Saturday, August 25, 2007

You Better Shape Up!

As my children returned to school last week, I felt the need to share some advice with my sister whose oldest child just started kindergarten: “Don’t be fooled about that homework your daughter comes home with. It’s not her homework, it’s your homework."

I don’t know if it was the eighties or just my parents, but they had a very laissez-faire approach to homework and grades. As long as my sister and I didn’t dip below B-/C+, the typical response to a lackluster grade on our report cards was “Did you try?” Or “Did you do your best?” to which we inevitably answered “Yes, I sure did,” translated to “I sure did try real hard to open that book,” and “I did the best I could considering I didn’t open it…”

Never having had real homework until third grade myself, and not having bothered to do any of it until fourth or fifth grade, having children in a school program where they feel the need to send you two or three email updates a day, where each of my children comes home with a notebook for communicating with their teachers daily, homework that needs to be personally supervised and checked daily and mothers who get into smack downs over who gets to be the “grade level rep” or what the annual fund-raiser tee-shirt will look like (“Really, Rose we all know you just want the bigger logo on the front to call more attention to your boobs”—and, no, I am not making this up), I felt like a total outsider, a feeling that was further compounded back when I was a working mother.

Just try doing homework with a tired child at the end of the day, when you are tired yourself. That was how I landed in so much trouble two years ago, along with a Georgia Tech Math professor and my husband, when we finally snapped and started an email thread expressing our feeling that with two Ph.D.’s, a Masters and a professional university teaching career among us, might it be a little excessive that none of us could figure out what our children’s First Grade homework assignments were.


Andrew C. Oliver said...

Well Alec went through a rough stage where he even flunked gym (we can check many things, but not whether he CHOSE to actually wear his gym close and it is rather difficult to figure out if he took them). We put him on a checklist and he had to EARN his free time, there were 6 areas of "improvement" and each was worth 30 minutes. If he did NOT have the free time then he could study or we would FIND him things to do (generally chores or babysitting or other forms of torture). Now he appreciates it a bit more as he sees the kids who are falling behind because their parents DON'T punish them for whatever. Also reading was not only encouraged...I read with him, Erica did and more but eventually he had a fun time doing it. Now he had read every harry potter at least twice and reads a number of books for fun (only fiction so far). Now...if we can get Ephram to stop refusing to crap on the toilet (he has potty trained but has recently decided he prefers NOT to poop on the toilet and holds it in until he is off the toilet though pees reliably) and stop beating other children (thank god we don't use corporal we know it is only our genetic guilt).. LDAP integration and advanced scheduling is much simpler. It is persuasion that is hard.

In unrelated news, I'm reading the recent "MAO"

Nothing like a good red purge to put you in the right state of mind ;-)

Nathalie said...

Ain't children grand. Mao wasn't bad, but it took the Khmer Rouge, by giving automatic weapons to seven year olds, to fully realize the potential of all that pent up resentment at being made to study and use indoor plumbing for toileting needs.

Bill Pyne said...

Do you find that the volume of homework is excessive? I ask because friends of mine,whose children are in grade school, seem to think there's so much homework that the kids have little time to play and "explore".

Nathalie said...

My problem when my daughter was in 1st grade was the confusing instructions, now that she's in 3rd grade, I think the issue is organization (so hopefully one day doing work will be a refex and not something you have to nag about) than the excessive amount. I do think children need "off" time to be creative and just be kids. Of course, 90% of them would want to use such time to watch tv or play video games and the other culprit is not to sign them up for too many organized activities and fight the "over-scheduling" phenom.