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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Homework and Holidays

I'm sitting here next to my eight-year-old son and his homework.  Perhaps, indeed, I am earning Bad Mommy points by blogging while supervising my son's homework time, but I gotta do something or I am going to go postal on someone.

It is 6:45 pm.  My son just finished his "paragraph" (which is one page long).  It is part of his Native American Project report, due this Friday.  We have been, more or less, working on it since the end of November.  However, now it is Crunch Time.  Tonight he started working at 5:45 pm, so that's one full hour of solid homework, and he hasn't done his reading yet.  This thing still has to be edited, and he also has to make a headdress before Friday as well.

Now, I will grant that I am not the most organized human being on the face of the planet. Could we have been working on the headdress for the past two or three weeks?  Well, yes, probably.  So some of this is on me.  But three weeks ago was Thanksgiving, when we went down to Pennsylvania to spend much-needed time with family.  Our weekday afternoons go like this: 3:30pm get home from school.  4:00pm do homework.  5:00pm do mandatory reading.  Wednesday night: choir rehearsal.  Thursday night: Cub Scouts.  Friday afternoon: gymnastics.  On either Monday or Tuesday we make our weekly library run, and on the other day he usually gets to finally play with friends.  Tonight we added in a school fundraiser activity.  Tomorrow we have the Cub Scout Pack Meeting (but we win Thursday back!).

Weekends have been filled with family visits and decorating and cleaning and shopping and all kinds of things. Last Friday night we finally went out to buy the materials for his stupid project (oh, wait, did I say that? Sorry) and we haven't had time to work on them.

He also had a fever one day, and we had to rush our dog to the vet with a bad cut on his foot the same day, which didn't help.

So the time management issues are definitely there, and partly him and partly me.

However.  Monday night's homework each day this month?  Read a page-long reading selection, and then answer three pages worth of multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions about it.  Tuesday we have for the project.  Wednesday is math (two sides of a worksheet, usually) and Thursday is Word Study (cancelled this week, thank heaven).  And then on top of that, he has to work on the project.  Usually by the end of regular homework and reading, he's done, and so am I.

So tonight he came home from the fundraiser thing at 5:30, he did this paragraph (which can't, by the way, just be the 5-sentence thing I expect a third-grader to write.  The feedback on his fact sheet was along the lines of, "Please explain how they made these costumes, what the significance of the costumes were, whether they wore different clothing for special occasions, how the clothing represented the tribe's spiritual teachings, etc. The teacher wrote a full paragraph herself explaining how my 8-year-old could make his writing more interesting and vital) and now he's on the computer frying his brain.  After dinner, which we haven't eaten yet, he will head into the living room and do his daily 20-minutes of reading.  And after that we'll be starting to finally put the headdress together.  Because if we don't, the glue won't be dry by Friday morning.

So, what I'm left with is a deep and dire temptation to do my child's homework myself.  Really.  I could just, you know, put the damned headdress together and send it in on Friday.

And here's the thing: I don't even really think it's such a bad idea.  I mean, what's he really learning by doing over 1 hour and 20 minutes worth of homework and then having *more* homework in one night?  That school is torture?  That no matter how hard he tries, this thing he's making out of felt is never going to look like the one in the book?  That at the end of the day unless we spend all our waking hours working on his homework, it's never going to earn the highest score?

Who assigns a full-length report every month to a bunch of 3rd graders?  He'll be well-prepared for high school, to be sure: he'll get there hating school and schoolwork and with an ulcer to boot.

I want him to be a healthy, happy, well-rounded, caring, intelligent, fun kid.  I want him to have a healthy, happy, relaxed, caring, fun mommy.  Right now he has the whip-cracking, steam-coming-out-of-the-ears kind of mommy.  I think we can get to this and not have both of us in tears over homework.  I really do.  But not if he gets this much work assigned all the time.  It's going to drive me to drink.

Where's that Pinot Grigio?