I’ve always hated homework, I’ll set out my stall from the start so that you know in advance that in this subject I am biased.
I remember as a child the awful misery of Sunday evenings trying to get all my homework done in time for school on Monday whilst listening to the chart count-down on Radio 1. I’ve recently started to listen again to the chart countdown on Sunday evenings – just to keep in touch – and just hearing it brings out all those old familiar feelings of fear and dread.
What I really remember is the total panic of not QUITE understanding the question, this could paralyse me for hours.
Last week my daughter asked me for help with a question she had been set for homework, and I found myself in the same state of panic and confusion. There was no way of getting my head around it, I couldn’t make head nor tail of what was being asked of her. I passed it on to my (grown-up) son who was similarly baffled and there ensued a game of giving random answers, one of which (for all we knew) could have been correct.
In the end I wrote a note in my daughter’s homework diary which went something like: ‘She has been on this for hours and doesn’t really understand the question, and nor do I, so I have told her to go to bed now.’
Luckily she doesn’t ask me for help often, and none of my children have (I wonder why).
This week my daughter told me that her teacher had set some homework for me (I assume not just me but all parents) and that was the last straw. I resent the fact that our family time is taken up so much with school work anyway, but homework for ME?? My homework days are over, I’ve paid my dues to society, I am not doing any more. ‘Let her give me a detention’ I spluttered, ‘I’m not doing it!’ Not perhaps a responsible parent’s response you might think.
But I am deeply unconvinced by schools’ insistence that parents ‘get involved’ with their children’s homework and muscle in on what should be the kids’ job. I have said to my children ‘My job is to run the house, look after you and earn money to feed us, your job is to do your homework. I’m here if you need my help, and you can always ask me but otherwise I leave it to you’.
Because how else are they ever going to learn to take responsibility for doing it? The more we take responsibility, the more they don’t have to. Homework has thus never been an issue in my family, they schedule it themselves, get it done somehow (sometimes at the last minute) and if they don’t they get detentions, but that happens rarely.
Now I know that some children do need more help, and that the schools need to encourage the parents of kids who live in chaotic families, but when I hear of the constant battles and misery around homework in supportive families who care about education and have books around and stuff, I always feel what a waste of time and energy that is.
Is it the pressure to be ‘a good parent’ I wonder, is it what you are supposed to do to ‘support the school’ and ‘support your child’? Take away that support, replace it with absolute assumption and trust that they will work it out themselves, and you might find that your child learns the responsibility the school really wants them to take. And home life will be SO much more relaxed.