Okay, let’s get it out in the open. I never liked homework. As a matter of fact I still don’t like homework. As I write this article. I can't shake the image of a ParentsCanada editor standing over me flicking my ear every time I ask for a glass of water or to go outside and play with the other writers. There I've said it…now we can move on.
I take you to the average Canadian home.
Scene: Parent and child sitting at kitchen table littered with books.
Child: (frustrated, storms away from table) “It doesn't have to be exact!”
Parent: (equally frustrated) “It does have to be exact…it’s math.”
Scene ends, credits roll over the sound of screaming. And you should have heard my kids. (Ba-dum dum).
My daughters are both in their 20s now and I'm no longer waiting at the school’s Kiss’n’Ride drenched in a cold sweat wondering what new, science, math, English or history assignment is being sent home with my little academics that I’ll be asked to supervise and guide.
When they were in Grade 1, I would offer to help my daughters with their homework, and they would gladly accept. Two plus two equals four – nailed it! Take the “h” off of house and replace it with an “m” and what do you get? Mouse! What does the mouse say? “Squeak, squeak.” That’s right kiddo, “squeak, squeak”.
Learning is fun, right girls? Because Daddy is Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci and Fozzie Bear rolled into one tidy package. Hey MIT, here come the Carter girls!
Two years later the wheels start to come off. “What do you mean it doesn't have to be spelled correctly, that you can just spell it like it sounds? What’s the big deal, you ask? The big deal is you’re eight years old and if you continue to spell words like they sound, your job prospects will end at a carnival midway!”
Managing homework sent me spinning. I had no idea what was happening, and questioned my own education. This was a new world. This was no country for old men. Go ask your mother.
There’s a special bond between parent and child during the completion of homework. Exploration and discovery, collaboration and trust. Nature versus nurture, walking hand-in-hand into the land of knowledge. But it has to be hand in hand and not send the kid into watch TV while you completely take over and do the project.
PARENTS WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE and WE ARE NOT AMUSED!
The open connection between home and classroom is equally important. Parents and teachers must communicate. If they don’t, things fall apart. I’ve heard teachers talk about the volume of material they have to cover, and support from the parents is a must. “Homework is essential,” they trumpet, and I’ve heard parents trumpet back, “Why should we be teaching at home? What are we paying teachers for?” Relax folks, let’s put down the torches, pitchforks and smart phones long enough to realize that deep down we all have the child’s best interests at heart.
But is all this homework really necessary? Good question. Thank you friendly reader. A friend recently told me that when her son was seven, he stated emphatically that homework wasn’t important until Grade 11. That means all material done at home from Grades 1 to 10 is fluff? He might be right. Chances are post-secondary institutions aren't looking at our kids’ Grade 7 project on the Great Lakes. This whole thing might be a big make-work program, like Walmart greeters, or even Parliament.
As with most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Help your kids, but not too much. Nobody, and I mean nobody, ever does it alone from the ground up. Even Superman had Jimmy Olsen.
Evan Carter is a comedian based in Toronto. He performs at conferences and theatres across North America and will be making people laugh October 15 at the CBC’s annual Accent on Toronto comedy festival at the Danforth Music Hall.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2014.