Most school districts have guidelines for homework, which are generally 10 minutes per night per grade. This information is usually included in the “Back to School” handout, or available on a web site.
What they don’t tell you is that they don’t mean students are expected to spend 10 minutes per night per grade doing homework, they mean parents are expected to spend 10 minutes per night per grade — usually just to get your kids to sit down and get started, too.
Add to that the time it takes to make them double-check their work, re-read the directions so they do it right this time, call a classmate when the finally admit they can’t re-read the directions because they “forgot” them at school, re-do everything one more time… and then suddenly it’s 10:30 and you’re wondering where your evening went.
And that’s on a good night.
On a bad night, you have to factor in the additional time it takes to wipe away the tears your grade school kid sheds because they’re afraid that when you scream you’re going to throw all the video games and game players in the house in the trash if they don’t focus “RIGHT NOW!” you actually mean it, or the time it takes to think up the increasingly harsh forms of punishment you threaten your jr. high or high school kid with to get them to quite screwing around and get their assignment done — note to Dick Cheney: getting a terrorist to write a detailed confession isn’t all that different than getting a kid to write a history paper, so imagine all the controversy you could have avoided if you’d just asked the nation’s parents to tell you what really works?
There’s also the time it takes you to work through the shame and embarrassment you feel when you realize you’ve forgotten so much Math, Science, History and Social Studies that even when you finally snap and scream “Here, just let me do it!” you can’t actually do it.
Cosine? Pi? The atomic number of ruthenium? The capital of Botswana? Uh…
There was a time when students got homework and if they didn’t do it they’d get yelled at the next day by their teacher, paddled, given detention, or forced to stay after class while everybody else went outside to play so they could write “I promise I will not forget to do my homework again” 100 times on the blackboard.
Now parents are responsible.
Which means when there’s a note that gets sent home because there’s a problem, it blames you, asking what the Hell kind of uninvolved, uninterested, unfit parent you are for failing on such a regular basis to get your kid to sit down every night to complete such a simple thing as each day’s assignment.
Or worse, all of the above plus the reminder that there’s a 25 page Social Studies report due on Friday:
YOU: I just got a note from your teacher.
YOUR KID: I know. I brought it home.
YOU: It says you have a paper due on Friday.
YOUR KID: Yeah, for Social Studies.
YOU: Have you started it yet?
YOUR KID: No.
YOU: Why not?
YOUR KID: ‘cause it’s only Wednesday. Duh.
What’s a parent to do?
If you’re like many, you’ll eventually turn to your own parents for help, asking them how they endured homework’s Long March.
But the only thing they’ll do is laugh and say there’s nothing you can do, and that as awful as your kids seem, they’re not any worse than you were when you were their age:
YOUR PARENTS: Yeah, sometimes helping you with homework got so bad we had to stop and walk around the block.
YOU: I’m sorry I put you through all that.
YOUR PARENTS: We forgive you.
YOUR PARENTS: And when your kids call you in 20 or 30 years to say the exact same thing, you’ll forgive them, too.
YOU: I guess.
YOUR PARENTS: Besides, every minute of stress and frustration they cause you now, they’ll suffer when they get older and have to help their kids.
YOU: That’s supposed to make me feel better?
YOUR PARENTS: No, but it finally makes us feel better.
(On the other hand, whether it’s Math, Science or Social Studies when you’re a kid, or Parenting, Perspective and Anger Management when you’re an adult, it’s nice to know that you can still turn to your parents for help you with your homework.)