So I may have mentioned on more than one occasion, that I am most definitely in the decidedly lazy (and unquestionably selfish) camp where parenting is concerned. I find it enough of a challenge to marshal my charges haphazardly through the maze of life, so any additions to this workload leave me running for cover!
Given this background, you would probably not be surprised to hear that finding my children have homework fills me with fear. But this is often less about the trials of the additional work and more about the fact that I am uncertain of the rules: completing homework is not as straightforward as it may once have been. In the past (well in Victorian novels at least!) children were made to sit in silence and complete their tasks without so much as a quick query for clarification. Now though, the boundaries are blurred. Parents are allowed to help, advise and assist. Indeed, sometimes this is actively encouraged, leaving a considerably grey area and a whole host of potential pitfalls for keen, supportive parents (so not me then!):
Option 1: Take full control of the homework task.
Now this option may be chosen for one of a number of reasons. It may be the case that the parent in question is eager for the child to ‘get this right’ and is therefore taking no chances, but I am guessing that far more often it is because the homework task is just too appealing and our over-eager parent just wants to do it themselves for the sheer fun of it.
Take Ana’s project on WW2. The students were instructed to research WW2 and then they could create something to show the findings of their research. Now Ana is the proud owner of a ‘geeky dad’ who spent his childhood years coin-collecting; train spotting and – significant to this story – making air fix models. So, give him the slightest whiff that there may be an opportunity to inculcate his off-spring with a love of similarly geeky pursuits and he is off and running!
Cue a lovely father-daughter trip to the model shop to spend an inordinate amount of money on a model spitfire, paint and glue. Both parties returned flushed with success and with a beautiful glow of nostalgia mixed with excitement and then….the spitfire and associated paraphernalia lay abandoned on the kitchen side for 2 weeks as the business of life pushed aside the best laid plans and homework remained forgotten.
Fast-forward to 2 nights before the project is due in and suddenly father and daughter have some serious work to do. When I finally sent my 8 year old to bed at 9.45pm on a school night, I returned to the ‘work bench’ (AKA dining room table) to find a harassed; irritable 40 something man facing the fact that some activities always seem better when thought of fondly from a comfortable distance.
By midnight, as he sat painstakingly painting stripes on the tail of the spitfire, I think he may have begun to learn the first rule of homework club…..don’t bite off more than you (all of you) can chew!
So we move to ….
Option 2: leave them to it.
This option suits the lazy parent (naturally) but it does require just a slight degree of remote supervision such as can be provided when your child creates a power point masterpiece on the computer in the dining room, whilst you go about your usual business (hastily scrabbling together some tea from the leftovers in the fridge whilst simultaneously sorting out the mountain of ironing and trying to address the problem of the wet washing currently turning to mould in the laundry basket).
Both the project at hand and your general entertainment will benefit from occasionally scanning the work under construction and it is entirely possible that your child – freed from the shackles of your sensible advice and guidance – may produce a masterpiece of the highest calibre.
This has certainly been the case in our household this weekend as Faith has been completing her Science homework to ‘write instructions on how to look after a pet’. Faith, being of a slightly quirky nature, decided to go with the general theme of the task (instructions in cat care) whilst taking an occasional wander sideways to add a bit of colour and variety.
As a result, she has produced a power point gem that has left me in awe of her unintentional comic genius and her homework is (in my view) ten times better than it would have been had I ‘helped’ her.
So the moral of the story? If you want to return to your childhood…do it in your own time and leave the homework to the kids!!