Skirting the Issue - Back to school and the joys of homework

I’m going to enjoy the next few days. The slight (very slight) lying in. The non-hurried departure from the house. The lack of queuing on packed roads and trying to find a parking space within a one mile radius of the school gates.

I’m going to enjoy not having to iron small white shirts which, generally, we only get a day’s wear out of. Or worry about scuffed school shoes. The backing of exercise books. And remembering to pack a healthy fruit break each morning. The joys which come in abundance with it being term time.

I’m going to enjoy the lack of homework most of all - because I’ve been warned, you see, that this year it gets tough. The boy is entering primary four. I’m told to expect hardcore homework, which makes me want to weep, because P3 felt pretty hardcore at times. We had reading, and maths, and spelling, and writing, and “extra homework” to gain rewards and it made me want to sit in a corner and rock back and forth until everyone went away.

Of all my parenting duties, helping the boy with his homework has to be my most hated. I know it is kind of part of the parenting deal but that does not mean I hold any love for it.

It’s hard work getting a seven year-old, who has spent a day trying to curb his seven-year-old tendencies to act the maggot to sit down at the end of the day and concentrate for another full half hour or more. (Isn’t it? Tell me I’m not alone and the rest of you all don’t have homework loving children who just can’t wait to recite their spellings again and again...)

It’s even harder work getting a 35 year-old me to spend a full half hour or more supervising homework, researching the topic of the day on the internet and getting busy with the glue stick and crayons when all I want to do after a day at work is put my feet up or perhaps do something fun with my children.

Our home frequently became a battle ground between 6 and 7pm. (Much as I would like to get the homework out of the way earlier that is impossible when you are still in work). The boy would take up his position, petted lip on standby, at the kitchen table. I would sit down and open up his books. We would stare at each in a kind of Mexican stand off... me gesturing to him to pick up his pencil. Him shaking his head in defiance. When the impasse was eventually broken (with the help of bribery/threats/tears) we would inevitably find the pencil broken, and no sharpener to be found. And the next round in the battle would commence.

I’m not a nice person when it comes to homework. The nightly homework sessions reminds me time and time again why it was a good thing I never went into primary school teaching. I’m much more Cruella DeVille than Mary Poppins and my son hangs his head in disgust when I parrot over and over about writing on the lines and other such things considered terminally boring to a seven year-old.

The crux of the matter is I spent a lot of time in school and university - 18 years in total - I think I served my homework time. I was a swot. I did what was expected of me. I spent hours poring over my homework and burned the midnight oil on many an occasion studying for exams. I’m not saying this to show off, just to illustrate that I’ve done my bit.

I’m sure there are some parents out there who enjoy the experience. I remember my own mother having seeming unending patience for the after school reading and writing sessions.

There are those who have creative minds who come up with wonderful ways to make a positive impact on the teacher and to help their children learn in ingenious ways. They make models and can use a Pritt Stick without gluing themselves to the desk. They can draw decent pictures and colour inside the lines. They make me want to weep with jealousy.

Every year around this time I vow to do better. I vow to keep my patience and make sure I always have a sharpener on hand. I buy two sets of crayons (one for the house, one for his school bag) and keep spare pencils and rubbers. I buy special paper with which to back his school books and vow that this year we won’t sit staring at each other, defiance in our eyes, over the books.

This year I will really try. I promise. But, for the next few days at least I’m going to enjoy the peace and quiet and calmness of a homework free zone before we all go back to school.