When my elder daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher shared an unwanted bit of information. "In these early years, homework isn’t really about training the kids," she said. "It’s about training the parents."
Hey, that’s not fair! When I was a kid it was my problem!
And then, to make it worse, this year my younger daughter Suzi received a "check-minus" for homework on her first grade report card. I can’t remember what the other grades were. It was all a blur. What? I’m not doing my homework properly? But I try so hard!
I mean, I know homework’s important. It helps kids review what they learned at school, shows us what they’re learning and prepares us all for the really heavy doses of homework yet to come. But I wish I had never heard that! It instilled all the parental guilt to get ME motivated, but my kids are another story.
Sure, to you perfect parents, the answer is easy. After the girls come home from school and hang up their coats and put away their backpacks, mittens and scarves without being asked, I should sit them down at the kitchen table, feed them freshly baked cookies and milk and help them polish off their homework in a just a few, stress-free minutes.
Yeah right. And then we can all skip off to Fantasyland together.
Things just don’t work that way in my chaotic household. I try, but every day of the week is different. It’s those darned activities – dance, piano, soccer, Brownies – we sign our kids up for to make them well-rounded, interesting little people. But of course, they’re just over-scheduled interesting little people.
Simply establishing whether my girls have homework is tiring. I can try asking Suzi "Do you have homework today?" while I’m running around getting her big sister ready for dance class. But I know whether the answer is "Yes!" "I don’t know!" or "Noooooooo!" I really can’t believe her yet. I still have to look into the red homework folder and see for myself. And if I happen to grab her red folder as I zoom past the kitchen table, on my way to answering the phone or pushing the cat off the kitchen counter, I’m liable to misplace it all on my own.
Half the time we don’t get started on their homework until we arrive home for the second time that day, after some exhausting activity. I start to make dinner and the daily homework nagging begins. "Hey you guys, get your homework out!" I call while stirring a pot. "Where’s my backpack?" is the most common response.
Once I get them to the table, homework in hand, I have to run back and forth from stove to table answering questions, drawing diagrams, looking for glue sticks or hunting for sharpened pencils.
It’s a wonder I don’t have nightmares that I’m being chased by the Homework Monster with a spaghetti-sauce-stained ladle as my only defense weapon.
We had been doing pretty well lately, but last week, we had a relapse.
Suzi fell asleep while trying to do homework at the table at 8 p.m. Not wanting her teacher to think I had failed my child, I got her up early the next day to help her finish the double-sided page of math problems and sent her off to school. That afternoon I looked in her folder and found the sweated over math homework still there!
"Suzi!" I bellowed, "Why didn’t you hand in your homework!?"
"I forgot," she explained matter-of-factly.
That’s when I decided I really hate homework.