Homework – how many of us parents dread this? It hangs over me from the minute we get home from school and as the sun goes down the invisible ticking clock gets louder in my head, but my emotional wherewithal is severely compromised by this point. I always think a glass of something might help, but actually I know that really it is the reward for getting through homework, supper, bath and bed without losing my temper with the children. With a year 3 child, homework is at a low level yet the fireworks it creates can be spectacular. Often I feel like the only mother losing her marbles over this long held institution but I know it’s not just me. What intrigues me is that everyone has a different way of dealing with this particular joy.
The let it go house
This house has a laissez faire attitude – no one sits down to do homework if they don’t want to. There’s no bribery, pleading or shouting. But there is a lesson learnt here – take responsibility for your own actions. If you don’t do it then you have to answer to your teachers and your peers. I really respect the parents who follow this through.
The keep calm and get it done house
This is what I aspire to – I actually think these houses are urban myths but some children seem to come in and just get on with their homework. I can’t work out if that’s because they are actually robots or drugged. Or maybe they are heavily bribed. I mean seriously, how many children actually want to do homework? These homes also have a calm and serene feel and seem to be tidy, ordered and organized.
The shouty house
This is where every day a mother starts with the aspiration of a calm, cool and collected post-school afternoon, but after the third request to ‘please do your homework’, resorts to shouting which takes us quickly to meltdown mode. Hello my house. I still fail to understand why I have to ask more then 8 times before shouting to get any response.
And let alone my children, how do I cope with homework! Much is done in the car which means that I forget to write in the diary what has been read. So my reception year child looks seriously unsupported as his reading diary has next to no comments from me. My vision of serenity is always fractured by tea time, as is theirs and I struggle to stay calm while organizing tea, emptying kit bags, feeding the dog, packing things for the next day and refereeing the warring factions I acquired at school pick up.
What kind of homework mother are you? Do you hover, correcting every mistake as it occurs; or do you wait until it’s completed then tear it apart? Do you test their knowledge after completion or just assume that the mere act of completing it constitutes some sort of understanding? Is it just me that seriously questions the point of homework at times? Yet, I understand its value. The teachers rely on us to back up what is being done in the classroom, the children need to learn, gently, that most work requires some sort of extra input outside of school hours – it’s just a taster for most people’s working lives after all. (How many of you will check work-related emails, read articles or do some research outside of your formal work hours and place?) and I know that the more something is repeated the more we understand it.
I also know that it’s an opportunity for us to see what our children are doing and to make sure that we can support their learning at home in a calm and measured manner. But I also love that my year 3 still wants a ‘play bath’ and a bedtime story and that is what gets lost in the tantrums (mine and hers) over homework. It’s another juggling act. And one that I seem to lose more often than not.
So to try and bring some order to the chaos, I have introduced buttons in our house. Essentially it’s like a currency: good behaviour, kind deeds, getting things done, table manners, helping with chores etc. all earn buttons. The children save their buttons and then convert them to a treat or a ‘thing’ depending on what we have discussed.
Then there is the coveted gold or silver button. This takes some serious work to achieve. (We are talking Blue Peter badge type achievement.) I liken it to my glass of gin on a Saturday night – I’ve worked hard (really, really, REALLY hard) all week and that is my reward, as is the gold or silver button their reward for something outstanding.
Homework is on the button hit list. And I’m not ashamed to say that I am deploying button currency at full throttle. As it’s only started this week I can’t yet tell you how effective it is, but there has been significantly reduced shouting, which must be a good sign surely?