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White Knuckle Parenting: Horrible Homework

What's my least favorite activity of the day? Well, it starts with "home" and ends with "work" and there's a whole lot of crying in the middle.


My youngest son started kindergarten in the fall of 2010. His two older brothers were already students at the local elementary school and before the school year ended in June of 2010, they were sent home with summer learning packets to complete over the summer. At the last PTA meeting of the year, I was the jerk parent who asked if there were packets for incoming kindergarteners.

What was I thinking?

I've come a long way since that poorly thought out request for more work to do at home. I think you might be able to guess how I feel about homework now. (Hint: I'm against it.)

Okay, that may be oversimplifying my stance. I'm against homework that makes MY life harder. When my kids get sent home with work that they can/will do by themselves, I'm ecstatic. Homework is great! When it is homework that requires a graphing calculator and an engineering degree? Less so.

My oldest son is so good about doing his homework that I barely know what his assignments are because he usually has them done before he gets home. He gets good grades, so who am I to argue with what he's doing?

The exceptions are, of course, days like yesterday when he informed me that he needs a biography of an obscure children's book author in his hot little hands by Friday. Oh, and that biography is only available from second-hand sellers online. And it costs $45. And it is printed with ink made from unicorn tears.

At least that's what it feels like. I have a feeling he's going to end up taking in a stack of pages printed from the internet. I'm not above some, shall we say, "creative" handling of homework assignments.

My youngest kid, the one for whom I requested that summer packet? He is a charming mix of "I HATE HOMEWORK! THIS IS TOO HARD! I WILL NEVER GET THIS DONE! WHHHHHHYYY MEEEEEEEE????!!!!" and "Oh, look. I finished already." He's also in first grade, so his homework is pretty simple. Even I can do it.

My middle son, however, has brought homework defiance to a whole new level. Like, if he were in a beauty pageant, that could be his talent. It's not that he can't do (most of) his homework; it's that he really, really, really doesn't want to. Work that takes him five minutes to complete takes him 45 minutes to hem and haw about. 

Honestly, that poor kid (he's the one with autism) spends most of his day being forced to do things that he doesn't like to do. I think both he and I would rather he just get to sit and play with Legos after school while he mentally processes his day.

I have all kinds of thoughts about homework and why it sucks and how it is discriminatory against parents with less money, English-speaking ability, and education (these are legitimate issues, by the way—not just my crackpot ramblings), but it all boils down to the fact that there are about 10 million other things I would rather do during the three hours before bedtime.

Regardless, I also realize that there are (probably) good reasons to assign homework. It's just that it's hard to see past all the crying and yelling to see what they are.

Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, writes a personal blog at Stimeyland; an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont; and a column called Autism Unexpected in the Washington Times Communities. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey.

Britany Just January 25, 2012 at 12:05 AM
THANK YOU!!! Since my middle son (I also have 3 boys) was diagnosed with Aspergers last year, I have finally begun to understand why I have been so against all the "at home" projects (not to mention paperwork!) that require my involvement. The bottom line is that after all the energy and time I put into simply managing my children and their complex relationships and needs, the LAST thing I want to do is sit down and help them - coax them, cajole them - to do their homework!
Jean Winegardner January 25, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Amanda Guyton January 26, 2012 at 03:04 AM
If they want to reinforce skills, can't they just tell me the skills and let me figure out how to reinforce them? I have lots of other things to be TEACHING my kids in those three precious hours. Less, because hey, we have therapy.


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