Saturday, September 28, 2013

Song of the Homework Nazi

Homework Nazi. Not a very complimentary term, is it? That was the name my husband gave me when our son was in Kindergarten, because absolutely nothing else in life happened until homework was done and terrible consequences were doled out if my demands were not meant.  

Yep, that’s right. The TV actually can stay off all night long.

It was a decision I regretted sometimes when the war over whether or not he would get to play after school vs. whether his math homework would get done before his sister came home from Pre-K reached epic proportions, and it begs the question.

When is the right time to make your kids do their homework?

I’m a Procrastinator

There. I said it. I’m a procrastinator. A low down, dirty putter-offer who will drag her feet until something that wouldn’t be anything at all if I took it in tiny little bites turns into a BFD. Deadlines fly past, leaving skid marks behind them. I was infamous in school for writing papers during lunch an hour before they were due. If I can put it off until tomorrow, I will.

That’s actually how I became a Homework Nazi in the first place.

When Mr. A first started school, I wasn’t all that picky about it. As long as homework happened before bedtime, I was okay with it. I mean, I wasn’t on top of it when I was in school. Why should I expect him to be?

The problem with that is that when you have three kids, nights tend to get crazy quick. The baby would be fussy. His sister would want to play. Soon homework was getting done at 9:00 at night, after the other two went to bed, leaving us both tired and cranky the next day.

It didn’t take long to realize that if homework was going to happen without someone having to come in and clean up the bodies, the boring stuff was going to have to come first. Even if it did totally go against every theory I have about parenting a child with ADHD.

So, from that point on, the kids came home from school/preschool to find a snack on the table and standing orders to sit down, shut up and either get their homework done or grab something quiet to do so their siblings could.

No, I didn’t actually tell my kids to shut up and do their homework. Thought it. Waaaaaaay more than once. (Like you haven’t.) But I didn’t say it. Personally, I think I deserve bonus points for not screaming it at the top of my lungs when the kids are poking at each other instead of just doing their freaking math homework and getting it over with so we can cease this relentless torture and watch “Doctor Who” like normal people!! But that’s a story for another day.

Ahem. Anyway. The point is, even a long-standing procrastinator like me could see the path to failure was short and well-greased if we continued on the way that we were. These days all the kids, from Mr. A to Baby G, know the first thing they need to do when they get home is bust their homework out.

There Are Serious Perks

The kids get really annoyed with me when they have to crack-a-lack their homework before they’re allowed to kick off the playtime. Especially when their friends and cousins are allowed to come home and hop straight on the computer and they’re not. I hear all about it when homework takes awhile and I still kick them off the electronics when dinner hits the table at 5:30. 

So why don’t I just lighten up and let them do their homework later? Because I LIKE being able to enjoy our evenings. I love that I can come home and unless the younger two haven’t had homework help at their afterschool program, we can relax and spend some time together as a family. Even if spending that time translates into spending that last hour before bedtime watching an episode of something on Netflix. (“Once Upon a Time”, Season Two, is their show of choice right now.)

I don’t have to tell them no if a friend asks if they want to come over, or sacrifice weekend activities trying to get homework done. Except for the occasional book report or forgotten science fair project, we rarely find ourselves rushing to get homework done. I have time to check their assignment books and make sure everything’s done in a manner that guarantees they might actually pass the class with a little more leeway than the skin on their teeth.

And let’s be honest here. You can swear up and down you’re enjoying yourself as much as you like, but at the end of the day? If you’re thinking about what you still have to do, you’re not enjoying what you’re doing. You’re spending your whole life waiting for the axe to fall and serve your head up on homemade sandwich bread on your teacher’s desk.

I’m a procrastinator. I know these things.

Teach Your Kids How to Fly Solo

Sure, doing homework as soon as the kids get home is a royal pain in the derriere.  Especially when you’ve still got a 3 year old that thinks he/she needs to be changed and stuff while you’re trying to explain the fundamental basics of algebra to your 2nd grader. But knocking out homework while the after-school chaos is in full swing has another advantage you might not have thought of yet.
Basically, it teaches your kids how to do their own homework.

Let’s talk about hovering.

Hovering is a great idea in theory. When all you have to do is supervise your kids’ homework, you’re going to peek over their shoulder. You’re going to offer helpful hints and tidbits. You’re going to gently guide their little minds down the path of academic success.

After about five minutes of being “helpful”, however, my kids usually look at me and go, “MOOOOOOOOM, I can DO it!”

Yup. When I have nothing but their homework to pay attention to, they feel like I’m accusing them all of being the village idiot. After all, G-Money’s been doing his multiplication tables since he was four. (He gets it from his dad.) Why am I hovering over 2+2 again?

When homework is happening in the middle of bedlam, I don’t have the chance to hover. Supper needs to be cooked. Gym clothes (please god) need to go into the wash. Lunches need to be packed, the cats need to be fed, and those dratted water bottles aren’t going to wash themselves.

The kids know where to find me if they need help, and since I check their assignment books before they get started I usually know what assignments I need to make time to look over before they go back in the backpack. The other bonus is that they often end up helping each other. Mr. A actually likes helping Princess C with her math homework (a modern day miracle considering how they fight over everything else), and both the older kids love grilling G-Money on his spelling words.

They become a self-functioning, independent unit, and I get to keep my sanity. That’s why I don’t take it too personally when someone tells me I’m being a Homework Nazi. Because at the end of the day, those rules work.

Are you a Homework Nazi? When do your kids do their homework?   

Sunday, September 22, 2013

When Daddy’s Away

Let me preface this (slightly whiny) post with a quick statement: There are wives who have it a lot worse than I do. Military spouses. Wives whose husbands are frequently away on business for months at a time. Wives whose husbands work out of state and only come home on the weekends, or are who knows where for any length of time working on the power lines or the oil pipelines. 

Keeping that in perspective, the fact that my husband travels an average of 4-5 times a year for business or personal reasons (his family’s out of state, and my schedule is considerably less flexible than his these days) isn’t that big a deal. But that number's crawling up as time goes by, and as I find myself home alone with the kids more often I find  myself wondering.

How am I going to stay on top of things while Daddy's away?

Why am I Weepy Today?

Given that I was all set to embrace single parenthood not too long ago, you would think a week or so without my recently-reconciled spouse wouldn’t be that big a deal, right? Yeah, so would I. 

To be honest though, I think this is the first time I’ve really been bothered that Big M is gone. Some of it is due to the fact that it’s only been a month since we really moved back in. Things are still shaky, and having him gone doesn't help. More of it is probably that I am, once again, taking time off work because I don’t have any back-up daycare…and the situation promises to get worse, with more travel right around the corner. (The last time he traveled I had to take almost an entire week off of work because of sick kids after I'd already taken vacation and bereavement the two weeks prior.)

That’s hard on the kids, who aren't used to dad traveling so often. Especially my daughter, who really doesn't do well when either parent is away. It's hard on me too, and not just because I find myself having to shoulder the majority of the kid running around and the housework. I also find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to bid work adieu to stay home with kids who aren't feeling well, without any relief in sight. 

Three of the last six months I’ve had to take time off work because the kids were sick and dad was out of town. It brings questions to light like whether or not I should even bother working full time if I’m going to have to constantly take time off (my personal time is in the negative right now, metaphorically speaking). What that’s going to mean if I end up going to school full time and exactly how much travel we’re talking about here? (It’s been one week out of every month since last spring, and we're expecting him gone for a week both next month and the month after.)

Moms with kids, careers and traveling/deployed husbands, how do you do it? What are your tricks for maintaining sanity and a career in a busy household when dad’s away more than he’s here?