When Did Homework Turn Into a Frickin' Nightmare?

Have paper, pencils, books, drink, snack, dictionary, laptop ready. Do not give kids the chance to "forget" something and waste time wandering around the house looking for it. You'll save your sanity by spending two minutes getting ready.
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OMG! It's homework time, and I need a drink!

Ah, the school year starts. Parents everywhere rejoice with visions of free time!

*Free time to catch up on shows that aren't animated.
*Free time to work out!
*Free time to get your mani/pedi!
*Free time to shop without listening to whining!
*Free time to have conversations with complete sentences and big words.

But, instead that free time is:

*Free time to get the oil changed! In both cars.
*Free time to take the dogs to the vet for annual check ups.
*Free time to call a plumber to fix the tub jets.
*Free time to call an electrician because the plumber won't fix the tub jets.
*Free time to call a tub dealer because the electrician won't fix the tub jets.
*Free time to to have an appliance guy come and tell you the tub has to be removed because the pump was installed backwards -- and nope, he doesn't remove tubs.
*Free time to call BOTH a plumber and the appliance back at the same time.
*Free time to take a bath IF you ever get the tub fixed!

Still it is easier than doing all of those fun chores AND playing referee to the kids.

With great joy comes great pain and agony -- namely homework!

O.M.G. Homework.

When. Did. Homework. Become. Such. A. Big. Horrible. Fricking. NIGHTMARE?!

I remember homework.

I remember homework from when I was a child. The teacher taught something in class. I listened and learned. I took the book home and did the "odd numbered problems" on page 72. This didn't take long because I actually knew the material. I had seen it recently -- that same day! Homework -- 15 minutes BOOM. Skill reinforced, mom not involved, and STILL time for playing outside.

Homework today?

Now kids stare blankly at the homework page which covers things they discussed months or even grades ago... and maybe, just maybe something they have actually seen before in class. Who refreshes their memory about these long forgotten skills? Mom, of course AND without the help of a textbook!

I remember homework.

I remember homework from my teaching days (1988-2004). Each subject had a separate day for homework. For me that meant I only gave homework once a week -- 20 minutes homework for language arts. The kids had to know what to do or it wasn't useful for reinforcing that day's learning AND the phone rang off the wall the next day with parents complaining. Boom! Skill reinforced, mom not involved, still time for playing outside.

Homework today?

There are no textbooks. Everything is online and, Lord help me, everything requires "signing" in. We have login and password information for countless (no seriously, I don't even want to count them!) accounts:

Profiles. Schoology. Band calendar. PTO information. Lunch account. Soccer schedule. Prezi. Spelling Town. Math practice. School newsletter AND each teacher has a website.

I just went to parent night at the school last night and there are more accounts coming soon. Wonderful.

All of the above -- for EACH kid. I have trouble keeping track of my own online life and you want me to add 40 logins and passwords per kid? I need a drink.

Skills reinforced? Um... I have no idea what skill this reinforces. Mom involved? You BET! Time to play outside? HAHAHAHA!

Sigh... Remember the good old days?

Homework was easy and painless, dishes washed themselves, fairies did the laundry in the night, beautifully coifed children played happily together while you cooked gourmet meals in your heels and pearls, remember those days? Yeah, me neither. And since none of those things are a part of the world, past, present, or ...well hopefully in the future ;) we need to get it together now!

Tips for less painful homework time!

1) Pay attention.

Homework time always comes during the witching hour of the day when the baby is crying and the dogs are barking and dinner needs to be cooked... Homework is hard enough when you are focused on it, right? So, do what you can to give yourself the space to pay attention. Like:

*Make dinner early or use a crockpot.
*Feed dogs a little earlier so they will not be needy or freaky.
*Break out the treats for baby.

2) Foster independence.

I'll wait for you to stop laughing. I know I just said that the kids don't have any idea what have the homework is even about so how are they supposed to be independent? By trying. Yes, foster that "old college try" while they are still in elementary school. It turns out some of those problems they really CAN do or at least get close.

3) Keep it quiet.

It should go without saying that the house should be quiet. No TV. No DVD. No Internet. Just kids sitting at tables focusing on their task. I have no luck with mine together so I divide and conquer by having them at different workstations. (Fancy word for one at the kitchen table and one at the coffee table.)

4) Free time first.

I believe it a little break between working all day at school and working again on homework, but only a little one. Give them a snack, potty break, time to tell about their day...part of a video game or tv show or swing set time in the backyard. Thirty minutes of downtime gives everyone a breather before settling down for work.

5) NO breaks.

Just get it done. Whining about it and talking about it and needing a drink and throwing a fit, etc. all just wastes time. Tell the kids to just get it over with. We all know that if they would just buckle down, focus, and get to it, homework would take 1/2 the time!

6) Bring the phone.

OK, perhaps this is the "WTF is math all about this year" part of me, but please keep your phone nearby logged into Facebook so you can bail me out when I post tonight's "How the hell do I figure out this math problem?" photo. I'm happy to help you out, too for more reasonable subjects than math. ;)

7) Be ready.

Have paper, pencils, books, drink, snack, dictionary, laptop ready. Do not give kids the chance to "forget" something and waste time wandering around the house looking for it. You'll save your sanity by spending two minutes getting ready.

8) Have a mantra.

When the kids are whining about how hard the homework is or how stupid the homework is or how 'mean' their teacher is for assigning it, you need a mantra. Do NOT engage in this time wasting conversation -- even if mean Mrs. Smith really did assign the dumbest homework assignment ever. Instead, have a mantra to repeat over and over again in response. Mine is, "We are not talking about that right now. We are doing our homework. Focus." Over and over and over and over.

9) Pat yourself on the back.

Lastly, raise your glass in a toast (we really are drinking now aren't we?) and give yourself a pat on the back. Homework is tough on everyone and making sure they 1) do it and 2) do it well will give them skills to last their entire life. You are doing a great job, momma. Cheers to you!