10 October 2007

Homework Hell

I am a reasonable, intelligent, dare I say compassionate person. I have the ability to tackle new projects, organize events, and guide small children through a long day. I know how to bandage a scrapped knee, make toast, resolve an argument, write an email and get dinner started ALL AT THE SAME TIME. I am, in short, capable of many things.

Then why, oh why, is it utterly impossible for me to be patient with my son when he is doing his homework???? As I write this, he is doing math at the table next to me. And I am trying desperately not to scream and jump out of my skin as I watch him day dream, pause, get distracted, take off his shoes, put them back on, adjust his paper, sharpen his pencil, take a drink of water, and generally STALL. I WANT TO SCREAM. We have been doing homework for 1 hour and 15 minutes so far, and he still has 10 math problems to do. He's gotten through two other assignments and half of this one in that time. The poor kid HATES doing homework, and I do not blame him. He's at school for 6.5 hours a day (today, thankfully, he had a half day, so at least we aren't right up against dinner/bedtime for once) and he needs to play. There are kids in his class who can do all of the homework in about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, he is not one of them. He is a bright little guy for whom homework is utter, complete, total torture. And we get to experience that torture each and every night.

A friend of mine, who runs her own school, has made this book, The Case Against Homework required reading for her teachers, and I am definitely going to check it out. The premise is basically that homework is actually doing more harm than good. Here's a quote from the website:

The truth, according to Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, is that there is almost no evidence that homework helps elementary school students achieve academic success and little more that it helps older students. Yet the nightly burden is taking a serious toll on America's families. It robs children of the sleep, play, and exercise time they need for proper physical, emotional, and neurological development.

I got one thing to say to that: Right on!


Hopefully, reading this book will give me some good insight into the entire issue and help me help my son deal with it. If I weren't so busy trying to help him get his homework done, maybe I could go to the bookstore and pick it up.

So, all you parents of school-age children out there: HOW DO YOU HANDLE HOMEWORK? WHAT INCENTIVES, THREATS, STRATEGIES, BRIBES, OR THEORIES DO YOU EMPLOY so as to not have homework ruin your life and the lives of everyone else in the family? My blood pressure rises, my head feels as if it's going to explode, my nerves shred to bits... and here I sit, sucked into the vortex that is Sam's homework and minutes turn into hours, and I still need to make dinner, put sheets on two beds, get one kid ready for soccer practice, get one screaming baby up from her nap, and drink one large glass of wine. I feel helpless, completely in the grip of this mean, pushy, screaming mimi mother who cannot muster up enough patience and compassion to help my son get through math homework. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

pause.

breathe.

count.

pray.

OK, 110 minutes later and we are finished for tonight. And I was actually somewhat successful at faking being patient, if not actually being patient. Can't wait to go through it all again tomorrow, when we get to throw soccer practice into the mix as well!

And this is what happens when you devote this much time to one child and let the others explore the house on their own:



I'm exhausted. Now, on to the list of tasks that has grown over the last hour and a half. I think I'll start with the wine.

2 comments:

Sara Bennett said...

I'd love to know which school requires the teachers to read the book I co-authored, The Case Against Homework. Thanks and I hope you check out my website, stophomework.com. You'll find lots of support from other parents, mental health professionals, and educators.

Monica said...

Hi Sara;

Thanks for writing. The school is a small independent school in Oakland, CA, called Northern Light School. One of the co-directors is the woman I am friends with; her name is Jennifer Diaz. Their website (where you can find her contact info) is http://www.northernlightschool.com.

Thank you also for writing that book! I am still in the first chapter — with five kids, finding time to read without falling asleep is a challenge! -- but already I’ve had a lot of “THAT’S ME” moments and lots of validation for the frustration my family is experiencing. My poor son (7 years old) just this evening broke down in tears and just kept saying “I hate homework, I hate homework.” All he was doing was copying spelling words three times each. It was NOT about ability, just about having to sit and do it. Aiyiyi.

Anyway, I look forward to finishing the book. I’d love to hear what you are doing next. Thanks for sending the website address.

Monica