...and so it begins. I have a 9 year age gap between my sons so I had a few glorious parental years where my eldest was pretty much doing homework solo and my youngest was still learning things like rolling over and how to put Thomas trains in a straight line.
Now my youngest is over halfway through his first year at primary school, the suggested homework has started up again. "This time it'll be different, we'll enjoy it!" I desperately try to comfort myself.
My eldest son always hated homework. He had a very limited scope for imaginative work, so creating 5 small sentences with chosen keywords became a marathon through the lava-burning grounds of hell. Back 8 years ago it was less known that homework wasn't actually a compulsory part of school life, nor did I feel confident enough to approach teachers in a pretty unapproachable school to discuss how it wasn't working for my son. I didn't want him to fall behind or have to miss out on his cherished playtime, so we struggled through. Don't get me wrong there were good times as well as bad with homework. As my eldest grew, he always had a passion for his stories ending with the protagonist, or often everyone, dying a usually comedic or utterly surreal death. Should we have found them as funny as we did? Probably not but we're a bit dark like that.
So most parents, whether you choose to educate your child in a school setting, home setting or completely un-school will probably know the struggle of trying to encourage a child to engage in an activity they just do not want to do at that time. In my personal experience, all homework (and really, any activity that isn't a video game, YouTube or a pretend play about Mario, Sonic or Minecraft) falls into that category for us, no matter how much you think as their parent they might enjoy and benefit from it.
Our homework today was to bake some biscuits. YES! I've got it easy here! Or so I thought... Surely he'd enjoy this? Cracking eggs, spooning sugar, whisking and getting gloopy - plus of course the delicious eating after watching our golden brown Jammy Drops baking to perfection through the warm-lit glass oven door.
Things started well before we, you know, actually did anything...
...until he really didn't want to wash his hands. Or dry them. And then refused to stand anywhere but the kitchen counter. Eventually we settled on him sitting safely next to me but that brought it's own problems as he couldn't reach anything that he wanted to do and when he could reach it, he didn't want it after all.
He wanted to put the butter in the bowl. The butter was gross and slimy. "Why did you make ME put the butter in the bowl, mummy?"
He wanted to sieve the flour into the bowl. The flour made his eyes hurt. "Why did you make me do that mummy, it goe'd in my eyes! This is rubbish."
The whisk was too loud and 'bits' went on him.
I couldn't stir with the wooden spoon as that was his drum stick.
He wanted a drink.
He wanted a snack. (This IS your snack, dude!)
He wanted to play Lego.
I finally wrestled the balls of uncooked biscuit in to the fridge with one hand, the other brushing away the very persistent 'bits' off of my youngest and grabbing him before he threw himself off the side in a last ditch attempt to escape to the living room to ask for more snacks.
Fifteen minutes of baking prep had turned into a headache-enduing frustration fest on both our sides which felt like it lasted hours. I knew I'd lost all hope of re-engaging him when I had to chill the mix for 10 minutes before popping the jam in and bunging them in the oven to cook but instead of getting majorly stressed by his lack of enjoyment and total disinterest in our homework baking bonding session, I decided to let it gooooooo, let it gooooo.
I added jam and baked them to golden brown loveliness myself, while my little man played Lego with daddy.
I can feel the homework cog ticking away as year one approaches, increasing the pressure and decreasing the time until we are expected to make sentences with keywords and develop original and imaginative stories just like 8 years ago with my eldest but I think this time round I've learned to be more chilled with it. I will still strive to achieve the tasks we're set and we're both going to hate it at times but I look forward to the good times too. I am more knowledgeable around education, expectations and more confident in myself to step in and express if something is just too much for my youngest.
Most clouds, even stressful dark crappy homework ones, have a silver lining. Ours today was consuming these and having my little man say they were delicious... and of course that he did all of the hard work.
Who is Julie?
30 something, mother of two gorgeous boys, lover of one gorgeous husband, perpetually living in a dream world full of wine, chocolate and artsy crafty things.