doesn’t get much later than this.

Fiona will be fine tomorrow.  She’s got a list of supplies to bring in, but it’s first grade so I’m fairly sure if I bring them in on Monday it will be cool.  The only things mentioned for the first day for her are her favorite book (no problem) and a picture of her family holding that book (can probably wrangle at least three of us in the morning and print out a pic).  But Jake, well, his letter specifically says that he needs his supplies the FIRST day.  And yes, FIRST is in all caps.  Shit.

The first day totally snuck up on me, which is ironic because I’ve been waiting for this day for weeks.  But thanks to the schedule being bizarre this year, I never really considered the 8th of September the first day.  We weren’t even sure we were going to go.  There’s the first day, then FOUR days off.  Really, in my head, the first day has always been Monday the 13th.  So it didn’t seem like a big deal that I hadn’t done the school supply shopping yet.  But there it is on Jake’s letter, in all caps.

I’m quite sure he won’t be the only kid in his class tomorrow without supplies, but that won’t make it any better.  To add to it, he didn’t do any of the summer homework.  To tell you the truth I’m not even sure he was aware that there was summer homework.  There was a packet sent home at the end of the year, as there has been every year.  And we’ve never done it.  And nobody has ever said a thing.  But his teacher mentions this packet in her letter as well.  No caps, but still, it’s in there.  So I can’t even claim I forgot.  She reminded me.

This wasn’t forgetfulness or procrastination, though.  This was a conscious decision on my part.  My son got good grades last year, and his standardized test scores were fantastic.  And once third grade ended I considered him done for the summer.  Summer is for fun.  Summer is for video games and playing outside and camp and yes, reading, but for fun, not for keeping track and logging.  Out of ten weeks of summer Jake was in day camp for seven weeks, traveling for two, and home for one.  There was absolutely no way after a full, long, exhausting day of camp I was going to make him sit down and do homework, no matter how little it was.  I was not going to make him do it while traveling and visiting family.  It’s my time off too.

So why is this an issue?  Because besides my son learning how to read and write and think and get along with other people, I send him to school to learn respect.  His school sent home a summer packet of homework and I told him it was OK to ignore it.  His teacher sent a reminder and I ignored it.  How can I reconcile my attitude toward summer homework with the values I’m trying to instill in him, of respecting his teachers and being responsible?

Frankly, I can’t.  It’s just one of those things I’ll have to live with despite it making no sense in my head, like sneaking candy into a movie theater or going ten miles per hour over the speed limit on the thruway.  If his teacher sends home a note or gives him a big problem, I’ll have him do the math homework over the four-day weekend.  As far as the reading log goes, that’s just a lost cause.  He read and re-read some of his favorite books this summer, purely for pleasure.  I’m not sorry about that.

Soon enough, before he knows it, summer won’t be his anymore.  He’ll have a summer job, and then someday just a job, one that doesn’t get summers off.  For as long as I can get away with it, I’m keeping school and homework out of summer.  I just hope if the teacher doesn’t like it, she understands that it was my decision, not his.

Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and Momtourage.


  1. says

    I agree with you about summers being for fun – FOR THEM. They have their entire lives to “work”. Let them be kids!

    Of course, I am not very strict about school work in the first place. I ask if they have homework. I ask if they completed their homework. If they show it to me, I look at it, or sign whatever they put in front of me. If they ask for help, I attempt to help. But, I am not overly anal about it – it is THEIR work, after all. One day I am not going to be there to badger them about whether or not they did their job – that will be their responsibility – and I would rather them learn the consequences of NOT doing their work when they are in elementary school rather than when they are grown adults….

    I only say all of that to say – don’t feel bad about it! As long as your son is meeting the standards and progressing along, I don’t put much stock into a whole bunch of busy work!

    • says

      @Mrs. O, I’m with you. It’s their work, and while it is maddeningly difficult to help them discover the right answers rather than just lead them there, that’s what I do. My son is lazy and used to look for the easy way out (asking me) but eventually learned that that wasn’t going to happen and gave up.

      What I haven’t been able to do yet is completely leave homework up to him. That’s the next step. He’s nine, he understands consequences, and this might be the year where I make the leap from making sure that he sits down and does his homework, to simply leaving it up to him and possibly let him fail and suffer the consequences. The problem is the school. They’re very insistent on parents overseeing and checking homework and signing off on it, and frankly, I think it’s an approach that should come to an end by Jake’s age.

      • says


        Sometimes I feel like I am surrounded by helicopters…. at what point do we start teaching our children responsibility if we are always the ones to ENSURE that it happens? I am with you – by a certain age, it should be time for children to start learning consequences.

        • says

          @Mrs. O, Yeah, I feel that way too, and I’m never sure how much I’m letting myself get pushed around by what everyone else is doing. It’s not a black-and-white thing and so hard to gauge.

  2. Jen says

    First, let me say that I am a teacher. So I have a slanted view on this one.

    Was the homework and unreasonable amount? If so, then I would call the teacher. If not, then you are setting your son up to not do as well as he could. Why do you think there is homework over the summer? It’s to keep kids going. For every year that I can remember (at least in high school) we had summer reading. We had to do it. We were tested on it the first week of school.

    If your son does not do his homework and he is tested on it, then he will start off in the wrong direction. You will probably feel bad if that happens.

    • says

      @Jen, But there is a case to be made that most homework is fairly useless. I’m not even fighting that battle (yet), I just think kids should have a few months off. If a child will be behind in September by being tested on something he didn’t do over the summer, why is the conclusion that he’s set up for failure? I take the view that the entire process was unnecessary in the first place.

      I did not have summer homework. I think there may have been suggested reading lists but they were never checked, it was simply for fun – reading over the summer for pleasure and for love of reading. I read because I loved to read. My kids do the same.

      The summer assignments were not outrageous – it’s their very existence that I object to. Kids with educated parents learn over the summer, they can’t help it. IF (and that’s a big if) there are kids who would be helped by summer homework, it should not be required of everyone.

  3. Jessica L. says

    Amy I am glad there is another mom out there as disorganized as I am about things. I seriously thought that becoming a mother would magically flip some switch in my brain and I would become that person with color coded files that never loses a paper or misses a deadline. So much for that…

    • says

      @Jessica L., Ha! Yeah, for me it was the opposite. I thought I was pretty organized and together, and then having a baby showed me that I was just hanging on by a thread before. And that thread broke pretty damn quick once I became a mom. At different points in the past 9 years I’ve managed to get different parts of my life organized at different times, but I’m still trying to get it all together. I’d even settle for 80% together 80% of the time.

  4. Amy says

    I am ambivalent about the summer homework. The theory is that they forget things like math skills over the summer, but since I made Will do it the weekend before school started, I guess I blew that theory. The problem for us is that he actually gets some kind of grade/credit for handing it in, so I don’t want him to be punished for not doing it. He wasn’t thrilled, but it didn’t take him long to complete.

    • says

      @Amy, Yeah, I think I’ve been trained by the school not to care about it, because he’s never done it and nothing has ever been said. But home it comes, every June. I don’t understand.

      The whole summer brain drain thing seems like complete BS to me, but let’s assume for a moment that it happens. Will summer homework actually have an impact? There is mounting evidence – both anecdotally and statistically – saying that homework is largely pointless.

      If that’s really a problem, I’m more in favor of going to a year-round school model, where the kids go to school for six weeks then have two weeks off. That would solve a whole host of problems. But that will NEVER happen in NYC.

  5. Jen says

    You can disagree with the whole process,but that is not going to help your son out at all. It is great that you think summers are all about fun, I do too. I would not agree on an unfair amount of homework. But if it is a reasonable amount, why not have him do it? Maybe it would help? Maybe your son may end up enjoying it? And then again maybe not.
    However, as you stated before, how can you instill values and respect for teachers and make your child more responsible if you tell him it is okay to ignore summer work? I am not sure you can do that. It sends a message that what you think is important overules anything that a teacher would like.
    I always say that if parents, children and teachers would understand that they are on the same side, then it would be easier for everyone.
    I am sorry that we disagree. Best of luck to your children. Hope they have a great school year!

    • says

      @Jen, But I guess that’s my point. My son’s doing great. So why should he have to suffer through a pointless process?

      I made a stink about this a few years ago when he first got summer homework, and nothing changed, but also nothing happened when he didn’t do the homework. So what exactly is the school saying? Here’s summer homework for those kids unlucky enough to be forced to do it, and the rest of you have a fun summer?

      I guess we’ll just have to disagree, but I really don’t understand the wisdom of doing something a certain way just because that’s how it’s usually done.

  6. says

    I’m a teacher and a mother. In my high school all grades are required to do some form of reading assignment over the summer vacation. I think in light of this being the digital era, it’s important that our children know that, well, “reading is fundamental”. We are teaching our kids to continue learning in all areas of their lives, including summer vacation. I don’t think that is asking too much at all, and was not in the least surprised when my daughter was given a book for her summer reading assignment and will be given a writing test during these first few weeks of school. It teaches them responsibility also, I think you did your son’s teacher a huge disservice by ignoring a class requirement. Once a teacher loses a student’s respect it is nearly impossible to get it back, and then he can only look at you and say, “Well, you said it wasn’t important and pointless.” I don’t see how wanted our students more prepared for their futures as pointless. Again on the high school level I see what happens to those kids that grow up thinking “I’m smart, what do I need school for?” and then when they get out into the real world they are ill prepared because their parents didn’t think reading one book over the course of their summer wasn’t important. This is how it starts.

    Sorry. I feel so strongly about this because I see it first hand how these turn out. Just my opinion.

    • says

      @Chocolate Mom, I hear you, but I’m definitely not teaching him that school itself is pointless or that he’s too smart to need school. Just summer homework. The more I think about this, the more I think that my big mistake was in basically making the decision for him, tucking the homework away.

      There’s something to be said for consciously refusing to do something on principal and then suffering the consequences. I don’t want him to suffer consequences for something I did, and based on his first day he won’t be – he said the summer homework wasn’t mentioned at all (further convincing me that it’s just given out to satisfy those parents who clamor for more homework during the school year too). So maybe next summer I’ll make sure that he’s a willing conspirator if the homework gets skipped again.

      He works hard during the school year. He gets summer off. That’s his reward for getting amazing scores on those stupid high-stakes tests I also think are pointless.

      I’m surprised nobody has sued about this. Maybe they have, I should check. Again, I don’t like actively ignoring something the school sends home, but I don’t like blindly following stupid requests either. And making a comment like “I don’t see how wanted [sic] our students more prepared for their futures as [sic] pointless” is commenting on something that I didn’t say. Being prepared for the future is important. I just don’t think summer homework gets my son there.

      • says

        Fair enough. I wasn’t quoting you per se, I was talking in general about many parents thinking that not just summer assignments but those state tests or certain subject areas are pointless (I couldn’t agree with you more about the state tests). I was coming from an English teacher’s point of view of not being supportive of your son’s teacher. Reading is a huge deal, and while some kids will say that they’re going to read over the summer, the majority of them don’t. That’s one of the main reasons most educational departments started summer reading projects in the first place. While you may think it’s just a pointless summer assignment, it starts a kid’s thought process of “if my parents don’t think I need it, then I don’t”, you know? Thus the huge drop off in respect for education and teachers in general. We have the responsibility of shaping our future lawyers, doctors, teachers, artists, etc., but how can we if we can’t get our parents to support us for something as simple as a summer reading assignment?

  7. says

    So now that day one is over, I want to know if the teacher collected the homework.

    I’m a teacher and I think the children are over tested and summer assignments have moved away from being fun. I like hearing about parents who stand up and question the work.

    • says

      @Queen of the Click, Nope, not a word. Doesn’t mean it won’t come up on Monday though. This one-day school week was kind-of weird, so the teacher may be waiting until Monday, giving us all the long weekend to get our acts together.

  8. Jen says

    I totally agree with chocolate mom.

    I do not think that it matters if your son is next Einstein or not. And what you consider to be pointless, perhaps others do not. Your opinion is not the only opinion around. As parents we cannot have it the way we want it all the time. Imagine how difficult it would be to please all the parents! My point is, it is not going to hurt him to do it. So why not do it? BTW letting him decide not to do it should not be an option either. It is saying that school work is optional with your stamp of approval.

    Again good luck and hope they have a successful year.

    • says

      @Jen, But it could be said of anyone with any opinion that there’s isn’t the only one around. I shouldn’t express mine because other people think something else? That makes no sense.

      It won’t “hurt” him to do it, no, but that’s not reason enough to make him do it. There should be a purpose to these things, and I’m not convinced there’s a purpose to this other than placating a few misguided parents who believe homework=good grades and more learning.

      • Jen says

        You are entitled to your opinions, but you are NOT entitled to have it your way.

        There is a purpose to doing these things. The purpose is to prepare the child for the next grade. It doesn’t matter if you are convinced or not, it’s what the teacher wants. School is in many ways about establishing practices. It is supposed to help prepare you for life. Imagine telling a boss,”I don’t see the purpose of doing this, so I am not going to do it.”

        I know we disagree, but I really think you need to try to understand what I am saying. I am not trying to go round and round with you (which is what seems to be happening.) All I am saying is to consider what you are teaching your child and that maybe the homework isn’t that horrible. As I have said before, if it is an unreasonable amount, then you need to call the teacher and discuss your problems.

        As for the others that agree with this, that’s too bad because the schools really need parental support to make education successful.

        • says

          @Jen, I think I’m finally seeing the root of our disagreement: “Imagine telling a boss,’I don’t see the purpose of doing this, so I am not going to do it.’” I want my kids to grow up knowing when to do as they’re told and when to stand their ground. I want to figure out a way to teach them to respect people in authority, but not blindly. And if I were a boss and an employee had some good points about doing something a different way, I hope I’d listen. Aside from the issue of teaching respect, I’m still not convinced that the actual homework does a bit of good. There is a lot of evidence that homework in general is fairly useless, and I think it’s something that should be open to discussion.

          I’m not trying to “get my way,” that sounds petty. It’s something I have an issue with, and apparently I’m not the only one. I’ve made a point of keeping my opinions about homework in general away from my children, because during the year they have to do it and that’s that. But just because a teacher wants it does not necessarily make it right. I think if you asked around my kids’ school you’d find that I’m incredibly supportive of teachers, and have put a lot of my own time and money into that school. But that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything that’s done there and it’s my responsibility as an involved parent to speak up. It doesn’t sound like you want involved parents, just obedient ones.

          • Jen says

            In the subject that I teach, applied Math, it would be very difficult to do well if it is not practiced. How does one get better at this without homework?

            I am not going to defend myself about wanting obedient parents. I just want successful students, that is my goal. I personally do not assign busy work. Every assignment given is a reflection on what I would like them to learn.

            If you really have a problem with the summer work, don’t give up the fight. Talk to the teachers and principal about why you do not like it. Since you are an involved parent, they would be more likely to listen to you.
            What you are doing is actually passive aggressive. It really is not speaking up.

            Best of luck to you.

            • says

              @Jen, That I completely agree with. I tried to take the easy/lazy/chicken way out, hoping that if we ignored it, all would be fine. I forgot about it until it came home the last day. Marking it in my calendar now to bring up at a spring School Leadership Team meeting. We don’t find out which teachers our kids have until summer is almost over (the homework is assigned to the whole grade) so it’s something I have to take up with the school, not the teacher.

  9. says

    I think it’s a shame that the school has been inconsistent in the past about whether summer homework “mattered,” but as a teacher, I also think it’s a tricky thing to give a child the impression that homework is optional.

    I’m not a huge fan of the reading workshop model used in so many schools these days, but it does depend on students keeping a reading log, and it’s easier for students to keep that up if it becomes routine so I understand why a teacher would want to see that continued over the summer. Also, as a teacher, I’d love to see the log of the books your son read “purely for pleasure” so I’d know what kind of books I might steer him to in the classroom.

  10. says

    IMO, it is more important that a parent is involved daily, engaged in the child’s development always, and providing a variety of forms of education, including reading, during the summer. This should especially include experiences not able to be had in the traditional academic environment such as camp, family vacations, museums, etc.

    What ever happened to “What I did on my summer vacation?” as a reading/writing exercise?

    • says

      @Beth, I forgot about those! I used to LOVE those assignments. Every once in a while I’d get a teacher who didn’t care what adventures I had over the summer, which made me sad. Hmmm…maybe that led to blogging? :-)

  11. says

    I completely agree with Beth. Summer is about new experiences that teach different types of lessons – most outdoors, including camp, travel, opportunities to develop socialization skills. We went abroad during the last 3 weeks of my daughter’s school year. When we came back, we were given a HUGE packet of material for her to complete before school started. I have to say, I really tried to get her to do it. But without the imminent deadline, it was hard for both of us to remember to do it. She is young, though, only 7. So I have to say that I think the significance of summer homework really depends on the child’s age and/or whether they need it to keep up or get ahead. Let’s leave summer as it should be.

    • says

      @Holly, A HUGE packet? I think you’ve got an even better argument than I do. The amount of Jake’s summer homework didn’t seem out of line, just the very fact that it existed at all.

  12. says

    Let me start by saying I do NOT agree with summer homework. I do believe that there is such a limited time these days for children to be children and it is up to us to let them be children. A child learns so much every day of their life, including things learned from teachers, parents, peers, traveling and so forth. My son has never been given summer homework but I set aside time for reading, if nothing else, throughout the summer. He started the 6th grade this year. In many parts of Texas they do give summer homework and I have to admit that if my child was given any I would make sure it’s done just because they’ve gone as far as to suspend students or not letting them into class without proof that the summer homework was done. This is well advertised though and letters go home at the end of the school year so parents and children know the consequences, and it’s for everyone, across the board. Do I think this is ridiculous? Most certainly, but I wouldn’t want my child to suffer because of my views. Then again, I am a bit of a square peg anyway. Now, if my son did his homework and handed it in and other children did not and there were no consequences I would be pissed. It has to be a firm ‘everyone must do it’ or don’t even bother. It’s not right. What kind of signal does that send a child? ‘Even if you do your work and hand it in but little Joey didn’t do it, you both have the same outcome’ then it’s going to put a bitter taste in the mouth of the kid that did do it. Not fair all around. Then again, I always tell my kids that life’s not fair.
    Ok, enough of a rant…….

    • says

      @Lisa, That’s a huge part of it. I understand consequences, and if I knew that there would definitely be some, my actions would have been different. But it seemed pointless on so many levels.

  13. Jennifer says

    Hey Amy,
    My son Will just started kindergarten so I have no idea what kind of homework kids are assigned for summer. If they just want to keep the child’s mind engaged and sharp, I think you did an excellent job with Jake! He was in all day day camp for 7 weeks- I’m sure he must have done SOME constructive work there and learned a few things! I think Jake did find without homework because his mind was kept active this summer without it. And I too don’t like the idea of summer homework, but I think I actually would need it for my kids. We don’t have the finances to put my kids in any camps nor go to many places, and I’m a horrible teacher. All we did was go swimming, boat riding, and to a Transformer Convention. I couldn’t get Will to hold a marker all summer because he hated drawing, coloring and writing. After 3 weeks of school he’s now drawing and writing all the time! And WANTS to! I think I really will need summer homework from the school to keep Will’s mind engaged because I would just let it all go to mush. That’s just me.

    • says

      @Jennifer, If I gave Jake the choice between his camp, or swimming, boating, and a Transformer convention, I have no doubt which one he would pick! :-)

      I think it’s a matter of parents knowing their children. I knew that Jake had worked hard all year, and needed a break. Besides, I think kids’ minds stay active in a different way in the summer, a way that’s just as important as academics.

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