I know you often hear me telling you stories of “in my day”. For example, in my day, we didn’t have cellphones. In my day, we only had one channel on the TV, and our shows weren’t in English every night. And, in my day, my dad used to give me R5 to go to the movies at Sandton City, and that would cover the movies, popcorn and Coke, and I was expected to bring some change home.
Well, in my day too, I think I only got given homework from around grade 3 or 4, and I’m rather sure it took a few minutes, rather than up to an hour these days, depending on what revision etc you have on.
You are seven, and from Monday to Thursday, you are tasked with reading, writing and maths, and most days Zulu and Afrikaans, with revision work done every day until your test on Friday. On days that you’re at my house, I supervise, check that you’ve done everything, and do your reading.
I am not anti homework, and I’m not even complaining about your homework, since we both know we gotta do what we gotta go. Yes, we grumble a bit, and it’s not like I embrace the moment and get excited for it like I do a great cup of coffee.
My issue around your homework and your tests is this – how much must I push? Yes, you need to do your homework because there are consequences if you don’t, but should I be pushing for perfection among your grade 2 requirements. Should we just be ticking the boxes to get the work done and you having learnt the basics, or should we be striving for perfect dots, crosses and coloured-in pictures?
Am I lazy or negligent when you write a number that doesn’t sit perfectly on the line, and I don’t make you rewrite it? Should I be asking you to redo the scribble picture you’ve done, and add another five minutes to your load (and my supervision time?). And should I be banning screen time until you are able to answer all my maths revision questions without hesitation?
And those occasional few marks you lose in tests… should I be worried? Is it good enough that you’re getting eights and nines out of 10? Should we be spending lots of time on the corrections and righting what you got wrong? Or should we be going out for ice cream to celebrate great weekly test results?
It’s one of my biggest parenting struggles – how much to push, and how much to hold back, and I’m not sure where the optimal balance lies for us. I’m more on the laidback side, and I hope I’m not doing you a disservice. You have tended to motivate yourself when you want and when you’re ready, and this has given me reason too to hold back. I don’t want to push so hard that you lose interest or that things scare you, but I want to still motivate and encourage, yet how much is too much?
When I was at school, I don’t remember being pushed to work harder or better, and I quit extra murals swiftly, and seldom followed through on things for long. At the time, it was cool not to face consequences for poor results, empathy or empty afternoons after school, but I wonder if things would have been better with some more guidance and motivation (without the fear factor, of course). Would I have done better at school, would I have been happier, and would it have set me up for good habits later on (though I think I’ve taught myself how to work hard and self motivate since leaving university).
I guess I’ll let you guide me on what to do – I’ll assess your confidence, your marks, your happiness. For now, maybe our level is right, and maybe our balance is just right. Maybe colouring out the line doesn’t mean you’re a bad kid or that you’re going to fail grade two (not even close). And maybe I’ll keep checking, evaluating, and self questioning, always, to find the best push-pull for us.
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