Thursday, February 5, 2009

Homework Headaches

Dear Blog,

Good mothers work hard to ensure their children's academic success. I aspire to one day be one of those mothers. Right now though, not so much. This week, I've decided that I'm more burnt out on school than I EVER was when I was a student myself. Why is that?

A. Son #1 has never been a fan of school. I accept this. We've done everything that we could think of to convince him otherwise since 1st grade, but sometimes you just have to face it. Some people just hate school with a passion and as a parent you reach a point when you realize, "Hey, I can't FORCE somebody to like something. I can only force him to go." That's it. I've given him rewards for improving his grades and punishments for letting them slip. We've medicated and tutored... the whole nine yards. Honestly, he's doing better now than he ever has (which means we're celebrating his C average) but I can't take a whole lot of credit for his success. He has some fabulous teachers and he's matured a lot this year as well. He still hates writing. As he threw a royal fit over the injustice of having to write a 5 paragraph report the other night, I was utterly perplexed. Doesn't he realize that 5 paragraphs is nothing at all? I write that much on my blog voluntarily. For fun even.

B. Son #2 used to LOVE school. Up until this year, he never had less than straight A's (or S+'s the elementary equivalent of an A.) All of a sudden he's avoiding his schoolwork like a draft dodger in route to Mexico and his report card is sporting (gasp) F's. Here I've spent (I don't want to tell you how much) money over the years on book collections and educational games and science kits to nurture his gifted brain that was frequently bored and now he's decided that it's all "too hard" and won't put in ANY effort. I'm sorry Son, but you can't throw in the towel and drop out in 4th grade. You were born in the wrong era for that. Not to mention, you've spent the previous years of your childhood rubbing salt into your brother's wounds about how you can't believe he struggles in school because it's "so easy" for you. I suppose the fact that his report card is now better than yours should be deemed some sort of justice for your arrogant ways, but I can't get past my frustration with your laziness to truly enjoy the poetry of your brother getting to celebrate pulling in better grades than you for a change. All I know is, I do feel sort of childish for splashing you in the face with that cup of ice water the other night when you were throwing a tantrum about your homework that should have taken 30 minutes tops and you had already extended it into a 3 hour ordeal complete with tears and teeth gnashing while blaming every one but yourself.

C. Son #3 brought home a packet of work that they had done together in the classroom and he had apparently not "gotten". His teacher attached a note, "Mrs. Hensley, Russell doesn't understand this. Please work with him at home." Sure, I can do that. Then, I look through the packet and see that he REALLY didn't understand it. A weeks worth of math worksheets all incorrect. A weeks worth of alphabetical order worksheets also all incorrect. A couple of Scholastic News reports on Barack Obama's inauguration and Martin Luther King, Jr. day looking like Greek to him. So, I'm sitting with him at the kitchen table trying to find a way to explain something that his teacher obviously must have explained already only I don't have a masters in teaching and am wondering how I'm supposed to make it make sense if she couldn't. Somehow, we managed to get it all done (while fighting with Tatton about how he MUST finish his homework... and trying to convince Lane that the 5 paragraph report is NOT as big a deal as he's making it out to be and that he should really just plop down at the table and write it one paragraph at a time... and practicing reading with Brooke...)

I'm just trying to figure out how when I was a kid, I managed to go to school, pull in good grades fairly effortlessly (I don't remember shedding all these tears that I'm seeing from my kids now) and still had time to run around outside climbing trees and riding bikes on my evenings and weekends? I don't remember my parents spending hours upon hours with me coaching me on reports and nagging me about all of the homework in my 30 lb. backpack. In fact, I don't remember having a backpack that caused chiropractor visits at all. So, when did this happen? When did it change so that my adult years now involve more schoolwork than my childhood ever seemed to? When did my kids stop having time to play and why does it seem we barely have any time to have a life outside of school unless their grades suffer for it? Grrr- maybe I was naive when I went into this parenting thing, but I'll tell you what: I never anticipated being this burnt out & exhausted from educating my kiddos and I would have never guessed that I'd have a kid who required anti-anxiety meds to go to school. Here our nation is in the middle of a childhood obesity epidemic and my kids are being held in at recess to catch up on missing assignments and doing even more schoolwork instead of physical activities on their evenings and weekends. I kind of doubt that their brains are even retaining any of it anyway since they're so burnt out themselves. That's my family planning motivation right there. Even though I'm a baby crazed mama who would LOVE to have more kids, I KNOW that I don't have the time or the energy for another one because I'm already so stressed and busy trying to keep up with the schoolwork for the ones I have. When you start getting so stressed over your child's homework that you break down and toss a glass of ice water on his tear streaked, whiny face, it's a good sign that you're incapable of handling more offspring and that MAYBE you shouldn't have had quite as many as you had in the first place.


  1. Dear Natalie,
    It's not just you that feels this headache from homework. I too, don't remember struggling so much trying to get the homework done. I think so much has changed in our public school systems over the last 20 years, that has a lot to do with it.
    The teachers don't have near the time nor the energy like they used too.
    And I barely remember having homework in Elementary school at all.
    So you are not alone. I dread middle school homework more than anything..

    p.s. you are doing a GREAT job raising the brood you've bred. Don't doubt yourself!!

  2. They have talked a lot in the last few years how much more pressure kids have in school now. But for Son 3, that teacher should have said we need to have some seesions during recess or after school, you don't have a teaching degree so I have no idea how I would have explained something to a kid that a teacher couldn't teach!!

  3. Don't even get me started on the stupid homework vs. life debate. I'm convinced that homework is ruining the lives of families everywhere, and that the kids they want it to help are hurt the most by it since they're ALREADY bringing home "work" they didn't get done in class. I'm thinking of boycotting it altogether, and wondering how the school will take it.

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