As the parent of two school age boys, the things around here that matter the most are eating and getting rid of excess energy. Since they spend their days in public school with little wiggle room, I’m all about getting out the tension and stress once they arrive home in the afternoons. However, there seems to be a huge problem with that little ol’ plan of mine. It’s called “homework.”
Who knew that one little word would cause such a challenge to how I like to plan my days? It is borderline ridiculous and having children on each end of the spectrum makes the whole issue a bit more unsettling. Having a child that struggles definitely puts a new perspective on the problem. The beauty of it all is how patient I’ve managed to be so far this year with the whole ordeal.
If you have children in public schools, I imagine that you see these same issues every day. Rarely does a day go by that someone doesn’t tweet or Facebook their disgust over homework and silly assignments. Let’s get something straight first: learning to read is not homework. Engaging your child in reading should start when they come into this world, not just because they’ve started school. Writing spelling words three, four or five times apiece is useless homework — it’s busy work. One thing that teachers seem to be in unison on is that they expect parents to help their children with homework. If they didn’t, they would send home work that even a kindergartener could do alone. But alas, that doesn’t happen — and immediately, a habit is born.
When kids are 5, mom or dad sits down with them to do homework — and lo and behold, they’re still there handling this duty years later, sitting with a 14 year old who is begging their parents to finish their homework for them. Many kids see this as the best way to get attention from their parents. In turn, they can and will milk this time for all it’s worth.
Now, instead of a relaxing evening at home with family, there is tension and more stress. Instead of the kids coming home and releasing energy, they are home building more and more frustration that permeates the entire family. Now what? How do we break this cycle?
If you don’t believe that teachers have mixed opinions on this subject, just take on one of their little science projects they send home. They send home directions for a project that most students can’t complete alone. Alas, the project turns out looking like an adult did it. That’s when the contradiction all begins. Teachers complain that they sent the project home for the student to do, not the parent. But they also send home mounds of homework every day for the parents to help the students do instead of leaving the students to their own devices.
Where does that leave lil’ ol’ me and my lil’ ol’ plan? Splat at home, in front of my kids, wondering from day to day if I’ve done too much or not enough. Am I helping or hurting their progress? What about the oldest who is gifted and doesn’t need much intervention? He gets less attention than the youngest, who is struggling and needs me to be on task with him more and more. Wouldn’t we all be better off if we were doing family engagement activities that we could all participate in instead of wondering who is going to get the most attention tonight based on their homework load?