816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: A never-ending struggle with homework


Ever heard of Lawrence Kasdan? It’s OK if you haven’t; you aren’t alone. He’s one of those people that you know a lot of the things that he created, but might not know who he is. He’s a writer, producer and director who was involved in “The Big Chill,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Star Wars” (both “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”) to name-drop just a few.

But he also wrote one of my favorite quotes: “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”

Of course, to a writer, it rings very (painfully) true. But a paraphrased version applies to a greater percentage of the population: Being a parent is like having homework every night.

“THIS is why I don’t homeschool!” I posted on my Facebook page in frustration. Sounds like code, but my friends who are parents knew I was trying to help a kid with homework and failing miserably.

Noah had slammed a fourth-grade math homework sheet on the kitchen table. “I just don’t get it! Help me!”

For any of my kids to come to me for homework help, especially math, they have to be pretty desperate. They all know that there is a very good chance that my help will be counter-productive. The homework that Noah slammed in front of me? I had helped him with it the night before, and he got a failing grade.

“I got the right answers, didn’t I?” he asked.

We had double-checked them. Yes, they were correct.

“So why am I doing this again?” he asked me as if I had answers. (He has so much to learn)

I reread the directions. “We didn’t round all the numbers and guesstimate the answers.”

“I had to do the problem three times? Once to get the answer, once to make sure it was right and then again with all the numbers rounded to see if the answer I know is right is probably right?”

“Yup.” I confirmed and started to walk away.

“WAIT! This is so stupid! I GOT THE ANSWERS RIGHT!”

There were so many ways I could have replied to him. I could have explained WHY the teacher was having him do this kind of work. I could have made sure that he understood rounding, or I could have spit out a very long list of other seemingly ridiculous homework assignments that his brother and sister have had over the years; that it was a rite of passage.

(I could have explained “rite of passage.”)

I could have made his head spin with tales of the vast number of times that I had to take preventative Excedrin attempting to assist his siblings with the very assignments that taught them not only long division, but the benefits of scheduling their own tutoring times with their teachers and leaving me out of it.

I could have told him the rules of the Homework Drinking Game: Parent Version. (Flash cards, spelling lists and proofreading a short essay = one shot. Guesstimating, anything involving electricity, paint, Gorilla glue or the words “Science” and “Fair” = two shots. And the biggie, the Reading Trifecta: Logged, timed and aloud = a long chug.)

I could have told him many things, but instead I said, “Learning to learn is a lifelong skill and Godwillingandthecreekdon’trise, your learning will never end. I learn something new every day — sometimes it’s hard, sometimes easy. Today I learned all about the person who said one of my favorite quotes.

“Son, life is like having homework every night. Get used to it.”

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks. com.