I hated doing homework the first time round, so why would I suddenly start enjoying it more when it comes to my children’s homework? That’s called homework help. All the drama, tears, eye rolling, procrastination, lying on the floor feigning a death rattle just to avoid sitting at the table and getting on with it, and that’s just me. To be honest I see it as little more than a great way to make me want to slash my wrists and for the children to yearn for a parallel universe where they were given a mother that wears long floaty dresses, daisies in her hair, and just happens to think that real education is only had by forgoing school and skipping around a meadow looking at the pretty flowers and learning at the great school of life, maaaaaan. Of course they would also have to be called Star or Sunshine or something, and they might perhaps not smell quite so good, but I honestly think they’d trade both for an unburdened afternoon doing whatever they damn well please… as would I.
Obviously I don’t need it pointed out that I probably don’t make things any easier for them. With a sinful addiction to spell check and coming out in a rash whenever faced with times tables that I can’t easily work out on my fingers doesn’t set me up to be particularly enthusiastic when I quiz them about what
torture delights we have in store that afternoon. But, out of middle class guilt more than anything, every night I play referee, motivator, cheerleader, exasperated dictator all to just get through three lots of homework. Yes that’s right I did say three. Dominic, aged 4 gets homework. There is very little effort involved, unless they go for a makey kind of project of the type that I detest that involves pasta and felt tips, but it normally takes us a week to actually get round to it in between all the spelling, maths and reading going on. The challenge with Dominic and homework is to try and stop him eating it before we’ve had a chance to finish it. The fact that Dominic is not safe to be left around homework was discovered around this time last year. I still remember when Lilia was in Reception, one of the highlights of the year (for the children) was getting to take home Dithering Dinosaur. We seemed to get the grubby little stuffed toy more often than was reasonable, and each time a complex system had to be put in place to ensure that the dinosaur was not lost by a forgetful child or mauled by a (then) very young labradoodle puppy who had just come to join our family.
Having almost reached the end of the year I was disheartened to see Lilia skipping out of her classroom on Friday afternoon gleefully clutching a small dinosaur by the neck declaring that they were going to do everything together. A whole weekend lay ahead of us. By Sunday I was congratulating myself on almost having made it with no real incidents. I managed to remove most of the tomato sauce from its fur where she shared her dinner with him, concluded that indeed red painted nails might be an acceptable look for a dinosaur to pull off in this day and age and rescued him from the jaws of an overly friendly dog that wanted to chew on him just a little bit to make him feel at home with amputee Barbie and headless Ted. What I hadn’t accounted for was the little brother. Lilia was so proud of the three books of immaculate artwork and increasingly detailed descriptions of all the fun, wholesome and thoroughly educational activities that her classmates had got up to with Dithering Dinosaur, she had shown them to Dominic. As Dominic seemed unusually interested in the books she had thoughtfully left them with him to look through. The next morning, having to send Lilia dragging her feet, head hung with remorse back into school with a perfectly intact, red toe-nailed dinosaur, and three half eaten work books, ripped and destroyed where Dominic had tucked into each delicious page of hard work, was not a high point as a mother. To this day I don’t know how they reacted to being told that her brother ate her homework. Needless to say we didn’t get Dithering Dinosaur again.
I am full of admiration for the mothers who relish the time spent sharing a project, dusting off their brains and pushing their children to produce fine pieces of work outside school time, I, just like my children, just struggle to find the motivation to whiz through it so we can do something more interesting. Just occasionally, like I did last week, I admit defeat, tell myself that I am merely recognising my own inability to be a competitive parent, and defer to a greater authority… Google.
Specifically I was googling for some automated program that could, with the same robotic voice as I generally used, test Elliot on his 8, 9 and 11 times tables, all mixed up. Preferably in the same 3 minute time slot that he had when he was tested at school, and even more preferably, without need for input from me. And this my dear friends is where I could kiss the shiny bald head of Steve Jobs and thank him heartily for the wonder that is the iPad. For low and behold there is an app that does just that. So, to all my friends who are willing to admit that life is too short to spend all afternoon being a slave to your child’s homework, can I recommend Math Board as a quick fix solution. And before I get criticised for not caring enough about my son’s education, I do… I just don’t think I’m necessarily good for it. We had, up until this point, spent 3 weeks gritting our teeth practicing all variations of those times tables, and each Friday he failed to complete all 20 questions in 3 minutes. He was disheartened. One afternoon playing the iPad, and the following day he passed with time to spare. Yay for technology doing a better job than me. Now, I wonder if there is an app that would tackle the bath and bedtime routine as well…