There is much debate about the merits and volume of homework imposed on our kids. But there's one big component that has been notably absent from the discussion: Mommy Homework.
For the uninitiated, Mommy Homework is the bane of many mothers' lives. While perhaps intended to be an opportunity for bonding between parent and student, it instead frequently devolves into a parent Googling "How do you paper maché?" at midnight. It is dioramas in first grade, ancestor dolls dressed in authentic cultural costumes in second grade and re-construction of Colonial Williamsburg in fifth grade.
Mommy Homework (and yes, of course it can also be Daddy Homework) has been known to tie up entire weekends, leave its victims covered in baking soda (volcanic eruptions for science) -- and befuddled as to why a balloon can light a lightbulb.
As a guide for teachers who may need to understand why I would rather not spend my evenings building a scale-model of the solar system from foam balls and plastic straws, I offer these guidelines to what constitutes Mommy Homework.
The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who know what to do with things sold at Michael's craft store and the rest of us. Speaking on behalf of this latter group, we are intimidated as soon as we walk in a crafts store. We meekly approach sales personnel or other shoppers and quietly beg for their help. It's embarrassing and we know they smirk as soon as we leave. Why subject us to this?
Last time I checked, 8-year-olds were not licensed to drive in any of the 50 states. So if your homework assignment requires a trip to a California Mission or Civil War Historic Battleground Site, chances are, this is Mommy Homework.
We do not permit any guns in our home, not even toy ones. Hot glue guns are extremely dangerous weapons in the wrong hands, which is to say the hands of any child. If something has to be hot-glued together, it's Mommy Homework. I offer the hot glue still stuck on my antique dining room as evidence, your Honor.
Making paper -- which essentially means taking perfectly good paper, destroying it in a shredder and then sacrificing a blender to the cause of making pulp that later takes a week to dry on a screen frame you also had to build for the project -- is a good example of Mommy homework. The irony of starting out with perfectly good paper to make lumpy pulpy paper is not lost on us, by the way. And for the record, I'm not so sure that the Colonial settlers of Boston had blenders to sacrifice. The mess? You don't want to know.
A third-grade book report may be oral or written. A third-grade book report should <em>not</em> be: "Make a 5-minute movie with your iPhone! Wear costumes and enact your favorite characters with your classmates, friends and family! Prepare a professional-looking movie poster advertising your movie!" This is wrong for so many reasons, starting with: There is no family pet alive that wants to be dressed as the Wimpy Kid.
This includes the rental or purchase of costumes for Dr. Seuss Day (since dressing like Thing One or Thing Two are clearly the <em>only</em> way to commemorate the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel). Since those pesky child labor laws actually prevent 6-year-olds from earning their keep, assignments like this fall to their parents. Money-spending IS Mommy Homework. We all pay taxes to support our schools. Can't they just read "Cat In the Hat" a few dozen more times and we call it a day?
While technically not homework, Twin Days are absolutely Mommy Homework. It involves mothers calling one another and pleading for partnerships with other kids to dress identically to your child. In every class, there is always someone left out. Alpha kids pair up with other alphas and your little beta boy says he'd rather poke his eyes out with hot coals than go to school that day un-twinned. Negotiations usually begin as soon as Twin Day is announced and can often be quite intensive, including things like offering to take over all soccer carpooling for the season if you could please just make your kid be twins with Johnny. Think I'm exaggerating? Check attendance at school on Twin Day. It's AWOL time.
There are, of course, more serious issues involving homework, and we applaud the efforts to control the volume and meaningfulness of the school work that comes home with our kids.
These issues were given voice by the Race to Nowhere film, which spotlighted the pressure that kids are under to achieve. There is now a petition drive on Change.org to seek national PTA support for "healthy homework" guidelines.
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