I Forgot My Homework

We have an occasional problem in our house. When it is time for the 8-year-old to start his homework, sometimes an exasperated cry rushes out of his mouth, “I forgot my homework!”  he wails, with all the drama of an actor trying out for the Spring Play. Those four words turn our household upside down within a matter of minutes. I remind him to be more responsible. He admonishes himself for being forgetful. Then we all take a breath and try to figure out the next step.

The parents in his class stay connected through Google Groups. At least once a week, a parent posts that their child forgot a worksheet and kindly asks if someone can scan it and e-mail it. While this strategy comes in handy, especially when some children don’t start their homework until after dinner, I know that if my son knew it existed, he would expect me to take care of it for him. I have already helped him established a few bad habits (that I am trying very hard to break him of) and do not need him to start another one, especially when it is related to his education. What to do, what to do?

I decided that he might be less likely to forget his homework if he has to “work” at getting the information that he needs. I provided him with the telephone numbers of students in his class and coached him on telephone etiquette. Then it was his responsibility to call up his peers, explain the nature of the call and kindly ask if they could help him out.

This strategy killed two birds with one stone. He learned a bit about responsibility and how to conduct himself over the phone. Oftentimes, the child’s parent would help out over the phone, but still I wasn’t making the call for him. I did have to give a little explanation later about why he was calling instead of me. He actually enjoyed chatting with his classmates about other topics and later asked if he could call that person again.

Will he never forget his homework again? It’s doubtful. He is human. Now, we need to work on the proper protocol when someone you phone is not at home  and the answering machine picks up instead. Which reminds me, I need to send an e-mail to a classmate he called last night to explain that it was us who did not leave a message after the tone.

Spring Break Boot Camp

Children volunteering

Image via Wikipedia

Scattered clothes, enough stray socks to start a soccer team, books in every possible resting place, resembling the children’s section of the library. And of course complaints, complaints, complaints. “I don’t want to help out!”

Our family is not doing anything for the week of Spring Break. Instead, “Life Skills Boot Camp” will be visiting our house. Each day my children will learn a new skill or two that I hope they can practice and become good at over time. I’ve found that summer intercessions and short breaks during the year are a perfect time to teach my 6 and 8 year olds how to do something new.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, it’s Spring Break, just let  them wake up late, lounge around and be free of responsibilities. While they will have some fun going to the movies, the museum and pursuing other things of their choice, they will also learn new lifelong skills. I could wait until summer, but they have grown a bit lazy of late and could use a jump-start in the right direction. The three main obstacles absent this week are: the routine of getting out the door on time for school, homework and after school activities. These are the three things that sabotage them and the time it takes to learn new skills and chores, or just maintaining the chores they already know how to do.

This matters to me. I have noticed that  parenting is different. Children are not allowed to do many things due to the excuse of safety. Or, it is faster and easier for the parent  to complete a task. While I have always encouraged mine to do things for themselves, other parents undermine my work when they choose to do what  their children are very capable of. I can’t tell you how many children I have seen who do not know how to: carry their own back pack, prepare a simple breakfast or snack, brush their own teeth, dress themselves, put on their own shoes, clear their dishes from the table and GASP! feed themselves. Yes, I know there are exceptions. Every parent makes exceptions for their child at times. Exceptions are not for every day, though.

I want my children to feel confident and be  self-sufficient. I want them to acquire traits that will be useful in life. When it is time for them to attend college and live on their own, I hope that they are well equipped to take care of their basic needs. I don’t want my children to pour bleach on the stains of their white shirts directly from the bottle. Nor do I want them to take their shirt to the dry cleaner to get a button sewn on. I don’t want their garbage overflowing like Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout. I would like them to know how to  prepare more than microwave popcorn, a pizza or instant noodles in the kitchen. Well, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about the last one with my six-year-old. A few weeks ago she made homemade blueberry pancakes and cooked them on a griddle all by herself. I stood next to her and discussed stove safety, then offered pancake flipping tips.

What’s on my agenda, you ask? As of now, I plan to help them with the following:

  • develop the habit of rinsing and putting dishes into the dishwasher
  • finish sewing the small pillows they began a few weeks ago
  • show them how to prepare a fruit or vegetable salad
  • demonstrate how to fold some of their clothes AND show them how to put them away
  • vacuum the rugs
What do you think? Is this a good way for children to spend their time?