Sunday, January 12, 2014

Homework Headaches

Obviously, I've done this kid-in-elementary-school thing before. Twice. In addition, I've homeschooled one of my children, fairly successfully I'd say, because we made it all the way to a high school diploma. A casual observer might therefore conclude that I'm really good at helping with homework, and extremely patient as I guide my little darlings through their educational process.

That casual observer would be dead wrong. I hate helping a reluctant kid with homework like I hate few things on earth. I thought I'd get better at it, but after over 18 years of doing this, it can still make me feel like all of the blood in my body is about to shoot out through the top of my head. I start thinking my eye is going to twitch permanently, and wondering if this is what it feels like to have a stroke.

Don't get me wrong, my children are all pretty smart. If I'd had a child that wasn't very smart, I don't know what would have happened, but in all honesty, it may be their very "smarts" that get that get them into trouble. How could a child who could recall and recite the plot of every movie he'd ever seen not be able to remember how to read the same words when they were printed on every page of his reader? How could a girl who could calculate how much clothing was going to cost, after a 30% discount and allowing for sales tax, within a matter of minutes, not be able to complete her third grade math homework? And how can Small, who constantly regales us with fantastic tales of the adventures her stuffed animals are having in Pink Poodle Land, not be able to come up with "What I did over my Christmas break?"

Seriously. I always feel like maybe I'd be more patient if they were stupid. I'd think, "Aw, poor stupid darling, (s)he just can't do the work." But no. I always think "WHY ARE YOU ACTING LIKE YOU CAN'T DO THE WORK, WHEN YOU'RE SO BLINKING SMART?" I try not to lead with that, at least out loud. I try to be extremely patient. The thing is, inside, I'm really not.

This weekend, Small had to complete an assignment about her Christmas break, which she'd been assigned in class, but failed to complete. Apparently, there were even missed recess times involved, and yet she failed to complete it. What in the world is wrong with my child? Yesterday, she still didn't complete it, because:

  1. She couldn't find a pencil.
  2. The pencil she found didn't have an eraser.
  3. She didn't know what to write.
  4. She'd figured out what to write, but now her eyes were too tired.
  5. She had a hand cramp, from writing half a sentence. 
  6. She lost her pencil.
  7. She found her pencil, but then she made a mistake, and discovered that she'd also lost her eraser.
That is not the entire list, but you get the idea. By the time I threw in the towel and told her she could finish it today, my neck was in serious need of a masseuse, and my head hurt.

Tonight, I started out on a positive note! If she'd finish the homework, I'd read her a story and paint her nails before bed. Whee! Those things did happen, but only when I balanced them out with major threats. If she didn't finish it in time for those things to happen, I told her, she'd be in big trouble, I might spank her, and she'd most definitely be on Kindle restriction for a whole week. This is a big threat, because her dad's Kindle is her new favorite toy, and we have a super long road trip coming up during the week, so that will be prime Kindle time, unless she's on restriction.

When I was a child, my least favorite thing that my mom did was to pile on the punishments. She'd get mad, start with one threat, and end with a long list of punitive measures, most of which she'd actually enact. Now that I'm a mom, I totally understand the urge to make the list longer as the moments of my personal annoyance tick by.

I didn't have to spank Small tonight. (In truth, I never spank her.) I didn't have to take away privileges. The assignment, praise God, is done and in her folder. All that to say, at least this story has a happy ending, and part of that happy ending is that Small One has the fanciest nails in town.

How about you, readers? How do you handle the homework wars? Do you have the patience of a saint, or are you, like me, in need of a strong drink by the time the work goes into the backpack? And how do you deal with disobedience? Are you a punishment piler? I'm interested in how this all goes down in other households.

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