I have been the parent of school aged children for two years. Okay, we’re only a year-and-a-half into the school thing, but it feels like twice that amount of time. We’ve finally gotten the morning routine down to a science. I don’t mean we ‘do it well’, but we at least know what it should be. Sharlene and I have a minimum of one argument a week, instead of the every other day it was. You know the kind of argument that starts with, a comment about that early morning meeting I have scheduled or the report that needs to be completed. Guilt comes into play with a mumbled, “I did her hair for the past two days”. Translation, I’ve got the credit on this one, so clearly, I should leave first. Or simply, “can I get to work on time…just once…please!”
Even afternoons have gotten better. For the first four months of my son’s kindergarten year, I would call Sharlene to let her know I was on my way. The second time I left to pick him up, I sat behind a three car accident and completely missed the bus. I still feel a little queasy about that moment and my Momma-guilt resulted in lot’s sugary treats ‘to make up for it’. There really wasn’t enough candy in the world to make it up to my Shar, who started to feel like she had to be both anxious and available on her “days off”. Eventually we found a schedule and support to make afternoons work well for our family.
The one school-related activity I feel very little competency in is with the kids homework. First of all, it’s never ending. NEVER ENDING worksheets, packets, and reports. My kids are five and six years old, but I actually have to look up definitions to understand the concepts they are learning. When my five-year old child asks me for a schema. I thought she had made up the word. Until my six-year-old explained that, “she was asking you for the ideas in your head”. WHAT…? Clearly I didn’t pay attention to the seven hundred pieces of paper we receive a day, explaining how this concept would be used as a tool for children our elementary school. As I tap into my parenting shame, I allow myself to feel inadequate, and then move on to be more involved in what they are learning.
So…this bring me back to homework. It represents everything I struggle with about the modern school system and yet, it’s the most focused time I spend with my kids. They have an opportunity to show me what they are learning and often what they are interested in. It’s the time they spend talking about their day, as well as their friends and teachers. It’s also the most stressful and frustrating time of the day. The time when I want to pay attention the least and I’m the most tired. Not so secretly, as parents, we have lot’s of gripes about the education system in general and these difficult nights make it worse. Things like, “busy work” and “conformity”. Of course, “we are teaching are kids to comply” and to “value the judgments and standards of others”.
Of course, tonight was the easiest homework night ever. My daughter completed several math problems with enthusiasm and accuracy. She ‘talked’ about her day and sang songs ‘in between’ pages. We had fun and I truly believe she was learning something in a fun way. We found other ways to add and subtract ‘things’ on the table…hopefully applying these concepts in a constructive way. It was fun. Tomorrow could be just as fun or not, either way I’m going to just enjoy a good night. After all, homework really is the never-ending story and man…we have a long way to go!