How ’bout that title? Did your child come home saying that crazy sentence? (If not, please say it yourself and see how your child reacts!) Can your kindergarten student tell you what that sentence means/what the letters stand for?

I wrote the sentence on the board at the start of class and read it to the kids. I wrote each of the capital letters in red ink and the rest of the letters in black. The kids were easily able to figure out that the red letters were important for some reason, but they were stumped as to why. I showed them this logo and asked them to explain it to me:

The kids knew it was the logo for the Super Bowl, but none of them could explain why the L and I were there.

Gradually, we made our way to the conclusion that the letters I, V, X, L, C, D, M are Roman numerals. We then wrote down the letters and their values:

- I = one
- V = five
- X = ten
- L = fifty
- C = one hundred
- D = five hundred
- M = one thousand

We talked about how to write and read Roman numerals.

This included a discussion of subtractive notation, which isn’t easy for kindergarten students to grasp. We practiced finding numbers where a lower number was written to the left of a higher one, and reminded ourselves that the numbers need to be read as a pair and the one on the left needs to be subtracted from the one on the right (ex. IV = 4). This is probably the easiest way to do the homework — group the numbers that require subtractive notation and circle them, then subtract and add as necessary. This is how we did it in class, so it should look familiar to the kids.

The homework is a single-sided sheet of problems — writing Hindu-Arabic numerals as Roman numerals and vice versa. It is difficult! Please help your child work to/through frustration, but if s/he reaches the breaking point (or you do), pause or skip.

I hope you know that I understand that this stuff is not typical kindergarten fare. From the homework coming back, it seems like you do — the kids are taking their best shot at things and leaving off when they reach frustration level. That’s what they should be doing. I don’t expect all of the kids to get these higher-level concepts all of the time. A lot of it may go over your child’s head. That’s okay! Exposure is important, and while they may not remember (or understand) all of what we talk about, they’ll each take away their own pieces of information.

This is probably a good time for me to say a little bit about my philosophy when it comes to homework. I believe that homework is not really appropriate for early elementary students. Homework can be stressful, the school day is long, and kids need to play outside and have fun when they are home from school. Despite all this, I still assign homework almost every week, for two primary reasons.

First, I do so because I feel like homework is one of the main lines of communication between you, me, and your child. I hope most of my students’ parents read this blog, but I know many don’t. I also know that many children report almost nothing about their day when they arrive home from school. If your child is the kind where obtaining information is like pulling teeth, the homework helps let you know what we did in class. Hopefully, it also sparks a memory from your child about what we did, and starts a conversation.

Second, I assign homework because some of the children I see for enrichment absolutely love homework. They run home, rip open their backpacks, and begin doing the homework before they even take off their coats. They are so excited about the things we discuss in class that they cannot wait to keep working with these topics at home.

If your kid is not the “I love homework” kind of kid, you probably think I’m making this up, but I promise you I’m not. These kids exist, there are a lot of them, homework makes them happy, and they are hungry for the kind of challenge it provides.

If your child does not love homework, there’s a simple solution — don’t do the homework. I’m not being sarcastic (for once). Once your child reaches the point of frustration where it’s clear that going further is going to be upsetting, take a break. Write me a note on the homework saying you tried but it was frustrating, and move on with your day. Not turning in homework will not count against your child or affect his or her membership in an enrichment group. As I tell the kids in class — while you are doing your homework, at no point should you be crying or wishing that a lake of fire would open up under your chair and swallow you. If you are feeling these things, stop, put on your shoes and coat, and go play outside.

“But Mrs. Green,” you say, “eventually my child is going to have to learn to power through and do his or her homework even when it is frustrating and hard.” Yes! Yes they are. Not when they’re in kindergarten or first grade, though. And even later in elementary school (and beyond), homework, when planned and assigned as it’s designed to be, is supposed to be practice for skills that have already been taught and learned at school. Some of your children haven’t always mastered the concepts I teach in enrichment, and in those cases, homework is a struggle and not practice. If that is the case, it’s time to move on. These are advanced concepts, and your child doesn’t need to understand Roman numerals to be a successful kindergarten student. Your child has plenty of time ahead of him or her to learn to manage homework (and there will be plenty of future homework to use for practice). I promise.

I’ll step off my soapbox now and get back to valuing my xylophones, but please feel free to reach out if you have questions about any of this.