Homework. How I’ve come to hate that word. I want to be a flower in the field, blooming my little heart out. I do not want to be the grim reaper of the missing homework assignment but that’s been my job today.
If my son has homework, then I have homework. My task is twice as hard. First, I have to mentally prepare the boy for the assignment. I have to make its completion contingent upon something he wants. Then I have to listen to the mournful wailing that is sure to ensure.
Once I get the loud protestations under control, I calmly begin to repeat the assignment in simple words. This becomes a mantra whose energy moves the reluctant child into a productive state of mind. It’s like the mind games the matador plays with the bull before he taunts him with a red cape. I’m trying to hide the fact that I’m hiding the red cape but I will pull it out and wave it vigorously when challenged.
The bull and I are alone in the arena. He glares and snorts. I want to run and hide but that isn’t an option if I want to survive with my authority intact. Blasted homework is forcing us to be on opposite teams. How I hate this. Collaboration, consensus, team work, building an individual knowledge base for the benefit of all, these are the things that excite me. Generating paperwork upon which to base a grade doesn’t appear on that list. I do understand it is a necessary evil. How else can teachers grade their students?
Today, when just showing up and staying conscious is enough to earn some credit, you have to work at flunking. My number one son has been working hard in this regard.
I take time to insert a public service announcement on the value of education, of taking something boring and finding out what is hidden there that is interesting, relevant, alive, of making learning fun, challenging, intellectually stimulating by becoming a “lifelong learner.” I use myself as an example.
I’m starting to lose my audience. He just wants it done so he can play video games. They lie beyond this dastardly homework, the coveted prize that seems to be slipping beyond his grasp during my public service announcement. It has fallen on deaf ears. The complaining starts again.
This child is really his own worst enemy. If he could spend half of the energy he spends complaining on simply doing the assignment we wouldn’t be struggling here, now. Inside, I start to moan, a soulful grieving at the hopelessness of converting this boy to my way of thinking.
In theory, I want to encourage him to become an independent thinker, a questioner, a challenger of the status quo. In reality, all I want is his cooperation. I want this task to end. It’s become so much harder than it needs to be for both of us.
I start to lose myself in my own inner litany of complaint. I, who have no input on the curriculum is stuck trying to figure out the main point of these assignments. I’m the one who has to do damage control after my son has spent almost his entire elementary school years, spelling things phonetically. His capitalization and proper form rates an “F” from hard-core me. He can’t print legibly. Suddenly, in fifth grade, he was expected to magically adapt to proper form and proper spelling. REALLY? Come on! You’ve met this kid. How easy is it to suddenly change protocol, excuse me, the “rubric” , once he has established a pattern, a lazy, easy-way-out pattern?
It is my fault that he has yet to memorize his multiplication tables. I bet you can guess why I’ve avoided this special brand of torture. I’ve really got to get a bag of candy and use it as a reinforcement. This goes against my principles but it seems the only way to accomplish this task without either of us bursting into tears. Learning shouldn’t be this hard.
As a special ed student, he has his IQ tested, among other things. The kid scores around 140. He’s practically a genius, who can’t spell, use proper capitalization, know his multiplication tables or complete and turn in his assignments to save his life. He devotes his intellect to finding ways to avoid work especially homework. He has developed a keen capacity for manipulating people. It’s his coping mechanism. Some days, I’m Queen of the Chumps. He can play me like a violin. He is smarter than I am.
I have a great deal of empathy for the boy. I get it. I’ve been in the classroom. Reaching the students is a constant challenge. My little genius has learned how to use his special education status as an excuse. He tells the teachers that “his mom says he doesn’t have to do that because it’s in his IEP.” He comes home and tells us, “I don’t have any homework.” Neither statement is true. He has learned how to be an accomplished prevaricator. I’d give him an A for lying.
In the end, we finish one Humanities assignment and several past due Math assignments. This has taken several hours and we’re just scratching the surface. As much as I try to generate enthusiasm for his school work and the subject matter, the truth is I really hate homework. He has given himself a headache. I think it must be contagious. I release him from homework prison. His homework is my headache.