It’s homework - but not as we know it

Ton, ta, tes… Mon, ma, mes… Which is it? And why?

Questions from my newly blazered, secondary school boy. Questions I am delving deep into the greying recesses of my mind to answer.

The “Which is it?” is easier than the “Why?” But that’s French for you.

Ben has recently been struggling with one of the biggest changes in his life.
After 3 years of striding from home to school in barely 2 minutes, he now sets off on the school bus before the mist has lifted, carrying a backpack worthy of the 1970s Hippie Trail, lacking only a tent and sleeping bag for verisimilitude.

After using just one classroom per year, he now has to find 6 different classrooms a day, often in buildings at opposite ends of the site.

And he no longer learns about Science: he studies Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

With all this change comes a new phenomenon which has curtailed his after-school freedom to range across the parish with a couple of mates and a Swiss Army knife.
I speak of homework – something that causes me more pain now than it did when I was having to do it on my own behalf.

- RE (match these unintelligible symbols with the appropriate religion)
- Chemistry (list the meanings of the following warning signs)
- Maths (work out all these angles, sucker)
- French (see above)
- English (at last, one I can manage that without too much trouble)
- Biology (find 20 wood lice and bring them into school, yes, 20)
- Every subject (cover your book in clear plastic, my favourite task)

Yesterday I supervised French, English and spellings.

Today Blog Fodder did the honours with RE, claiming he knew more about it than I do. Not something I have noticed in the last 13 years.

Tomorrow – it’ll probably be Maths as I haven’t suffered under the yoke of the hypotenuse for a few days.
But I do know this concept of inflicting yet more work on children after a hard day’s work will be the ruination of our evenings for many a long month.

I wasn’t against homework at primary school. A little gentle reading, a few easy spellings and the odd attempt to understand partitioning kept us on our toes and let us know what our children were doing all day.

But these last few weeks have hurled us into a hideous hinterland of half-remembered theories and long-forgotten tenses. If our bosses did this to us the unions would be onto them, asking for overtime, talking about stress and the need for down-time.
But it’s accepted that children can work, then work, then work again.

Does it help them? I don’t know yet. I just know it’s not good for me. Friends have agreed it is “a nightmare” “Arsenic Hour” “like being back at school”. And if we find it hard, us grown-ups who’ve lived a little, imagine how the poor wee mites are feeling about this metaphorical brick bat that’s just smacked them in the face.

On the plus side, it’s giving me a chance to revise my geometry.
I’m not sure that knowing the sum of angles in a triangle is going to help me to discuss tax and spending options for the next 3 years though. Bring on the Economics A-level.

About Beta Mum

Here you can find the ramblings of a trapeze artist turned journalist who ran away from the circus to join the BBC. Cathy "mine's a Kir Royale" Keir then spent thirteen years working in Jersey, Guernsey and Devon, before downgrading to what you see before you. She has contributed articles to The Guardian, The Stage and Television Today, Junior Magazine and both the BBC and Bad Mothers Club websites. She has two children who think women can’t be prime ministers. She blames herself.
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