Making Homework Work: One More To Do for the Working Parent
I hate homework. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word, but I really dislike it and it seems I’m not alone. Debates, blogs and articles are all over the internet about it. I did my own homework – I spent my fair share of years diligently reading books, practicing spelling, working on math problems, writing essays and working on presentations. I can picture myself holed up in my bedroom for hours working away in high school and college. In fact, when I finished college I was definitely most excited about never having to do homework again. So, how did this happen? I work full-time, I’m not in school anymore but somehow homework is back in my life.
We’re on week three of nightly homework for first grade. In many ways, I consider myself lucky. Schoolwork is currently not the problem in our household – my daughter enjoys it. The problem is that squeezing one more thing in during our short, precious evening family time is not only nearly impossible, it’s sad. Because I work all day, I really cherish our time at night. I love snuggling on the couch or playing family games. I like reading to my kids, allowing them to take leisurely baths. I enjoy giving us all the chance to decompress at the end of a long day. No more.
My daughter, Maddie, has to read for 15 minutes each night. Last week I was the sole parent while my husband was traveling. Monday night, my daughter happily read out loud to herself while I read to her brother, Will. Tuesday night, however, there were tears and screams that surprisingly didn’t cause the neighbors to come knocking. My daughter wanted to read to me, but my son didn’t want his sister to read to him. After much compromising, my son plopped himself on the floor of his sister’s room and she read. And that lasted three minutes. Boredom ensued and out came his LeapFrog Tag reading system. So, while she tried to read out loud, the words from the tag pen were echoing in the room. Each time she complained, he turned it up louder. The clock just kept moving and my blood pressure was rising due to sensory overload and the lack of no one listening to anyone.
On Tuesday, Maddie decided that for one of her spelling exercises she would select the task of typing her spelling words on the computer and then emailing it to the teacher. This sounded pretty easy to me, but what I neglected to realize was that while she plays computer games, she’s never had to actually type on the computer. So, here’s what my night looked like: Put a pot of boiling water on, run to the computer to show her the return key, chop a carrot, run to the computer to help her find the letter “h”, chop the celery, run to the computer to show her how to delete, feed the dog, run to the computer to check to see if she types in all the “th” words, turn the TV down (it was too loud for Maddie to concentrate), run to the computer to check for all the “ch” words, negotiate over the TV volume (it was now too quiet for Will), run back to the stove and put the pasta in, run to the computer to show her how to change the font color (she wanted the words to be pink) and so on and so on. It sounded like an easy task, but in fact it just created more stress.
We didn’t get home last night until after 6:00 p.m. She chose Scrabble: “Use Scrabble tiles to spell your words and then write the words on a piece of paper.” Will insisted on “doing his homework” too which only frustrated Maddie because he doesn’t really have homework. He of course thought it was funny when he took all the “e’s” and hid them and once again I found myself sprinting around the kitchen between the stove and the kitchen table assisting with the spelling homework (well, really refereeing) and making dinner. All after a long day of work, followed by religious education (which gave us more homework) and the hour long commute to Will’s child care center. We didn’t sit down to eat until just pass 7:00 p.m. and still had a math game to play, baths to be taken and 15 minutes of reading.
So, I may not be doing the homework but I’m certainly experiencing it. And this is only first grade. I’ve been warned the “20 minutes” they have now will soon turn into 90 minutes. If you find yourself in similar shoes, I found a few blogs/articles that may help including this one and this one and a bunch of articles here too. Maybe in a few years, I’ll be an expert too. Until then, I’d love to hear how working parents make homework work.
- E-family news: How to Make Homework a Positive Experience for Everyone
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- Online Community: Second Grade & So Much Homework