As a teacher, I can never discredit the importance of homework. It compliments learning and encourages independent study and learning.
I do however have a strange attitude to homework, it seems.
The teacher in me says that it is necessary…essential even. It allows students to check that they understand what was covered in class. It promotes responsibility for learning and pride in their own work, and it allows the teacher to evaluate who, and how well, their students have been learning. It also lets parents see what their kids are doing and how they are getting on.
But all of these advantages ONLY work when children do their homework for themselves. And it seems to becoming more and more ‘normal’ that the homework being sent home is becoming the homework of the parents.
When we were at school 359 years ago, we did our homework and went to school, where the teacher commented on it. If it was incorrect or insufficient, she or he told us; marked where we went wrong and showed how to fix it. If we made mistakes, we realised them.
If we couldn’t do it, we asked our parents to help and show us. They didn’t have Google, so if they couldn’t help us, they told us to ‘ask your teacher’. We learned to ask for help if we needed. And we learned that needing something explained again was normal.
IF a child doesn’t get the little x or the comment or the example of how to improve from the teacher, how are they ever supposed to learn?
Homework can be viewed as an essential part of learning, but with the increase in pace of life and the massive timetables and routines in most homes nowadays, it can also be seen as a torture.
Me? Now, as a Mum to a dizzy seven year old, I am absolutely aware of the royal pain in the bum that homework is.
I would like to see less written work some evenings, especially for little ones. I like the idea of set homework days. So many of us spend evenings taking them to other classes or activities, all of which are important for their development and confidence too.
And in some houses, there is very limited time between home-time and bedtime, and family time is limited because it’s spent trying to get through hills of homework, never mind cooking and feeding them and trying to fit your whole day into a few hours.
I don’t know about your kids, but mine is knackered after a full day at school. She wants to play with her toys, or read her books, or go bounce on the trampoline, or sometimes just watch TV … and by Thursday, she’s as done in as I am.
I see more and more parents online and in groups stressing about their kids’ homework. I had this conversation with a few friends recently. One stated that she feels like the homework is testing HER, rather than her daughter. Another commented that he feels useless as he’s unable to understand the homework his 8 year old gets.
And another said that the homework was taking nearly 90 minutes in the evening. Her children are 4 and 5. I stood pretty quietly if I’m honest, the Mammy guilt creeping in, because I am one of those BAD parents it seems. Because Mini-Me’s homework is HER homework, not mine.
You see, in our house, SHE does the homework.
I check it and I sign the diary. If I see letters back to front or a very silly mistake, I’ll point it out in a question. ‘Do you think that’s long enough?’ ‘Is that 3 written right?’ and ‘Will teacher be happy with that?’ work.
If she thinks it’s fine, I won’t correct her, even if I know that it’s not good enough. I’m very aware of how she is getting on and what she is struggling with, but I don’t fight with her. Because to be honest, she won’t listen to me anyway. Me telling her something is wrong goes over her head. Teacher telling her something is wrong however, is GOSPEL. And I won’t have my children growing up thinking that their school work is my problem. It’s theirs.
Why? Am I cruel? Am I lazy? Should I not be sitting down and guiding her through the work every night so she can present perfect homework to Teacher every day? Because that is what many parents do. And the kids go to school with perfect work and get no red marks and every one is happy… until they do a test and it becomes apparent that actually, Nancy doesn’t get long division, or Jimmy doesn’t know his vowel sounds.
How she learns and grows is not going to be dependent on how well I understand her multiplication or Irish verbs. And when she gets to secondary school, she needs to be able to manage her time and to take criticism. (And trust me here, that is a skill that our kids need. Because the number of teenagers who are genuinely unable to take criticism of ANY kind is unbelievable.)
The New Junior Cycle is so full of home-based projects and self-evaluation, that if we don’t allow our young children to do their own work, take the comments on it, apply them and understand, we are simply setting OURSELVES up for a lot of work when they get to secondary school.
I asked my followers what they thought about homework during the week. Here are some of the replies:
71% feel that their kids get too much homework.
“I feel I am putting more pressure on my child after school is over.”
“Yes. My son is 7 and his concentration is gone by the time he gets home”
“Yes. It’s a struggle everyday, especially if they have activities or classes to go to too.”
“I stopped checking their homework in senior infants. 100% result not true. They need to see the x marks.”
“Not every night, but my 9 year old is overwhelmed sometimes.”
“Life is too precious for homework, get out and explore!”
Then I had a few primary teachers reply:
One said that as a Mum, she hates it, but that as a teacher, she has to give it.
Two said that they hate to think they are putting pressure on parents but that it is a necessity for learning.
Another said “Under pressure to give it!”
One said that if she didn’t give homework “there are so many kids who would spend the whole evening in front of a screen,” and this of course is also true.
And a few reminded me that there are time guidelines that should be adhered to.
So it’s very much a double edged sword and I am the perfect example of the sword bearer.
The teacher in me gives it (although I limit it. I feel that if they’re engaged and attentive in my classroom, they don’t need daily home activities from me.) The parent in me hates it, but agrees that it is important too…
But ONLY if they are doing it themselves and it is functional and meaningful.
It’s her homework not mine. She needs to be able to take comments and criticism if necessary. She needs to learn the process of what she’s doing. If I do it for her, she’s learning that I’ll do it for her and that she can opt out.
But am I going to stand up in her exams and give a talk on how I created something? Am I going to sit her exams for her? Am I going to be there to explain to the teacher how I got an answer that she couldn’t do?
But I will be there to smile at her when SHE gets 8/10 or to let her rant about being scolded. I will be there to cheer her on when SHE gets the best mark SHE can get. And I will be there to praise her when she finally figures out that maths thingy that she couldn’t do.
Because I’ve been to school. (I’m still there!) I’ve done my homework. I learned what I learned and I failed if I didn’t work. But NEVER, did my parents do any of it for me. And NEVER did they make excuses for me if I didn’t do it right or didn’t do it at all. And as much as I grumbled and complained about that as a teenager, I am now grateful for it.
There is no right or wrong here. Each house is different and every child has different strengths and abilities, and every parent knows what works for their kids.
But I’d love to know your general thoughts on homework.
It is Friyay…the FIRST Friyay after a FULL week of school and work and routine. And we have all survived. (albeit just about, but survive we have.)
We may be frazzled and fooked Mammies, but still we must find the energy to REJOICE in the Fact that we have made it to the most wonderful evening of the week.
This week, after a long and sunniful summer,I am back to being a Full-time Mammy with a Full-time Job-job. What have I learned? Nothing. But I have remembered many things; Things that I had suffocated and locked in a tattered old box at the back of the memory part of my subconscious, but which now bounce back to the forefront of my ridiculously tired little mind.
- Tired children are cranky.
- Tired children like to find a reason, ANY reason, to cry.
- Tired children do not KNOW that they are tired.
- Tired children refuse to admit that they are tired.
- Tired children will bite one another.
- Tired children do not like to go to their beds, regardless of how tired they are.
- Tired children like to wake up at 2am and play with their toys, with the light on, noisily enough to waken everyone so that they have someone to tell that they are NOT tired.
- Tired children do NOT like to get dressed in the morning.
- Tired children do NOT like it when you bounce into their bedrooms at 7am singing “Good Morning, Good Moooooooorning!, opening curtains and declaring that it is time for school. (Especially the not tired children who have been up half the night playing with their fecking toys.)
- Tired children like to say “No” and “No” and sometimes, “Noooooo!” to absolutely EVERYTHING that Tired Mammy asks or suggests.
And along with tired children, comes the Tired Mammy. But as well as being a tired Mammy, Mammy ALSO has to be SUPER-ORGANISED Mammy.
- Mammy needs to keep on top of the fridge situation.
- Mammy needs to pack lunchboxes and school bags and afterschool bags.
- Mammy needs to remember the fecking HORROR that is HOMEWORK.
- Mammy needs to think about dinners sooner than when she opens the fridge at 6pm.
- Mammy needs to set her alarm to make sure she gets out of bed 30 minutes before everyone else if Mammy wants to pee, shower and have a coffee all by herself.
- Mammy needs to be an intelligent and functioning adult.
- Mammy needs to rid her brain of references to Peppa Pig and Andy and Bing because they are not relevant to Macbeth and teenagers do NOT respond well to them.
- Mammy needs to try to keep the washing basket from puking and Mammy needs to arrange everyone’s clothes before bedtime.
- Mammy needs to remain relatively Wifely and interesting enough to hold a brief conversation with Tired Daddy when he comes home from Jim.
- And Mammy needs to get used to wearing stupid heels and muckup every single day. (I’ll last until the end of September…)
- Mammy needs to cram all of the Mammying and playing and cuddling and scolding and fun into 3 hours in the evening, while being JUST as tired as her beloved Tired Children who are determined to PUNISH her tired ass for abandoning them in school and creche. (Even though they both LOVE where they go and actually CRY when they are collected.)
- Mammy struggles with balancing the Mammy guilt when she’s away from them, and the urge to sell them on ETSY when she’s spent an hour being screamed at and cried at by her Tired Minions.
- Mammy can’t win.
In conclusion. Mammy does indeed need to rejoice that she has made it to Friday night, has the tired minions in bed, her feet up and the grapes poured. And now Mammy needs all of her Lovely Supermums to say Hello and remind her of what I have been missing while abandoning you all this week while trying to keep 286 plates spinning without falling off her heels and onto her poor, muck-uped, Mammy-guilty face.
Because as Tired as the two Dollies are, and despite the fact that I had to WAKE them every morning this week, I guarantee that the little farts shall be up at 6.30am tomorrow…
Because it’s Saturday of course.
Cheers Bitcheepoos. xxx
Sending all the hugs and smiles to all the Mums and Dads who have a little one taking the big first steps today.
I hope they skip in, wondering why Silly Mummy is being a big eejit.
Next week, our Princess, like so many other Wobblers, will be taking her first steps into the big bad world without Mammy or Daddy.
Now starting Pre-school is not quite the same as starting School School, but if your minion is about to start Pre-school, it is perfectly acceptable to be feeling it right now. It’s good practice for how you are going to feel when you’re packing their school bag for Baby infants.
In our house, I can see it play out already. How? Because Princess is not my first baby to suddenly grow up on me. And yet she’s my first last, and suddenly time is spinning and I can’t keep up.
It’ll be a typical last Sunday night in August. For 30 years, this particular Sunday night has been a dreaded Sunday night because it marks the first day back at school for this Teacher Mum. I never actually left the education system, so it’s routine by now. Every year, I insist on going out somewhere for the day. I refuse to cook dinner. I try to get an early night. But this year, it’s not about me. It’ll be about Princess.
Her new outfit will perfectly pressed and hanging in the bedroom. I’ll have everything that they need laid out for the morning. The table is already set for breakfast. She’ll been read a special storybook that Daddy found online for Mini-Me about her first day at pre-school (with the name cleverly changed and Mini-Me under threat of no Netflix for a month if she tells her!) and will been tucked in to dream of fairies and muddy puddles.
And I’ll pour a glass of wine and try not to think about the fact that tomorrow is yet another first in my baby’s life.
I’m leaving her to the same childcare place that she usually goes to, but she’s going into her Big Girl classroom. And she’s going to be going 5 days a week, instead of 2. It’s really no big change. She’s more than ready for it and she’s so excited about starting Naoínra that it’s quite contagious. It’s all good. She could be terrified and refusing to go, but she isn’t.
And I wonder if that is helping Mammy or making me feel worse.
As parents, we have to let our babies grow up. We mark every milestone. We remember every achievement. We let them go into the world, little by little, and just hope that what they receive from us at home is enough to arm them for what the world holds for them. Every little step is essential, and indeed we are very aware of how blessed we are that our mini-Me’s are healthy and able to step into the world. But it doesn’t mean we have to be absolutely happy about it, all the time!
As parents, we also have to trust…To trust the people who will be responsible for looking after our little darlings. We have to trust that their teachers will care for them; that they will be kind to them; that they will give their all to make them who they can be.
So while I feel that I need at least an hour with her new teacher tomorrow morning to go through a crash course, with power point presentation if I could, on what my Little Darling likes, what she’s afraid of, her habits, what upsets her, how she needs help with some things, how brilliant she is at other things and basically, everything about her, I know that I’ll drop her at the door with a smile, tell her to be a good girl and to have fun, and get into the car.
Then I’ll probably bawl my way to work.
But it’ll be fine, because I’ve realised that while I’m entrusting a teacher with the single most important thing in my world, I get to return the favour to other Starting-School Mums. Because for the first time, I truly understand the angst and terror of the Mammies and Daddies who drop their kiddies off at our school’s big blue door every September. I finally understand that I’m not just there to teach them English. I’m there to care for them; to be kind to them; and to give my all to help mould them into who they can be. And it’s the second best job in the world.
And while she is only starting Pre-school, it is indeed a big deal for our little family and for my little Princess. Yes, it might be just another day, but it’s one that we’ll remember forever. Yes, it’s going to be emotional, but it’s good emotion.
And to all of the Mammies and Daddies whose little Darlings are taking their first steps into Pre-school, School School, Secondary School or indeed third level, I send all of my S-Mum love and good wishes, because tomorrow is most likely going to be harder on you than it is on our kids.
So we’ll put on our big girl (or boy) pants and we’ll suck it up.
Because we are Starting School Mums (and Dads). 🙂