Try, try, try again


Oh the parenting, education woes are beginning.  So many decisions.  Are we making the right ones?  What is best?  How do we meet the homework/learning demands for each child?  What about family time?  That’s important to, right?  Which school?  When to start kindergarten?  And then what about plain ole’ kid time?  Each deserves time to just be them, a kid.

Our oldest, almost 7, loves school.  Every part of it.  His favorite subject, math, is usually his main love at school.  Followed closely by PE, Art, and Computers.  Until entering 1st grade, writing was his passion.  He would spend evenings in his room writing imaginative stories about life, toys, or a tangle of both.  That journal went everywhere!  Now in first grade, he has a baggie book each night, spelling words to review, and his math home links.  Some nights, the more successful ones, we accomplish all.  Others, baggie book is it.  With our educational background, we want our children to do their best, love learning, and nurture who they are inside.  Our struggle is finding that happy balance.

Recently our morning was filled with tears.  My son’s, mine, we were all upset.  It was the day of a spelling test and as of that morning he had 10 of 15 words nailed down.  The others, hit or miss.  While reviewing over cornflakes, he states, “I know 10, that’s good”.  Yes, it is good, we responded but we want you to do your best.  Never have we expressed perfection.  As Morrie Schwartz said in Tuesdays with Morrie, “What’s wrong with being number 2?”  Nothing is wrong with number 2, as long as you did your best and not give up or walk away with a “that’s good enough” attitude.  He spent the remainder of before school time frustrated, we spent it upset.  How do we best juggle our lives to give him more review time?

My dear husband and I educate high school students everyday, full time.  After school is family time or at least we try.  On a normal, non-event night, we get just 3 hours to feed, bathe, play, read, and enjoy.  That is 3 children vying for 3 hours, with 2 parents, at least 1/2 an hour of 1st grade homework, preschool work, toddler play, dog walking, family dinner time, bedtime snack/bath, and just plain life.  Sprinkled in this tie dye, is Latvian homework and learning.  Most nights I juggle the scarves, but most hang precariously in the air before crashing back down.

I love education and know what an important role it plays in future endeavors.  However, creative, imaginative play is equally vital.  M builds puppets and stages, writes plays, pours over History books, or creates Lego masterpieces not found in books.  At 4, E is our interpretive dancer or role play queen.  During our typical work week, time for being a kid is hard to find.  That breaks my heart.

Please do not get me wrong, I  deeply respect our education system and want our children to be the best “——-” that they can be.  Education is so much more than reading, writing and arithmetic!  Self-discipline for homework is equally important.  And no, I am not advocating homeschooling.  That is a can of worms and a debate not for this time.  One that I am not ready to address.  Simply, I am trying to carve out kid time and squeeze in little family moments.

I am struggling with finding a balance, a happy median.  Suggestions?  What works for your family?


Related articles:

How homework affects families

Why We Say “NO” to Homework

6 responses »

  1. I really like the way you wrote about this topic… We’re in the same boat, minus one child (until June). Patrick gets home from school at 4:00, has a snack and wants to play with neighborhood friends, his brother or just relax and watch tv. I completely understand. After 5:00/5:30 we tackle family dinner, homework and reading, bath/shower and bed… I’m a little nervous what will happen when they start participating in more sports or activities after school and the homework that will come with the next few years… no time!!! I make sure we at least have family dinner time every night, whether we’re eating frozen pizza or a good homemade dinner. That is our time to catch up on the day and talk about whatever we want… I can’t give that up! (not yet at least!)

    • I LOVE our family dinners! I feel like I learn so much more about our kids through that 1/2 hour of sharing. With a littler one it just seems like a three ring circus. And the nights I’m running the show solo…lots of playdoh is needed to keep little man content while I tackle big kid needs.

  2. Julie, I struggled and continue to struggle with the very same issues. As a teacher I don’t really believe in assigning homework, and that is fueled mostly by my experience as a parent. But if you are looking for data and evidence to explain how these frustrations are valid read:

    Alfie Kohn also has a book about the very same subject. One of the reasons that kids have homework is because of the pressure parents put on schools for the homework to be coming home – they seem to think it allows them to keep a pulse on what is going in the classroom. I think that with new technologies and approaches to learning we can keep that up in a very different way.

    If I had a choice when working in elementary I would have only given homework to students that allowed them to share their learning, developing the ability to create another opportunity for formative assessment, rather than require them to learn something new. In secondary teaching it has been all about giving them material for homework that we have begun in class, and that allows us to move forward through the curriculum a bit faster. But over the holidays – my classroom policy is no homework ever, even if the parents beg for it. 🙂

  3. It’s the hardest thing! Even 20 years ago when our kids were small, we felt so inadequate as parents. Imagine if you worked until 6:00, as both of us usually did! There was no peace for us in the evenings–just rushing to get through everything, and that’s no way to live. The good news is that the children have grown up to be quite wonderful young adults in spite of us! (By the way, we know Alfie Kohn in the library world, too. He’s a huge advocate for NOT using reward systems for learning or reading. One reason Mr. S. does NOT use AR in his classroom, and a reason library reading programs are moving away from big prizes awarded for the MOST books read!)

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