After I found out I was pregnant with Six, one of the first things I thought was, “Aw fuck, more homework wars.”
Doing homework with kids is not one of my parenting strengths. In fact, I loathe it. Don’t get me wrong, I will read to my kids for hours. Art and science experiments are great. As a fort builder, I am impressive.
But the very thought of doing homework with my kids makes my spine itch. And here’s one of the many reasons why: in the first grade,Older Son’s teacher assigned spelling words on Monday and quizzed on Friday. Older Son couldn’t read but he was being quizzed on spelling. It traumatized everyone involved. One night I walked in Older Son’s room because I heard his voice and thought he was awake. He wasn’t. He was spelling in his sleep and crying.
Needless to say, I went down to school the next day and had a conversation with his teacher. When she heard about him spelling and crying in his sleep, she started crying. We worked out a solution and things improved. And Older Son can spell as well as the rest of us, which isn’t that ringing of an endorsement but whatever. Did I mention Older Son graduated from college and has a job? A real job with healthcare and a desk.
Anyway, there is a lot of conversation going on about kids and homework. Smarter people than me have been stymied by this problem. Does homework have value when so many parents just do most of it anyway? Should school be longer so kids can do their homework on campus with a collection of tutors on hand to help if they need it?
As a parent, I want to be supportive of the work being done in the classroom. But my support stops when my kid starts crying in his sleep while attempting to spell the word green. And teachers don’t want their students crying in their sleep. And before you think badly of me, whenever I meet with teachers I am very polite and try to do a lot of listening.
The hard part of homework wars is that as parents we are already nagging about so many aspects of our children’s lives that adding in one more thing often feels overwhelming. It gets worse when the kids get older. They only have a vague idea of what teacher expects of them. It isn’t that teachers don’t give a ton of reminders. It’s usually that kids’ attention directs elsewhere and only comes into focus at the last minute. Most parents have lived through the screaming distress of a project being thrown together the night before it is due.
And where is the value in more educational stress?