Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Homework Monster.

A friend of my mine going by the name of  Partly Sunny, recently blogged about the entire "homework" issue.  It is a great blog and I highly recommend reading it.   It just brought up so many feelings about my own childhood and how much I hated school and homework.  It's been on my mind since, so I thought I would write about my first homework memory.  I do not remember all of the details, what I do remember is somewhat stuttered and to be honest I have banished memories of elementary school into the nether regions of my brain.  Unfortunately they are flying back to the forefront as my kids journey through thier own school experience.  Thank God they LOVE school. But this homework thing - yuk - it is again raising its ugly head. 
At least I can pinpoint where my personal hatred started, not that it helps.

I had fuzzy ponytails with acrylic yarn bows. My too small socks kept creeping down into my shoes. As always I was wearing some sort of unfortunate plaid, and I am sure my knees were ashy.  Obviously I wasn't quite as pulled together as the other kids, but ot was an important day; a big deal of a project was due.    I know it was a big deal because we had to stand in the front of the classroom and present to everyone.  I must admit, I don't have any memories of doing the assignment; no name or the topic comes to mind, but I do remember it was a carefully written short story (very short story) in my black and white marble notebook.  My chest was full of excitement. I remember feeling proud as I practiced reading aloud.  I was ready to do my thing and astound everyone with my wit and creativity. By time I was 8 I knew I was a writer.

I was really into my preparations, when this girl, one of the "bad" girls, specifically the leader of the "bad" girls asked to see my story.  I reluctantly showed it her and she swiftly snatched it from me. I watched in horror as she copied my story word for word.   I said nothing. I was one of those shy scared types (well. let's say I started out that way) and was not only afraid the girl was going to beat me down, I was scared to tell the teacher.   

I remember feeling paralyzed and terrified as the teacher started calling each presenter.  I think bad girl went first.  Of course the teacher was impressed with my work and gave her a big hand.  Unfortunately I was called next and walked to the head of the classroom like I was walking to the electric chair. I stood at the front of the class with me legs tightly pressed together. I was an occasional pant pee-er and was trying my best to avoid a scared puppy fiasco.  I looked down at the story which in minutes went from being my pride to my shame.  A symbol of my weakness.  If I had just told bad girl "No", or found the MIA teacher, I would still feel good about my accomplishment.  

I read the story, painfully repeating every single work that had just been recited.  Immediately I was in trouble. There was no investigation, no questioning, just a humiliating reprimand for the two of us as we stood in the front of class.  Bad girl could have cared less, she was frequently in trouble. I was never in trouble so I was mortified and extremely pained, especially when I slipped the note to my parents into my bookbag.

So here I am many years later, and my hatred of homework is rising again. Every day my two boys come home with massive amounts of paper the teacher doesn't want cluttering her classroom. Somewhere in all that copied crap are the homework assignments.  Everyday we go through the same after school routine, backpacks and shoes tossed on the living room carpet, the fridge door opening and closing a thousand times, and so TV time that ends with me making my "homework time" announcement.  Everyday my announcement is met with whining and pleading.  At some point, usually after a threat of taking TV away altogether...they get to working.  They finish, I check it, point out errors, ask the "is that all the homework you have" question and we move on.

This week my 8 year old came home with his first "E" and a note from his teacher saying that he did not turn in about half of his homework for the week.  The "E" was for a literacy test - an open book literacy test at that.   As for the homework, it turns out my perfect 8 year old had been lying about the amount of homework and was not writing the assignments down on his homework calendar.  As soon as the "E" emerged from the backpack the tears started.  And they did not end until he was sent into his room to re-take the open book test. Did I mention the book was 4 pages long including front and back cover?   I felt like crying too - from sheer exhaustion.

My son does not realize that I hate homework more than he does.  I hate all the paper that accumulates in my living room.  I hate that my 6 year olds does not want to throw anything out, so I have to go through this whole ridiculous ritual of hiding the trash.  I hate having to worry about grades and performance.  I hate feeling like I do not know how to balance wanting them to be the best they can be with wanting them to scholastically perfect.  Mostly I hate the fact that I am already worried that they will hate school like I did and underperform.  Homework has become a monster in our house that scares up every bit of anxiety I have about my children's education.  I am trying very hard to follow the guidance of thier elementary school principal.  "Lighten-up" she stated at the last PTA meeting.  I am trying -  but homework for me is just one big pile of YUK. 


  1. AAAAHHHH!!! I hate it when they tell you to lighten up. We're trying to teach our kids to be responsible. So I can't exactly adopt an "it's no biggie" or "it doesn't matter" attitude toward the whole thing. And obviously your school cares because they sent him home with an E (whatever the hell that means. I don't even know what that means!).

    And your childhood story just about brought me to tears. I cannot believe that happened to you. How do the the bad kids learn this stuff? Do they take some sort of class? And incidentally, I'm pretty sure I've scarred Elfie for life after our homework experience this afternoon. In a nutshell . . . kid freaking out, mother gnashing teeth, kid crying, mother throwing small tantrum. I'm SURE she won't remember any of it.

    And thanks for pluggin' my blog.:)

  2. Oh, I feel your eight year old pain!! What is wrong with mean kids???? I hope that there are less of them in our generation, but my friends girls are already encountering "mean girls" which breaks my heart... My oldest is still in pre-K so we haven't addressed the homework issue yet, but it's just around the corner, so I can use all the tips I can get!

  3. Partly - I hate it all. I just do...homework is now in my husband's domain!

    Parenting - the "mean" girl and I actually became friends later in that year I think. Not that I would accept this behavior by my children, but I snapped when she stole my paste and turned her desk over in class.

    But this whole mean girl thing is really sad to me. Where is the unity in womanhood??

  4. I heard that it starts in kindergarten. KINDERGARTEN? WTF????? I am dreading this stage of our life. Especially when I need to start assisting with the homework. Algebra? I forgot it as soon as I left Highschool in 1992. I am going to be useless.

  5. So much about this sounds wrong! I hope your teacher lightens up!1 What is she thinking giving and 8 year old 4 page tests!
    I hope it gets easier for you and your little man.

  6. School is for school, home is for home. I think the most important learning is fun!

  7. Uggghhhh. Love this post because I can completely relate. I have 4 girls, two of which are in elementary school, and I HATE HOMEWORK!!!!! I'm so sorry that you had that awful experience in grade school, childhood can be a bee-autch!

    I hope all gets better for little man too! But I'm she he's just like his resilient Mama!

    Love your blog. I'm you newest follower.

  8. Kimbery! I agree - learning should be fun!

    Nicki: So you can feel my pain right?!?

    Deana: I hate all the paper! Also, the test was 1 page - the book from the open book page was 4 pages long. Really ended up being 2 pages. That is why I was frustrated with my son.....sigh!!!!! The saga continues.

  9. Grrrr! That's an awful story! I hope that Mean Girl got her due. I hope she's stubbing her toe as I speak!

    I'm dreading the day my girls start bringing home homework because I remember the tears and frustration from my own homework days. Ugh.

  10. One of the benefits of homeschooling is, no homework. I think education is super important but kids do so much learning on their own, or with parents, through homework that it makes you wonder what the teachers do.

  11. Jules - actually after I started standing up for myself we kinda became friends...

    melissa: Kudos to you home school moms. If I home schooled my kids, they would love art and music, know about poetry and literature and would not be able to fiqure out change for a 20! It is great to be able to organize your kids the way you want!

  12. I think learning should be fun and exciting. you should see my little boy when he comes home with a book he checked out from the library. He's only 4yrs old and my daughter is 2. She learns from her big brother. Girl, don't get me started about my babies, I could go on and on about this.

  13. My first ever fight in junior high was over homework. Instead of just giving the boy my work, I decided to give him all the wrong answers. He wasn't as dumb as I thought though. Love your blog. ;)