The best homework assignment ever

     Parts of the 'When I Was Your Age' project. (Courtesy of Jen Bradley)

    Parts of the 'When I Was Your Age' project. (Courtesy of Jen Bradley)

    I’m an outspoken anti-homework Mama, solidly on record against homework for young children. I’ve written about it here and here and even participated in a radio panel about it.

    Last year, my daughter’s teacher gave kindergarten families homework, and it was a long-term project. Stop that groaning! This one was actually quite lovely.


    As part of a classroom study on families, the kindergartners were working to create a family museum. In class, the children learned about each other and their families using math, geography, literacy, and art.

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    But parents and families had jobs for the museum too. We had to collect artifacts for our daughter’s exhibit, create a visual display, and write and illustrate entries for a book called, “When I was Your Age.”

    The exhibit was beautiful. I was teary seeing each family’s proud display, the incredible variety of culture and and creativity. But what really struck me about the entire “exhibit” was the authenticity. This was not a “one-upping” type of project at all. It was all about finding an authentic way to share your family’s story with the classroom community.

    The process of gathering artifacts created some great conversations, but writing the “When I was Your Age” entries became the best homework we’d ever been assigned.

    We received a blank booklet with enough pages for family members to reflect, illustrate, and decorate an entry. It required us all to connect to what being five had been like for each of us.

    My daughter’s booklet filled up with entries from siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. The stories were poignant and funny and a joy to read. The vignettes contrasting what being five looked like 80 years ago versus one year before were strikingly similar.

    And it wasn’t until I sat down to write my own entry that I realized how wonderfully similar and altogether different my daughter and I are…proving that homework has its merits after all.

    Dear Peanut,

    When I was your age, the Beatles were still on the radio a lot, “Casper the Friendly Ghost” was my favorite cartoon, and I learned to read my first book: “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”

    When I was your age, I loved to sing along with songs and roller skate in my basement.

    When I was your age, Uncle Chris was my best friend.

    When I was your age, I was in kindergarten, and my teacher was nice like yours are. We played all morning long.

    When I was your age, I was tiny with very long hair. I hated having it brushed. Nana liked to put it in a bun. I thought that was too fancy.

    When I was your age, I wanted to be a boy. I liked to play sports, climb trees, and wear jeans and t-shirts. Nana liked to buy me dresses.

    When I was your age, I was a lot like you, strong and smart and kind, but not as brave as you are. Not as good about telling people what I wanted. You are VERY good at that!

    When I was your age, I knew I wanted to be a mommy when I grew up. But I never could have imagined being a mommy to such an amazing girl as you.


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