Life has changed in the last few weeks, as we no longer have any pre-school children at home with us in the afternoons - as little Doris has joined her brothers Boris and Norris up the road at the local primary school. That has created less pressure at some points in life, but seems to have created a huge daily pressure point after school, when they all come in weary, agitated and carrying volumes of homework to complete.
It always used to be the case that Boris would sit and do his homework without much need for supervision. He's fairly well organised and the work has been very straightforward. That meant that I could park little Doris in front of CBEEBIES for half an hour and sit with Norris to make sure his work was done. Norris is naturally quite quick, and grasped all the basic stuff with numbers and reading/writing with minimal effort. However, getting him to sit still to work patiently at something is an exercise somewhat akin to letting go of an inflated balloon and expcting it to fly in a straight line across the room! Putting it politely, 'presentation may require some attention' but I was able to sit and supervise. Things used to be simple.
This term however our peaceful post-school regime has been shattered. Firstly the quantity and demands of Boris' homework have shot-up. The things he is now being asked to do take real effort to work out, sometimes research and far more parental involvement. Norris still requires a parent's constant oversight to keep his work organised and coherent; but now little Doris is coming home with her sounds book, reading book and word box to go through each night as well!
Mrs Hideous coming in from a hard-days work was used to coming home to a scene of relative calm and state of organisation. Of late she has been greeted with a bit of mayhem, of a stressed Dad and cross children! What is worse is when I haven't had a chance to check over what either Boris or Norris have produced and when they finally get to the end their Mum arrives and makes them rub it out and re-write it legibly! If there was a book entitled 'how to make your 8 & 10 year old boys really angry', chapter one might well be on exactly this. However, the school will score through messy work and demand that it is re-written, so they might as well get it right on the first evening it is given out.
Then there is reading. How can we enable our kids not to grudgingly do the bare minimum but to embrace the joy of exploring a good book (or even 'the' good book, for that matter!). The joy of sport for Boris, or of gadgets for Norris has a far more instant appeal and addictive content; of stimulation without effort - with which sadly books do not yet compete. I would rather read a book than watch TV personally as in the old adage about well-crafted prose 'the pictures are better'. Driving the kids towards books has to be done - its their prescribed homework. But, I remember at their age devouring books, and saving up my pocket-money for the next inevitable Enid Blyton or Biggles story! At the moment the required reading is an exasperation for them, rather than a joy.
3:30-5:00 pm is not the time-slot in the day that I look forward with great enthusiasm at the moment!