This article, entitled Homework, hope and hilarity! Teaching our children well, together. comes from Nicole Knepper, writer of Moms Who Drink and Swear © on chicagonow.com.
I remember doing homework, but only a little. I think I blocked it out. My mom saved a report I did on the planet Saturn and another one I did on the Space Shuttle. I have no recollection of doing either of these things, and it bothers me, because they are totally awesome!
I think I remember shoveling cereal in my face while doing geometry and listening to REO Speedwagon, but I’m not sure if that’s a real memory of just something I saw on an after school special starring Scott Baio.
I hated doing homework and would do almost anything to avoid it. Good thing I never had much. At least I don’t think I did. Like I said, I blocked so much of it out.
I do, however, remember having great difficulty with math. My thinking style isn’t linear (obviously) and I have the attention span of a gnat. I had difficulty with everything because I was so hyperactive. All these things have always worked against me in a formal educational environment and it’s no easier for me in the home environment, trying to help my own kids with schoolwork.
So when I saw this math worksheet my son brought home at the beginning of the school year, I panicked!
I was about ready to fake an illness and hide out until I could figure out how to help him, but he didn’t ask for help. He just sat down and hammered it out. No difficulty, no argument. I am one of those moms who insist that the kids get some - if not all - of their homework done right after school if possible.
We’ve tried it both ways - doing it right away and waiting until later in the evening. Doing it right away works best for us.
Now, my daughter brought home a vocabulary packet, two pages, double sided, and due in a week. I knew I’d be able to help her if she asked, but I didn’t anticipate a request for assistance. Minor complaints and arguments, possibly, but asking for help with her work - no. I sat down across the table from her, quietly reading a book, hoping for the best. It took her all of one minute to erupt! She was thrashing around, banging her little fist on the table and howling like a coyote at the full moon.
“Moooooooooom this is so much homework and it’s so hard and I can’t do it and I don’t waaaaaaaaaaant to do it all right now and I’m huuuuuuuuungry and I want to play with Riley and I haaaaaaaate school, it’s so stuuuuuuuupid and I can’t do 100 pages of homework and why caaaaaaan’t I do it laaaaaaaaaaater? I promise I’ll doooooooo it. Pleeeeeeeease. Don’t maaaaaaaaake me…….”
She went on and on and on. Here is the inside of the packet.
THIS I could have helped with! Easy peasy. Helping her calm down and reminding her that she didn't have to do it all at once would be about as easy as milking a T-rex. Cate's flailing around, whining and arguing made me feel like I could turn into Nagasaki Nikki at any second. If I didn’t walk away, I was going to blow! I needed to re-group in order to help her.
So I gave her a snack and told her to take a break, claiming I would help her deal with her feelings of being overwhelmed and frustrated. I took some deep breaths and read the news and checked Facebook until I felt calm enough to be helpful to my daughter.
She wouldn’t have reacted any differently to only one page of homework. She hates it.
My kids could not be more different. I do the best I can, trying to cope with any difficult situation. Teachers do NOT get to escape to regroup. Teachers have anywhere from 10 to 40 students, all of them functioning at different cognitive and emotional levels. Each child needs attention and support delivered consistently by a qualified professional educator. I could not do what they do.
And so this week, I was thinking a lot I was thinking a lot about the Chicago Public School’s teacher’s strike, but not so seriously that I bothered to read up on the specifics, I think there are enough people going through it all with a fine tooth comb. However I have a general idea about what's popping in the city of Chicago.
As a professional that has worked in the school setting for many years, I know that the devil IS in the details. Today I sat in a meeting, acting as an educational advocate/mental health consultant. My job is to tease out the devil of mental illness, shining a spotlight on the impact it has on a child’s education and to assist educators and parents in creating and implementing an individualized education plan that specifically meets the needs of the child.
I’m the Switzerland of the group.
Like Joni Mitchell, I see both sides.
So to me, five days doesn’t seem unreasonable when there is so much at stake for both sides, and I believe that each side cares deeply about the education and well being of children. As a parent of two children with drastically different temperaments and learning styles, I can’t fathom what it’s like to be a teacher, responsible for an entire classroom of children.
I’m struggling to find the time, patience and confidence to help my own flesh and blood loves-of-my-life. How must it feel to be on both sides, trying to please everyone, teasing out the details?