It’s Officially Summer, What Could Be Better? No Homework!

It’s Officially Summer, what could be better? No Homework!

When I think about the opposite of Summer, it makes me appreciate many things. Things like; smaller loads of laundry, no winter gear flanking my couch and salt and snow not getting trampled in from the frozen driveway. I most appreciate not having such a tight schedule. It opens up a world I don’t recognize during the school year… like getting sleep! It gives me the time I really need to actually wake up, without a panic induced sense of urgency before jump-starting the day – which otherwise would require leaping (and occasionally falling) out of bed and making a mad dash to the kitchen to start the coffee perking process. This is followed by a sprint down our bowling alley length hallway (on my tip toes) –  all to beat my husband to the bathroom for a brisk shower, then quietly dressing. An additional and similar sprint is required back to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, to check a few emails, and hopefully pour another cup of joe…all before the kids wake up. Mind you, this would happen on a good day.

On the not-so-good days, I have on occasion, driven my kids to school while still in my pajamas with my hair in a bun that looked like rats had crawled through it. This monstrosity that is me, would evolve by, waking up 15 minutes too late (because we were up far too late helping with homework) and not getting a measurable amount of caffeine in my system. The time I could have spent on myself was probably better utilized making sure my offspring had; breakfast, clean teeth, intact book bags, matching socks, a nutritious and lovingly packed lunch all while making sure they didn’t clock each other in the face. Can you tell yet I’m not a morning person?

During the Summer, the one thing I don’t miss AT all… is the homework. My children are utterly convinced we get along much better during our badly needed Summer break…gee, I wonder why? Could it be because I’m not exhausted, pulled in far too many directions, stress ridden, aggravated, and under unconventional and unmanageable time constraints? Could it be that they’re more pleasant because their not under similar pressures? Hmmmm….? Let’s take a look back shall we?

When you add up all the hours children spend in school, one would hope they would be learning enough there, as to not spill into countless weeknight hours and often times weekends. My children’s school begins classes at 7:50 am and ends at 3:00pm. That’s seven hours and ten minutes, minus the twenty minutes they’re rushed to scarf down lunch. I ask you, what in the world is going on with a curriculum that forces kids to bring home an additional two-four hours of homework most nights? Why can’t schools teach kids what they need to learn in those six hours and fifty minutes? Schools did it when I was a kid and you had ample time to eat lunch without your esophagus closing up! Additionally, I can see why kids are so full of energy once that last bell rings. They’ve been forced to sit in a box, quiet and focused, with limited social engagement their entire day. No wonder why they cringe at at the mere mention of homework.

There have been days my children had homework that I either didn’t understand, didn’t have a clear concept of what the task was and/or had the the challenge of getting my kids to sit and do it. Don’t get me wrong, I have good kids, respectful kids, but everyone has their limits. We usually start homework as soon as they get home from school. If we didn’t tackle it then, it wouldn’t get done. When I was a child, I came home from school and was greeted with a kiss and a hug from my mother with one hand while she had a snack for me in the other. Then on to play, eat supper, play some more, take a bath, get ready for bed, say prayers and hit the hay. This is how things were when I grew up. I did have to study spelling words or write a book report from time to time, but all in all, it was pretty fantastic! I was a happy and content child. I wish my children could experience the same type of childhood I had. Not that that kind of schedule would work for us. With the amount of homework they have these days, we must tackle it early. Coming home from school with piles of homework is a huge bummer that sets the tone for the rest of the evening right from the start. We push through it because we’re supposed to. Who ever came up with that concept needs a good tongue lashing from several ticked off, tired moms as far as I’m concerned! I’m sure there are many “spent” dads who would be thrilled to join in as well!

Along with homework, parents are informed by teachers (at our school) to go to a special website to track our children’s grades. Parents can see if an assignment is incomplete, missing or what the score was – if the teacher had time to grade them and enter the data into this site. What seems to be missing for us, in my opinion, is a better line of communication. If I’m expected to support my children in getting this massive amount of homework done, I need to know WHAT it is, an explanation of the task and WHEN it’s due. Isn’t that a no brainer? Why not send out a mass email each Sunday night so every parent knows what to expect the following week? It would be beneficial for me on those frequent days when my teenager forgets or “conveniently forgets” his assignment or the book he needs to actually do the assignment. Otherwise, I’m left out of the loop…completely in the dark. The last time I checked, I have never been nor will ever be a mind reader. On top of it all, I’m asked to explain this new form of math, which confused me in it’s older form to begin with. Just a heads up for those of you with younger children, being in the dark is the perfect place for a parent to be. Just ask any kid who wants to get out of doing homework. This is especially true for teenage boys – I’m just sayin’….

So why have homework at all? Now, before any fans of higher academia give me the business, let me explain. I fully comprehend and endorse that preparing for tests, doing book reports or special projects help children learn AND teaches them how to study. I’m all for it and more than happy to help my children with just that – studying. What I’m talking about is actual school work. Work that for all intents and purposes should get accomplished during school hours. Let’s be honest –  kids can’t stand it, I want to throw up when I see it and my husband makes a face like he’s about to go into convulsions. Our secret loathing of homework keeps us on edge the entire school year. All the while, we’re masking those feelings at the very same time we’re attempting to explain it’s benefits to our children. Internally, I’ve felt like a huge liar. Again, we do it because we’re supposed to. Truthfully, we know they loathe it too – although we wouldn’t admit it out loud out of respect and consideration for the school and their teachers. However, I’m just not certain how much longer we can keep it up.

Perhaps homework hasn’t been this bad of an issue at your house. If that is the case, great! There are even schools districts that have done away with homework entirely. If you live in one of them, can you please email me the name of your town? I dream that were true for us, I really do.

When Aaron was in the fifth grade, his ADHD meds (which thankfully isn’t taking anymore) would wear off by 4pm. Keeping him focused and on task, to do one math workbook page could take two hours. Poor kid. All I know, is when I have to hunt on the internet for an easy to follow explanation of this new way of doing algebra I a) have no clue about and b)my child can’t grasp at school, something’s not right.

Our school also utilizes a web site called Study Island where students are required to take tests as part of their grade. If the score is low, they have to do it ALL over again and the next time with more questions. By the way, the questions are on topics they haven’t even been exposed to at school yet. This past school year, my husband, son and I, have together been known to spend four to five hours alone on this Study Island site, after regular homework was finished…I’m NOT kidding! These “homework” filled nights lasted till midnight many times. See why I’m so tired in the mornings? We all were! Then we’re faced with having a rough morning with a tired child. Not a conducive way to prepare for another day of learning. It’s a vicious circle.

If a student falls behind, catching up can be a beast so you better hope your kiddo doesn’t catch a week long flu bug or stomach virus. All of the work it takes just to catch up creates an atmosphere of always being behind the eight ball – a feeling of not being smart enough and a high level of frustration. Forget about the old adage, “there’s no room to fail” – in this case, there’s no time to fail. Aaron has had IEP’s, has a 504 plan in place and receives some extra help at school. Even with all of our advocating on his behalf, and what I’ve mentioned, it’s not enough. The question my husband and I have posed to each other countless times is, “Are we supposed to do the teacher’s work too?” As if we don’t do enough and aren’t stressed enough as it is. If you have more than one school aged child like we do, the stress and time constraints grow exponentially. We’ve tossed the idea of homeschooling around and while I applaud parents that home school successfully, I’m not personally fascinated with everything it entails nor do believe I’m the best candidate for that job for a host of reasons. I don’t know what the solution would be to tell you the truth. I do wish there was one for the collective of parents, children and teachers in a similar position. Something we could get “excited about” as Dr. Phil says.

Having said all of this, I want to make it clear that I’m not against teachers. Quite the contrary. My sister was a teacher for many years earlier in her career. She is now a principle of two middle schools and has been for the past several years. I’ve heard stories that would make your hair curl so I’m not unsympathetic to the strict requirements teachers must adhere to, the politics involved or the issues they face. I respect teachers and try to support them whenever I can. I’m just giving my take on it as a parent. A very involved parent I might add. Both my husband and I are. What I am saying is, something has to give. It’s no wonder why we’re thrilled when Summer arrives and why we’re all in brighter spirits! Who wouldn’t be?

As the beginning of Summer officially began yesterday, it should be a time to get away from the hectic schedules – at least as much as you can – to decompress from a stressful school year, have some down time, try new things and have some fun. As with all good things, they must end. When Summer winds down and another school year is back in session, we’ll yet again be focusing on the seemingly never ending escalator to homework purgatory, that catapults our entire household back on for another ride. For now, we’ll enjoy the break we do have – while we have it. Just so you know, if by the time February rolls around and people ask where I am – below may be a clue as to what has happened. 😉

Have a GREAT Summer!

Thanks to nuckingfutsmama for the funny obituary.
I tweeked it to suite me but it was inspired and originally written by her.
All I can say is thank goodness I’m not the only one!

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