Ditch the Homework?
If your kids are like mine - they hate it. And being in a home-schooling environment at the moment makes it a double deal for my foster daughter and so by default for us too!!
During the ‘normal’ summer holidays she feels schoolwork is an intrusion on what should be a 6 week do as you please chill out, which can be roughly translated as spending all day in her bedroom except for popping down for the odd meal. And now it seems as if I’ve grown horns and a tail when I try to encourage her to do the work she has been asked to do by school. And it’s not even the holidays yet!
Last year it was the same though - so I don’t think it is just lockdown! We were trying to get her to study during the holidays last summer, as she was due to sit her GCSE’s this year. So, with exams next year in mind, we girded our loins and sat down to put together a plan! A six-week chillout?? No such luck!!
We actually agreed a working plan - she had been asked to stick to her homework and revision timetable by her school. We were a little more lenient, I have to say, but there were things that she did have to do to hand in as course work, which needless to say, had to be done.
But yes - you guessed it - she then resisted doing any homework and just wouldn’t come downstairs. After a while (well a lot of discussion really) and probably as a sweetener to us to get us off her back, she then relented and said she would do some work.
Out of earshot, we breathed a sigh of relief.
But were also glad we hadn’t patted our parenting skills on the back, when she then began insisting that she would only do half an hour a day.
For a 15-year-old that was actually nowhere near enough! But even when we just allowed her to get started at that level, we could see that the 30 mins weren’t being used well.
And trying to talk to her, well I could see that this was stressing her out!!
I asked some of her friends Mum’s what their teens were doing. It seemed that they were all doing a staggering amount and having to be told that it was time to stop!
I wish…..! I thought, somewhat jealously.
Has my foster child no conscience - does she not care - is she just not resilient? Or is it, as I suspected, that she was just being plain stubborn!
Well something had to give, as I knew she could definitely improve if she would only put in some work. Not shedloads! Just some! She may have had a bad start in life, but she is capable. I know she is. She is my foster daughter, but in truth she has been with us for a long time and is, to all intents and purposes, a member of our family. And as any parents, we want her to be the best she can be.
One Saturday last summer we went to visit ‘Grandma'.
Yes, doesn’t that seem like a thing of the distant past!
But that was then.
We were sitting chatting, as you do, and Grandma asked my daughter what she was doing and if she was getting much homework done. I froze. Not going to say a word I thought. Bite your lip. Look away. Don’t want to get into an argument or provoke a Teenage Tantrum! (And that is so easily achieved isn’t it?)
But I needn’t have worried. Grandma said she should do as much as possible and get it all out of the way before we go on holiday - that she would be really glad she did! Where have I heard those words before I wonder. Mmm! Yes, I think I’ve probably said them countless times to no avail.
But isn’t it amazing how your children will listen to others - though not to you!
Grandma went over to her bowl of ‘oddments and ornaments,’ rustled around for a moment and picked something out. She held it out to my daughter in her hand and said - Here, take a look at this. She gave her a beautifully decorated pebble. My daughter said, “Ooh! That’s lovely!”
Ah. But turn it over!” said my Mum.
And on the reverse the pebble had a saying written on it.
Mmm! Enough said. After Grandma had explained the meaning and we’d all had a cup of tea we changed the subject!
It’s never good to dwell on moments as poignant as that.
Just let the learning sink in and move on.
But in the car on the way home we talked about it.
I’m a great believer in choosing your battles wisely and coming back to an issue you do want to address, after the event and not in the heat of the moment.
In chatting to my daughter, I realised that she was stalling. It was all too much for her. She had too much to do and it must have seemed insurmountable to her.
This is a teenager who, and I’m sure this applies to most, looks at you as if you have two heads when you ask if she would like to join you on a walk.
She would rather create a scene and throw a tantrum than go upstairs for something she has forgotten. “What?!” and I quote, “You mean I’ve got to go all the way back up there?? I’ve only just come down. What a waste of energy!”
I think ‘stupid’ was a word used quite a bit in the stream of complaints too. Not by me I hasten to add! Ah, well, I thought, the language could have been worse! Though I was tempted to say, “Perhaps you should have remembered to bring your pencil case down with you the first time, then you wouldn’t need to go back up!”
But I didn’t.
So, having this absolute mountain of homework to do was only ever going to be like climbing Mount Everest for an exercise and fresh air averse teenager.
She needed different way of looking at it. She needed to break it down into smaller achievable chunks and then she could plan what to do each day and make a timetable. Do it bit by bit.
“After all”, I told her, “If you have a loaf of bread to feed to the ducks, you don't throw the whole loaf at them, all at once do you?”
So, we sat down together, calmly, and looked at what she had to do. Broke it down into pieces. We worked out roughly how long each piece would take and then we divided it all out among the available days - leaving weekends and our holiday weeks completely free, to her relief and pleasure.
This seemed to make it seem much more achievable and she was really happy as she could see it was not actually the enormous task she had envisaged.
And what a valuable Life Lesson to learn!
Though, back to lockdown.
Well she doesn’t have to sit her GCSE’s now. She is actually a bit frustrated about that in some ways, as although it would have been a lot of work, she would have been able to improve her grades. She was aiming to do higher than her predicted grades, and with work I think that was achievable.
Now she just has to accept what she will be given from where she was.
Having not realised that she actually needed to put in a bit of effort herself, until the eleventh hour, I guess she now feels a little robbed.
But on the plus side she doesn’t have to revise.
Although even when a lesson is learned, it is easily forgotten and needs to be reminded from time to time.
“What - you mean I still have to work at home - even though I’m not at school and I’m not even allowed to take my GCSE’S?? How stupid is that!”
But she did give in. Well, a lesson is always easier to learn the second time round.
Working and home schooling now in our household are more focussed on learning Life Skills and working on interesting things that she may actually use or need in later life!
At the end of the day - Life skills and Children’s Emotional Wellbeing is so much more important, I think.