Well, to be more accurate, I should say a fourth grader. My 10-year-old son has just started fourth grade. And two weeks into school? I’m already starting to hyperventilate about both the quantity and difficulty of his homework. Throw in an additional second grader and a bonus first grader? It’s the Homework That Ate New York, people.
I mean, are they joking? These task masters at school? I just don’t remember elementary school being so rigorous. Of course, I went during the 1970s, so all I really remember is all the teachers looking vaguely like Marcia Brady, singing a lot of Three Dog Night in music class, and plenty of talk about self esteem. Homework? I don’t remember homework. I do remember thinking, as I still do, that seven hours of schoolwork was plenty for one day, thank you.
Fast forward to 2013. “We have high expectations of our students!” chirps my son’s teacher. Evidently these expectations include my conducting at least two hours more instruction once I get my pre-teen home. Every night this week we’ve done math questions, 20 minutes of reading and English homework. There have been summaries due of the books he’s read. A poem crafted from vocabulary words. Computer work.
And that’s just one kid, folks. My second grader has math and reading every night. And joy of joys, my first grade daughter got to be “Queen for the Day” of her class this week. Oh, yes, we parents learn that being “Star Kid” or “Queen for the Day” in the classroom can mean only one thing: get ready to create some inane project overnight to accompany the experience.
Collect 10 items in a bag that describe you! Write a clever introduction to yourself and include pictures! Create a poster! Craft comic strips! And I am required to sign more autographs than a rock star and create more documentation than a doctor’s office: two books of 10 genres over the year. Write title, days started and finished, how many page numbers. Sign off on student planners and parent communicators. This is only week two, I remind you.
I’m telling you, all the folders and papers stretched out on my kitchen table after the school day makes the White House situation room look like a day spa. And let’s not even discuss the popularity of homework and the volition it takes for one, aging and sleep-deprived adult to force homework on surly elementary aged kids. It’s not pretty. It’s akin to pushing ropes. Some days I just want to throw up my hands and shout, “Well fine! Don’t do any homework. The world needs ditch diggers!”
Alas. I want them to get careers so they’ll move out. So I press on. Did I mention my 10-year-old son also has ADHD and a writing learning disorder? Good times. Because, as it turns out, it’s pretty hard to do any kind of work when you see letters and numbers backward, and it’s just about impossible to write. It’s also pretty difficult to concentrate when you’re surrounded by noisy siblings. I have no idea how my son is going to progress in school. We’re taking it an assignment at a time.
So the question I’m left with is: if it’s this hard to educate a kid, and I’m having so much trouble with it, what about all those parents I see at pick-up who clearly have no damns left to give? You know the ones: always screaming at their kids, frequently seen in slippers, the ones that have their names tattooed on their necks. If I’m breaking my neck to assist my kids with succeeding at school and barely scraping by, how are less enthusiastic parents getting by? There’s so much.
I’m just gonna say it: isn’t school enough? Do we even need homework? There’s gotta be a better way. I can’t imagine a single working mother of more than one kid ever being able to catch up. Am I naive here? Is there no way seven hours of instruction five days a week can be enough to create a kid smart enough to get a job that’ll pay for a really swanky retirement home for me?
Alas. As much as my kids and I would enjoy it, a life without homework is probably not to be. Say what you will about being an adult at a desk job, but at least you get to close the office door and take a break at night. In the meanwhile, all I can say, fellow parents, is one assignment at a time, sweet Jesus. It’s all I’m asking of You. At least they’re doing math I can still understand. God help us all come algebra. Which I haven’t used since 1986, thank you. Here’s to us, parents, and the never-ending learning experience that is raising kids. Now: anyone know a good tutor?