Investing too much in homework

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of your children’s homework and not get too involved…

girl doing homework


I’m going to miss homework. Not homeworking. Homework. As children get older parents’ usefulness in helping out with school work often ebbs. Much of what they are studying becomes incomprehensible and, with rose-tinted glasses, you recall all those hours of reading, spelling and trying to explain fractions. I recall several weeks [possibly months] of getting daughter two to embrace the concept of odds and evens and many toilet roll-based creations with great affection…

Last weekend I was woken up way too early by only son who was ready to get onto the computer and play Minecraft, which I worry is a sign of addiction. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to cut his time playing computer games. He is in a group with a friend who moved away and his cousin and they play Minecraft most of the time. I occasionally try to ask how it is going and only son explains all the mathematical reckoning that goes into building his perfect house and launching boulders at his friend’s building so that they land in the exact spot that they need to for maximum impact. I admit that I glaze over when he starts talking about obsidian and the various tools involved. Understanding the different Pokemon is a breeze by comparison. Maybe if Minecraft looked less hallucinogenic I could relate more. Or if there was a good story to it. I miss the days of Hannah Montana and High School Musical…

In an effort to divert only son from Minecraft, I suggested doing homework…together. Only son had a poster project on plastics in the ocean to do. We sat down to watch a documentary on the subject. Only son designated me chief note taker. He definitely knows the art of delegation, which I have completely failed to master.

After about an hour, his interest waned. In the end I finished watching the film, taking notes and highlighting the important facts. There then followed several attempts to get him to transfer what ‘we’ had learnt to paper in a poster format. I suggested a plan of action. Only son was more interested in whether he could trace images of fish off the computer onto the paper. Only son had spread the whole thing out on a table covered in an assortment of nail varnish, pens, a half-made ceramic plate [daughter two] and food. The chances of something tipping over the poster were high. That would have meant starting all over again when we had got this far and possibly finishing the project in time-honoured fashion at 7.30am on the due date. Noooooooooo.

Several hours later we had a poster of two fish – one representing the toxic food chain and one representing what we could do about it, accompanied by 10 plastic facts. All my idea, in ‘consultation’ with only son who was by now very, very bored of the subject and longing for Minecraft. It didn’t help that daughter two was mounting a vociferous campaign for veganism to be given prime place as the main cure for plastic in the ocean.

I put the poster in a [sorry] plastic folder safe from imminent disaster and relaxed. Job done. I feel that I lived every second of that homework, which was set before the Easter holidays and has lingered somewhat. Only son had to present the poster on Monday. “How did it go?” I said. I felt a strong sense of ownership, which I knew was kind of not the purpose of the exercise. “Good,” said only son, in a voice which suggested a distinct lack of enthusiasm. “I said that it may be counter-intuitive, but plastic trash does not disappear when you throw it away. It comes back in the fish we eat,” he stated, sounding like a world expert on plastic waste. Only son is 11.

With that he had moved on to something else. Homework for him is a flash in the pan. I feel I invest way more in it than he does.

I was trying to explain to him what my job involved the other day. He continues to describe it as ‘staring at a computer’. This is probably not helping with discouraging him from playing Minecraft. I am also on the computer when it comes to much of the home admin, from topping up school dinner money to dealing with school emails. Many of them are about the next piece of homework. I sometimes get four in a day. Only son is nonchalant about it. “That one’s just about revising for a test so I don’t need to do that,” he says. You what???? I used to get my mum to test me all the way to the school bus. We clearly have a very different approach to homework and I’m not entirely sure mine is the right one. Maybe doing Minecraft is ultimately going to be more useful. I have absolutely no idea how to calculate the arc of a boulder and I feel that is probably where I went wrong.

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