The great homework dilemma of 2013.

We had a rough week a few weeks back. Sunday started out ok, but by 10am Zachary was laying on the couch complaining of a headache, a stomachache, a throat ache, a leg ache, a pancreas ache, and every other ache he could think of. A (not so) quick trip to the urgent care revealed he had strep, but not before he had vomited all over R, the waiting area, and three other sick strangers.


Monday started out like this:

So of course school was out of the question. However, around 1pm he popped up off the couch feeling totally fine and started annoying the ever-loving hell out of me, so I pronounced him cured and sent him to school the next day.

He went to school Tuesday with no problems, except he came home that day without his homework folder. Oops again.

Here's how homework works in Zachary's class. Every Monday, his homework folder comes home with all his homework for the week along with a schedule of what should be done each day. His teacher doesn't necessarily check it every day; instead, she collects it every Friday and makes sure the whole week's worth is completed. I think this is a great system for first graders, because it gives the parents quite a bit of flexibility about what gets done each night. On nights when we have other things going on, we can opt to either work ahead or wait until the next day, as long as it's all complete and ready to turn in on Friday.

Well, it's a good system IF your kid remembers his folder. Which he didn't on Tuesday.

Then on Wednesday morning, we woke up to snow, and school was cancelled.

Then Thursday, Zachary walks in the door after school and when I asked him for his homework folder, he couldn't produce it because he had left it at school.  Again.

Which would mean that on Friday, when his homework was due, he would have zero of the 15 +/- pages to turn in.

My mind went through a bunch of different scenarios at this point.

On the one hand, I felt like he should have to face the consequences of not being responsible for his own work.  Except there aren't really any consequences.  His teacher is more of a "reward the positive" instead of "punish the negative" type, and while this is definitely something Zachary responds to, it wasn't going to help in this situation.  

On the other hand, I want him to realize that in our house we value school and put high emphasis on the importance of homework, and that "just forgetting" will not allow him a free pass not to do his work.

However, I don't want him to believe that it's my job to solve all his problems and to get him out of trouble, even though this is my natural inclination (all the time, every day, all day long).  When I was a bookstore manager, one of my biggest (and there were plenty, believe me) downfalls as a manager of others was my inability to let the people who worked for me fail.  For some reason, I always took this as a personal affront or something, so I would throw resources and assistance at them in an effort to keep them afloat, and when that didn't work (it never did, by the way) I would reassign them, or do their damn work myself.  A few years removed from the bookstore gig has finally given me the perspective to see what a no-win proposition this really was, and now when I find myself wanting to do that for one of my kids I can usually rein it in.  Usually.

Anyway, I went through all this in my mind in about 2.3 seconds before I made a decision, then said to Zachary, "Get back in the car.  We're going to go try to get your homework folder from school."

And we did.

And since I was determined to not make it TOO easy for him, we went on about our usual Thursday night routine, which for Zachary was to go to Tae Kwon Do class, come home, eat dinner, get a shower then read for about 20-30 minutes before hitting the homework pages.  Most nights his 2-3 pages of homework takes about 10 or 15 minutes, based on the complexity of the pages, his interest level, and the sign of the moon or something.

This particular night, nothing was aligning properly, including my attitude, and his weeks' worth of homework took a long, long time.

And it was painful, for both if us.

And of course, as is my propensity, I questioned my judgement about a million times as I would say, with rapidly decreasing patience "Ok, time for the next page!" and "Now Zachary, is that really your best work?" over and over and over.

But he got it done, and turned it on time, and when I talked to him about it a couple days later he said "That was awful! I promise I will NEVER leave my homework folder at school again!"

So maybe it was a good lesson learned.

Until the next time it happens, anyway.


  1. Good Job Mom!
    I would have done the same thing and had the same situation. Depending on which child it was I would either have tears and drama or pissed off sulking... I favor the 2nd :)
    Hopefully it works for you bc here in this house it happens A LOT! Sigh!!!

    1. Thanks Janet. This parenting gig is HARD. I never know if I'm doing it close to right, or causing some sort of hidden damage, ya know?


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