The Homework Wars

paper, inbox, homeworkIt starts with a slow wander from the task at hand toward something shiny and much more exciting. It usually ends in tears. Welcome to the world of homework and the too much of it.

Granted, the oldest boy is fairly lazy with regard to must-dos, and as a result he cares nothing for schoolwork. He would prefer to spend his time and imagination on more frivolous pursuits like creating and thinking rather than learning from rote the pillars of a public school education. He is quite stubborn about it.

The youngest boy was, until recently, eager to complete his assignments, but these days when the window between classroom and bedroom is a scant five hours in which he must balance time outside with dinner and a moment with his family he has had to make sacrifices. It is homework that he has placed upon the pile, and there are matches nearby.

This has made my wife and I into the homework enforcers, and it is not a role that suits me. Sure, I can be bad cop until the cows come home, which not only begs the question as to where the cows went, but also, why does it take such aggressive measures to make the boys do that which they are required to do?

Surely they could complete their homework in a time much shorter than the span they spend arguing about it, after all, it is only elementary school busy work.

And there is the rub. I am not a fan of homework for the sake of homework, and it appears that the majority of assignments brought home are just that. Also, I am a big believer in life being short and severely lacking in tomorrows, so when my first grader would rather spend the lingering minutes of twilight playing catch than copying a word he can easily spell, a skill he mastered pages ago, we are going to play ball. Every time.

However, it is the attitude of the older son that troubles me more than his blatant disregard for paperwork. When given the opportunity to remain calm and carry on, he is choosing to throw tantrums much too elaborate for a child his age, and they are far beyond any emotion he has ever displayed during times of real consequence. Frankly, it is disgusting, and his actions are bringing the world down around him.

We have tried everything: reason, enticement, and fighting with fire—often in one conversation. He understands that he is the one with the power for change. He knows that he doesn’t have to like what he is charged with doing, but that it must be done. He gets that a quick buckling down on schoolwork will reward him with time and opportunities to pursue other activities, but more often than not he will stay in the ring, swinging at commonsense and sobbing on occasion.

To be fair, he gets a lot of homework, and it is the effort demanded by quantity, not the challenge of the work it contains, that pushes his buttons. He is not opposed to learning, in fact, he soaks up knowledge like a dry, thirsty sponge. He is incredibly bright. The point of his contention is the fear of losing an hour to something he finds tedious, and that results in his losing twice the time over something even more so. He is nine, he understands the argument, but the pill is still so hard to swallow.

We have a meeting scheduled with his teacher and principal to find productive ways to hold him accountable and to get his work done. The goal is to bend his attitude, not break his spirit. I only hope that there is some give for the take.



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