As a teacher I was often asked by parents ‘How do you get kids to do their homework?’ It’s the $million question. If anyone has the answer they could sell it on eBay and make a fortune. Short of advising parents to try using a whip, a tranquilliser gun and/or the threat of grounding offspring until they are 45 years old, I have no easy answers. No one does.
I was first asked this question over 25 years ago but I was reminded of the desperation of parents last week. I was addressing parents from several primary and secondary schools when the question cropped up yet again. As soon as the audience heard the desperate query they gave out an audible sigh, a combined plea for help. Most parents realise that homework is worthwhile. It teaches kids self-discipline among other skills. And, just between you and me, most kids know that homework is important too.
It’s just that homework involves self-discipline and self-discipline is hard work. During the holidays a kid gets to sit in front of the tellie with the remote, a bag of chips, a drink in their hand and their feet on the coffee table. It’s the good life. Then term time comes around and it’s ‘Homework. Homework. Homework’. They moan. They protest. They grumble. Of course, they do. If self-discipline was easy the world would be full of thin, fit, rich, non-smoking people who are not addicted to love. As the kids would say, self-discipline sucks!
But I can help parents out here. Just a little. After talking to the parents I then spoke to a combined group of Year 5/6 students the next day about homework. I didn’t nag. I didn’t talk about the importance of homework. I simply read them this story I wrote from real life and – Guess what? – they laughed:
My Homework Diary by Danno Year 7
Tuesday 2nd April
6.00pm Homework. History project.
6.01 Sit at desk. Start.
6.02 Stop. Can’t find pencil.
6.03 Find pencil. Start. Stop. Can’t find paper.
6.05 Find paper. Start. Stop. Pencil blunt. Can’t find sharpener.
6.07 Little brother walks past door. Run out. Punch brother. Brother yells. I yell ‘He’s interrupting my homework’. Mum yells at brother. Ha! Ha! Go back.
6.09 Sit at desk. Look out window. Brother’s up tree. Run out and throw tennis ball. Miss. He spits on me. The pea brain. Climb after him. Intention. Murder. He yells. Mum comes out. ‘What are you doing?’ she asks. ‘My homework’ I say. ‘Up a tree?’ She has a point. ‘I’m taking a break.’ (I sure am. I’m going to break the little twerps leg if I catch him.) ‘How can you take a break? You’ve only been in your room 5 minutes.’ ‘Nine minutes and 45 seconds’ I add. I go back.
6.11 Sit at desk. Damn. There’s a fly. Throw things at fly. Miss. Damn. I’ll get that fly. WHAM. Got him. Fly squashed all over homework book. Uek! I can’t do homework now.
6.18 In kitchen making coffee. ‘What are you doing?’ mum asks. ‘I can’t do my homework’ I explain. ‘There are fly guts squashed all over my homework book.’ Mum wipes book. ‘What about the germs?’ I ask. Mum sprays book with disinfectant. Damn.
6.27 Need music. Put on CD. LOUD. ‘Turn it down.’ ‘What?’ Dad nearly rips handle off door. ‘TURN IT DOWN’. ‘No need to yell.’ I yell. Dad’s face is a stoplight. All red. I turn the volume down to 9.. to 7 ..to 4. Dad’s face resumes normal transmission. He’s pink again. ‘You can’t study with that racket’ says dad. I give him my tennis racket. Dad snorts and leaves.
6.39 Sit at desk. Work. Work. Great. That’s the best dagger tattoo I’ve drawn on my arm yet. I’ll put in some blood. Ahh! Biro’s leaked everywhere. Wipe off with paper. 10 sheets.
6.47 Brother makes faces through window. Throw book at him. He bolts. Damn. It was my homework book.
6.53 Got book off dog. Read homework sheet. Answer questions on page 47. There’s no page 47. Of ANCIENT CIVILISATIONS. Oh No! I’ve got ANCIENT WARFARE. Cool pictures but. They cut off their heads. Gruesome.
6.58 Write ‘Ancient Ejypt’ on page. Um. Ejipt. Egipd. Yell ‘Mum, how do you spell Egipd?’ E.G.Y.P.T.’ And Ancient?’ (She should know! Ha!) A.N.C.I.E.N.T. Thanks. Write ‘Ancient Egypt’ on page. Good.
7.01 ‘Dinner’. Great. I’m starved. I should be but. I’ve done an hour’s homework.
I only added one more comment. If you want to get your homework done don’t do it like Danno!!!!!
http://www.kerrycue.net Canberra Times 25/3/09
Pic#Author at St Kevin’s Parish School in the 50’s