Oh, the joys of sitting around the table with your children, as they independently complete their homework assignments!
I hope you hear the sarcasm of that statement.
Having raised three, very different learners, the idea of homework has represented many, entirely different things in our house. And most of those things, not so good. Even with the loving, ever-helpful presence of my school-teacher wife, evenings spent around the old, oak table, often resembled something Stephen King should have been writing about.
Our eldest was a classic firstborn. He could full-on read at four, missed his first spelling word in third grade, skipped 5th grade altogether, and rarely said a thing about homework. He just did it. Somehow, somewhere, we guess. His grades typically reflected that fact, as they were typically good, without too much help or meddling from his parents.
Then, along came the second child. Our second child turned out to be an almost obnoxiously over-achieving adult, one with little patience for others who are not equally committed to always doing and bringing their best to life. But, in third grade? He didn’t even remotely resemble the ridiculously self-starting, self-disciplined person he is today. As a matter a fact, my wife received a call from his teacher one day, and our child was missing 34 math assignments. 34. After school that very day, my wife and I visited our child and his teacher in the third grade classroom. My wife asked permission to dump our son’s desk on the floor, and the teacher graciously obliged. A Mount Saint Helen’s lava-like flow of paper, eraser pieces, and broken pencils poured forth. Found in that pile were almost 30 math assignments not only started, but many actually completed. Rumpled, but completed.
The teacher told our humiliated, wide-eyed son that he could have a week to get all caught up. Now, some of you might be thinking, “Wow. You guys and that teacher . . . and your kid . . . you’re all losers. How on earth do you let a kid get 34 math assignments behind?” I understand your bewilderment, but there truly was a crazy story behind it, one involving a teacher change late in the year. Make that two. So, it had been a weird year for our little guy, and everyone else involved. It happens. Life happens.
But, no matter. We had work to do. For the next week, every night, at that big, old, oak table, our son tearfully cranked out the math. He whined. He stomped. He threw his head back in despair. One night, he resorted to wailing like a paid mourner at a funeral in some Dickensian-type novel. It was ugly. And exhausting. No matter how many parenting books we had read, no matter how intentional we had been with our parenting, I’m pretty sure we resorted to, “We already went to third grade, Mister! This is your rodeo! Get to it!” Not our proudest parenting moments.
And yet…the math was completed. And . . . our kid felt a since of accomplishment and pride we hadn’t seen in him before.
His third, 3rd grade teacher of the year, was a strong, multi-talented, semi-retired man, and had been pretty stern at the turned-over desk meeting. But, when our son appeared with all of his completed work, he was met with praise that annihilated any painful memory of the dumped desk day. As the year passed, we still had a few rough nights around the old, oak table. But the perseverance fostered around that table, fueled by a tough, but tender teacher, helped build character in the man we are so proud to call our Army Ranger Officer son, today.
Do I have amazing tips? Well, being organized, staying on top of things at school – especially with the apps and technology offered by so many schools, now – all help. But, maybe this blog today is not so much about tips regarding homework. Honestly, most of us know we need to be organized and on top of things, in addition to nurturing patience and perseverance. Maybe this blog merely serves as an encouragement from an older, battle-tested dad, with three, grown, non-bitter, productive members of society, to let you know that you’re not alone. Hang in there, fight the good fight, love them and lead them. You’ll all get there.
I hope you are encouraged. If not, there’s always our third kid I could tell you about. The one who nightly informed us that he didn’t need to learn to read or do homework. He was going to play baseball and fish for the rest of his life . . .