As my children returned to school last week, I felt the need to share some advice with my sister whose oldest child just started kindergarten: “Don’t be fooled about that homework your daughter comes home with. It’s not her homework, it’s your homework."
I don’t know if it was the eighties or just my parents, but they had a very laissez-faire approach to homework and grades. As long as my sister and I didn’t dip below B-/C+, the typical response to a lackluster grade on our report cards was “Did you try?” Or “Did you do your best?” to which we inevitably answered “Yes, I sure did,” translated to “I sure did try real hard to open that book,” and “I did the best I could considering I didn’t open it…”
Never having had real homework until third grade myself, and not having bothered to do any of it until fourth or fifth grade, having children in a school program where they feel the need to send you two or three email updates a day, where each of my children comes home with a notebook for communicating with their teachers daily, homework that needs to be personally supervised and checked daily and mothers who get into smack downs over who gets to be the “grade level rep” or what the annual fund-raiser tee-shirt will look like (“Really, Rose we all know you just want the bigger logo on the front to call more attention to your boobs”—and, no, I am not making this up), I felt like a total outsider, a feeling that was further compounded back when I was a working mother.
Just try doing homework with a tired child at the end of the day, when you are tired yourself. That was how I landed in so much trouble two years ago, along with a Georgia Tech Math professor and my husband, when we finally snapped and started an email thread expressing our feeling that with two Ph.D.’s, a Masters and a professional university teaching career among us, might it be a little excessive that none of us could figure out what our children’s First Grade homework assignments were.