Thursday, 8 September 2011

Back to School Blues

I was reading a post earlier by Mad Mother. A bit of a (very justified rant) about the pressure children are put under with the snowballing of homework as they get older.

Mad Mothers eldest son has Aspergers Syndrome.  Now I can't even begin to imagine what extra pressure that brings him but I do know from reading her blog that while he feels safe, while his routine is adhered to he seems to cope brilliantly with most things.  When things are out of alignment then he becomes scared and reacts accordingly.

My children don't have Aspergers but I'm finding school a little trying at the moment too.

Yesterday was day 3 of back to school after the summer break and we have been INUNDATED with homework!!!

Miss Mac has completed a healthy plate poster.  Sectioning up a plate into categories, drawing and labelling.

She has half completed another poster on the Lindy Hop, a dance that became popular in the 30’s and 40’s and seems to be having a revival.

She has online maths homework to complete before the next lesson and a book to read and review.

Master Mac fares even worse.  A poster designing a new chocolate bar.

Maths online homework.

A book to read and review. 

Research into some chappie (I can’t remember who right now) and write a report.

Another design poster for DT.

And a report to write on the 9/11 twin towers tragedy.

Whoa!!!  And this is the beginning of term???  Where the hell is it going to end?

I’m not against homework by any means but I know what’s to come.  Basically, more of the same with a few long term project thrown in for good measure.

I can’t remember the exact guidelines set out by the school for the amount of time that should be spent on homework by each child depending on which year they are in but I KNOW we far exceed it.

Master Mac struggles a little.  He finds it hard to express himself.  He finds writing a chore and he tends not to ask for help.

None of this is a reflection of his intelligence.  He’s a pretty bright boy.  Talk to him and you will find out all manner of things. Ask him to write it down and you will get a short paragraph that he has laboured over, smudged and sweated blood for.

So, this year was going to be different. Scratch that. This year IS going to be different!!

Last night, I sat down with Master Mac and we made a start.  Planning is key and it’s something that doesn’t come naturally to him.  ‘This doesn’t have to be in until Monday’ he will tell me.  Yes, but you have 4 other things to do and it’s only Wednesday so by the end of the week there may be 5 more pieces of homework let’s do it now. 

He genuinely doesn’t get it.  All he sees is that he has nearly a week before that particular piece has to be in, he cannot factor in what may be yet to come because he deals in the here and now.

All of this can make for a very frustrating time.  He’s 13, he’s growing up, he has hormones to deal with.  He’s needs and wants to find his own way.  He still wants Mum to make it all better.  I wish I bloody could!

Right in the middle of helping him Miss Mac announces that she needs help too.  A little bit of me suspects that this is just a cry for attention.  She knows what she is doing, she is capable of completing that piece without my input but she wants me involved.

This is where it falls apart. This is where I most struggle with it just being me.

I go over to have a look at Miss Macs homework.  Master Mac sees this as me walking away from him.  As me not caring about him.  Of me putting Miss Mac first.

He’s frustrated and cross.  He loses concentration and doesn’t want to do it now but we get back on track.

A couple of minutes with Miss Mac and she’s happily drawing her poster.  Master Mac is still a little upset but trying to get back into the swing of it.

I think longingly of the junior school years.  Spelling and maths homework once a week and a reading book.  We knew where we were, we had a routine.  We actually had some bloody free time!!!

In between trying to help with homework there is tea to be cooked.  I’m not (and never have been) a convenience food cook.  I’m not setting myself up as some kind of super mum (I am soooo far from that :) and we have the odd take away and oven chips but generally it’s a meal cooked from scratch.  Then there’s the other household chores.  The occasional text or phone call to take/send.  The dog to take out.  Nothing earth shattering, just the stuff everyone does on a daily basis but it all takes TIME!

I really want my children to do the very best they can.  I want to support them in every possible way.  I do think learning to work on their own is as important as learning to work as part of a group but I also think they are put under a huge amount of pressure.

Left to their own devices Miss Mac will do well or kill herself in the attempt.  She excels academically, partly due to natural ability but mostly down to pure determination.  She HATES to fail.  She craves approval.

Master Mac would possible sink under the pressure.  He does do well but he needs a little extra support to keep him focused and motivated.  He likes to blend in.  Is chuffed to bits when he gets praise but is happy to just not be criticised.

I worry about them both.

Miss Mac takes up a lot of my time, she put herself forward, asks for help, wants me involved. 

Master Mac quietly worries, feels (quite rightly) a little neglected at times, misses his Dad.

This year WILL be different.  We’ve made a good start and we will keep that momentum.  If I don’t manage all the things on my ‘to do’ list for the next year then I know that this isn’t one of the things that will slip.


postcard pam said...

I sympathise so much Sarah. I know this merrygoround.

With 1 very academic child and another who is clever but happy to plod, I have had a completely different tack for No3 (The Elf) who struggles. If she looks too tired to do homework, then she is too tired and we don't do it. If she gets so confused that a normally happy face looks tearful -we just walk away from it. If teachers take me to task, I smile and tell them that things will not change and so they'll have to get used to it. My child is as happy as the day is long at school and at home, and so its a no brainer! It's always horses for courses (I have 3 kids at 3 separate secondary schools!)

Good Luck

Lene said...

I know all about the craziness of homework...and my children are still in primary school! Miss 8 in particular has pages and pages to get through each week, as well as reading and spelling. On a general weeknight we spend an hour doing homework.....an hour! Eight year olds should be outside playing!

I really symapthise you, I can't possibly even begin to imagine the nightmare that will be high school homework.

It sounds like you are doing an incredible job attending to each child's needs...and cooking a fabulous meal to boot!

Jayne said...

Your children sound similar to my girls. My youngest (10) is academically gifted but gets overwhelmed by the bigger picture so we have to plan daily tasks required to finish her multiple projects. My eldest (13) is bright, but has a very linear approach to thinking, will only tackle something in one way and so homework is something of a white knuckle experience every evening which usually requires my help (while juggling those other mum chores).

I hold my breath when I ask the question 'do you have any homework tonight?' And am quietly relieved when they say no.

You put your kids' needs first and that's what counts. You're doing a bang up job.

Sarah Mac said...

3 different schools??? Wow PP, that must be a bit of a nightmare sometimes!

I think you have a great attitude, I've tried to tackle the issue but other than homework clubs being suggested I've basically been told everyone is in the same position so they just have to learn to deal with it.

I will be keeping a close eye on Master Mac this year and may take a harder line approach if I see him struggle. It really is counter productive anyway. The more unhappy he is, the less able he is to deal with things so it's in everybodys best interest to ensure this doesn't happen.

Sometimes I get it right Lene and sometimes it's a complete nightmare. Last night we said 'sod it', ate KFC and watched a DVD which means more to do this weekend but I think it did us all good.

I don't remember being given so much homework and the children also work on a 2 week timetable which adds to my confusion greatly :)

A white knuckle experience is a perfect way to describe it Jayne! Planing and clam really are the only way to tackle it although we have times where it's complete chaos and ends in tears (mine usually;). I may well take a leaf out of PP's book though if it all becomes too much this year.