A Rant About Homework


These people are obviously actors.
I was in school for a long time. I still remember my joy the day I sat my last exam and filed my last project report. I embraced the school-free future enthusiastically. I remember walking down South Clark Street in Edinburgh restraining myself from dancing in the street. I remember the weather, and the clothes I was wearing. It was that kind of defining moment in my life. No more evenings staying up late to finish essays and reports. I was done with school. No more homework for me.

Certain that I would not need it in the future, I made a conscious effort to forget quite a lot of the schoolwork I had done over the years. Sines and cosines I gratefully relegated to the back of my mind. Algebra I hastily forgot, along with all of the more boring forms of History (think stone-age village customs deduced from pottery fragments retrieved from peat banks, servant hierarchies in medieval fiefdoms, etc). They say you never truly forget anything but I prided myself on having done quite a good job.

I didn’t see it coming.

I didn’t realize that one of the side-effects of having children (in addition to the stretchmarks and the deafness) is that you have to start doing homework again. It took me almost completely by surprise.

I suppose that when they were babies I entertained some fond imaginings of myself sitting in a cozy armchair reading to an enraptured audience of angelic offspring. And then later I imagined that I might glance occasionally over their shoulders as they worked on their homework, sometimes volunteering a piece of sage advice. I may have once thought that having children might be a bit like that.

But no more. Now I know.

Now I know that when you have children you have to start doing homework again. And sometimes you have to do it in a conflict situation. And in my opinion supervising the homework of an unwilling participant is worse than having to do the homework yourself. There is apparently no subject that my children are interested in enough to actually want to do any work to learn it.

Homework in our house goes something like this:

  1. Try to find out if they have any homework using “hostile witness” interrogation techniques.
  2. Explain to them how lucky they are to have the Internet instead of 21 heavy volumes of Encyclopaedia Brittannica to research their subject.
  3. Listen to them explain why they would prefer to do their homework later.
  4. Finally supervise as they begin their homework.
  5. The homework begins.

Now that we have finally begun, I have to drag those long-lost math facts from the deepest recesses of my mind. I have to do long-division, botany, and geometry. And as if that’s not enough I am expected to know about subjects I never had in school, like American history, and the geography of inner Kazakhstan.

Sorry. I have to end here. We have a project on skateboarding that is due tomorrow. I have to go.

I love the Summer holidays.

5 thoughts on “A Rant About Homework

  1. Great post! Do you ever have to explain to them that the teacher does want them to get the right answer and not just *an* answer? And on top of that, they don’t do math the same way I learned. Who knew that math could change?

  2. Working in a high school library has brought homework round again. Sometimes students ask good questions about research and answering those are pure joy. The occasional math and science questions have renewed my belief that reading directions is imperative. And then there are the incoherent questions; one sounded something like this, “I need to, like, talk about how he described him, like, directly and indirectly.”

    I thought to myself, “Huh?,” sat quietly for a second,and finally said, “You’re going to have to answer that on your own.”

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