There was no homework yesterday. It was snowing. Lots of children never made it to school and those that did had to be taken home at 1pm.
So when I picked up my six-year-old from his primary school, there was no red folder to be brought home, no instructions to parents, no book in which he had to do his writing, his art or his sums.
“Ah lovely! The start of the weekend!” I thought as we got home and sank into the sofa. “Now we can relax.”
I no longer have that Friday night feeling
Most weekends I don’t have that Friday night feeling. I have a sense of dread because at some point in the next 48 hours I am going to try to get my boy to do something he resolutely refuses to do.
Every so often we strike lucky. My six-year-old finds his homework easy or engaging and we get it all done in 20 minutes with no tears. More often it takes more than two hours, including 90 minutes of avoidance tactics, shouting, deep belly sobs and physical violence.
I feel defeated by homework
I feel defeated by homework. Each time I hope I will be patient enough to gently attend to my child until the task is done. Each time I fail.
I start by trying to make it fun. That doesn’t work. I try to engender in my boy the satisfaction of a job well done. Nothing. I explain he needs to work hard so he can grow his brain and be a clever boy. No. That doesn’t go anywhere either.
I don’t believe in bribery – but I try it
I don’t believe in bribery – but I try that. I don’t believe in threats – I throw a few of those in anyway. The bottom line is this: you cannot MAKE someone think. If my son refuses to turn the television off, I can click the button and hide the controls. I cannot use force to make him move his hand over a page to form a letter. After two hours of trying to persuade him to do this, I look into my bag of parental resources for another trick or an extra pack of patience, but I find I’ve nothing left. And so I start to scream.
My distress doesn’t end when the work has been ruled off and put in its folder. The guilt I feel about the ugly dynamic that has developed between us hangs over me. I worry about how this will affect his later capacity to study. I recall him sitting at the table, crying his eyes out as he finally gets on with it and I cry myself at the memory.
Why do schools give homework to six-year-olds?
Why! Why? Why?
I understand that independent study is an important part of learning. But my son has been getting homework since he was four. The idea of independent study at that age is farcical.
I guess the idea is to get parents involved in their children’s formal education. But is that really a good thing? I’m not a teacher and I don’t know how ideas have been presented to him in class. I sometimes upset my boy by explaining something completely differently from the way he’s been taught. And I always set my expectations of what he is capable of too high.
Let me do the informal learning
We don’t have these problems with all the informal learning he does when he hangs out with me – sitting on the organ stool learning how to make different sounds, figuring out what’s more expensive than what in the supermarket, sieving and weighing and whisking as we make pancakes.
Why don’t we adopt a system whereby we do this kind of learning at home and all the formal stuff in class until the child is old enough to develop the self-motivation to study?
Wouldn’t that be a better way of doing things?
(And could I have my weekends back please?)