Thursday, January 11, 2007


One theme of yesterday's Wednesday Whining was homework. I added my own homework whine before I'd read everyone else's and was tickled to see so many other people who have issues with their kids' homework. I've written about homework before and Geeky Boy's (and our) struggle with it. Pretty much everyone at Phantom's was annoyed with having to be so involved in their kids' homework. They remember (and I do, too) not having to get help from their parents; they remember just doing their homework and suffering their own consequences. I think the stakes are higher now, for whatever reason. I think there's more homework and there's more expectations on parents to be involved in the process of doing the homework. For dual-income families, this is especially hard. Either, homework gets done during an afterschool program or with a sitter or it gets done after dinner when it's late and everyone's tired. So the parent feels uninvolved or resentful, neither a good feeling.

I honestly feel pretty bad that we haven't done a better job of instilling the importance of schoolwork in Geeky Boy. I believe we've instilled the importance of learning and education, but we haven't really explained that to get that learning and education, there are hoops to jump through. And sometimes those hoops aren't fun and are quite difficult, but you have to do them anyway. Geeky Boy feels pretty defeated right now, like there's just no chance of pulling it out. School, which used to be easy for him, has now gotten difficult.

I remember when school first got hard for me. It was math. I'm actually very good at math, but when we got to trig, I was so confused. And I was afraid to ask for help. I sat in class, feeling stupid and just muddled through. But, when the final came around, I did some math and figured out I could pull out an A if I got a 98 on the exam. So, I went to my teacher and I explained that I'd let myself fall behind because I didn't always understand what was going on. So he worked with me for about an hour or so and I got it. And then I went home and studied my butt off and I got the 98. Wherever you are, Mr. Chandler, thank you! A similar thing happened again in calculus and I got a friend to tutor me. Somewhere I found the motivation to do better. Now, I need to help Geeky Boy find his.

I'm still on the fence about homework. In elementary school, I think it's superfluous. In middle school, though, it's obviously laying the groundwork for high school and college. Here in the northeast, academic competition is fierce. This is where some of the extra work comes from. People want to make sure their kids get into the best schools. Public schools compete with private schools, wanting to prove that their kids are just as smart as the ones in private schools. This puts a lot of pressure on the kids. It's my job, then, as a parent, to help alleviate that pressure, to support my kids in their work. It's a harder job than I thought. We want our kids to be independent and we want to sit back and watch them become independent and cheer from the sidelines, but sometimes that's not enough. Sometimes we have to dig in with them, show them the way, and do more than cheer. It's not what we remember as kids, but this is the way it is now.