the homework club

This is how homework goes in our house:

Me: Clara please can you come and start your homework

Clara: (silence)

Me: Please, come on, we need to get started

Clara: In a minute mum

Multiply this and various other responses by well, a lot, and fast forward to half an hour later, when we finally get to opening some worksheets.

Me: OK, could you write “cat”

Clara: Do I have to? I think I feel like writing dog. I think my teacher said we should write dog. And she knows more than you.

Me: The first word on the list is “cat”. Please write “cat”

Clara: Mum, you’re speaking in a commanding voice. You should speak in a nice voice, like my teacher does.

Me (taking a deep breath and speaking in an almost-whisper): OK, please write “cat”

Clara: I’m doing it mum, don’t watch me so closely.

Alrighty then, I think, stepping back a bit and waiting for the word to finally make it to the page.

OK, it’s there, let’s move on.

Me (reading from the word list): Can you write dog?

Clara: See mum, I told you dog was what I was supposed to write. You didn’t listen. Now I have to rub out “cat”

Me: No! Please, please don’t rub it out. Leave cat there and write dog on the next line
(under breath: for the love of God please don’t rub it out)

Clara: OK mum, there’s no need to sound commanding again. Look at this blue pencil, it’s such a lovely colour isn’t it (puts pencil in hair and walks off to other room to show her little brother)

Me (sighing and begging): Please, please come back!

Fifteen minutes later, we have two words on the page. Just eight to go.
Then maths, then reading.
And it’s just week two of school. And she’s only in senior infants. Can’t wait for the junior cert.

it was indeed a pretty pencil

But seriously – is there a trick to this? The above dialogue is not an exaggeration – this is how it goes every day now.

I am about to change my work hours so that I can be home earlier each evening, partly so that I can do homework with my daughter. We even gave this new event a name – “homework club”.

I pictured it being a bonding activity for us each day – a shared time, one-on-one attention for her, me enjoying helping her, coaching her gently through the whys and wherefores of drawing the number five over and over, and writing cat.
And of course it would reduce my working-mother-guilt a little – always a bonus.

I didn’t factor in two other children clamouring for attention at the same time.
And Clara in turn unhappy that I’m not giving her my full attention.
And complaining that it’s too noisy to concentrate (there are four of us in the kitchen but twenty-two in her class – not sure why we are comparing so unfavourably).

I didn’t anticipate how easily distracted Clara would be – how short her attention span is.

And I really didn’t expect how impatient I would be.
Yes, utterly lacking in patience. No intuitive gentle coaching here, but lots of restrained pleas to focus back on the task at hand, many deep breaths, and the occasional outburst of “Clara please can you get back to your homework!”, in a commanding voice don’t you know.

I wonder now if losing my patience is going to generate more guilt than not being home to do homework would.

Is this just my house or is this happening in kitchens all over the country this week? Is there a trick or tip that I’ve not been told yet?
I hope so. Only thirteen years to go.

photo credit


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10 thoughts on “the homework club”

  1. No.. some kids are just like that. I wasn’t but my brother was.
    In the states they label it ADD or ADHD and just medicate the kids into calmness and compliance.

    I know a few parents that managed to get more done using an egg timer and a reward system.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks Meeshie – actually her teacher mentioned an egg timer last year so I might look into that (not to do with homework but just as a general way of keeping her focused)
      A little scared thinking that this would be called ADHD in the US!

  2. Yes. Yes. It’s awful. And I thought it was just boys. No, I don’t think it’s ADD/ADHD – it’s just being 5, for heaven’s sake. They’re not made to concentrate all day at school and then come home and concentrate some more. Could you ask her teacher if you can put a time limit on homework and just pack it in after 20 minutes or whatever the required time is? I think the teachers think “This won’t take long” but they don’t understand the time it takes to just get them to sit down and concentrate, and how distracting siblings are.

    The only crumb of hope I can offer is that for us it did get better over the year as we got into a routine and it was less of a novelty. When the younger kids get used to it too, they won’t distract so much.

    This was my house last year – just the same:

    1. Maud I feel so much better after reading your comment and your blog post – it’s exactly like my house! We are not alone. And the other participants in the “homework club” are a major if unintentional distraction. I will definitely keep our ponies out of it… so far I’m getting the four-year-old to join in by writing letters but sometimes she colours instead and that’s when big sister gets completely derailed. Colouring is a lot more fun than writing CAT. I really mean it when I say Thank you!

    2. I didn’t mean to scare you! So sorry! In the states medicating our kids is the first line of .. well.. everything.

      Being 5 is being 5. Distraction not that abnormal, imho. If she listens in school ALL DAY.. eh.. you win.

      Plus, the ‘my teacher does..’ thing? That is pure 5 year old trying to be the boss of you. lol. Soooo normal.

  3. So glad it’s not just me then *sigh of relief* things are a bit better now AFTER FIVE YEARS, it got worse when I added little brother to the homework equation! Sounds like you have much more patience than me though, I can’t tell you how many times it ended in a screaming match here, despite all my best efforts and intentions! The timer worked quite well for me actually, with a reward to be able to go play or whatever after!
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