It's all very well being all Waldorfy and lovely and telling everyone how the children don't even look at a letter in Finland till they're seven, and they have the best educational system in the world, but the truth is that, sadly, we're not in Finland. And I'm starting to see how the system here is really geared towards the children who are already reading, even though the "official" list of sight words they're supposed to know at this stage is only 30 long.
I can see, for instance, how tonight's homework would have been the work of a fun ten minutes to a fluent reader and more willing writer. Dash had to read a story and then write down the title, author, setting, characters, and his favourite part. There may have been space for a picture in the middle too, but we ignored that. The instructions didn't even say "Read a story with an adult", but since the only books he can read himself are definitely devoid of character and setting, I helped him read one of his Spider-Man books, and then we went through the required information and figured out what to write where. It took forever, even without the drawing.
"They have to teach me to read first," wailed Dash. "That would make it easier." We sighed, and explained that that's what they're doing, but he has to practise. He was unconvinced. It makes me think of that point in a learning curve where the old way was faster but you have to plough through in the new way because it will get better - like when I learned to type. It was quicker to hunt and peck with two fingers, but I had to keep doing it the other way if I ever wanted to get any better. For him, he's at that point where he can do it, but it's so tedious and time-consuming that it always seems harder than the alternative. Especially where the alternative is just not reading.
I don't remember what I was doing in class or for homework when I was six - the only things I remember learning that year were how to receive Holy Communion and how to knit - but I know I was an early reader, so I suspect homework like tonight's would have been pretty easy for me at that age. I don't remember a time when reading was ever a chore. I do remember looking at the boys in my class struggling over dotted lines in workbooks (at some age, not necessarily first grade) and wondering why on earth they couldn't write their letters more neatly. It's still hard not to let my frustration show.
And we went at it badly today. I didn't realise that homework would start in earnest this week (duh, really), so I let them kill time but not each other in the playground after school pickup. And then there were other unforeseen events, so that by the time homework happened, Dash was eating a sandwich with one hand and using at least half his brain to feel hard done by about the TV show he had missed. Tomorrow I will be more on the ball, I promise.
We all sorely need a routine after the summer. Homework is just going to have to be part of it, and the reading will come.