The Homework Saga

While originally Wordsworth might’ve had many connotations to the ingenious statement “The child is father of the man”, I get whiffs of the poet’s sentiments when I get little snatches of my childhood through my children.

The Homework Saga

The last weekend of a fast depleting holiday season saw us scrambling about to put final touches to the holiday ‘homework’…. (Ugh!! how I detest that oxymoron!), which resulted in me racking my brains to understand the 4th grade questions.

Just for emphasis on the fact that I am not joking about the word ‘racking’, let me share with you some of the questions (while reading the questions, please remember that the said paper is for FOURTH graders!):

  1. What is a proverb? Give 5 examples and their meanings. Use them in sentences appropriately. (This one put me to shame! I confused ‘proverb’ with a ‘pronoun‘ till the said 4th grader laughed in my face!)
  2. What is the difference between a ballad and an epic?  (errr…… What?) Give 5 examples of each, with names of poets.
  3. What according to you is the biggest pollutant in the environment? Draw an illustration to explain the same.
  4. Read one fairytale (THANK GOD!!) by Hans Christian Anderson(huh? How many of us knew Hans whatshisname in the 4th grade? And we didn’t turn out so bad, did we?) Illustrate the lead character (here we go again!), and summarize the story in 10 sentences.
  5. What is a rhyming scheme? Illustrate with examples.
  6. Take prints of currencies of 10 countries and paste it. How many languages are there on each currency? Where is it printed? (Now what on earth for do we need THAT information? A heist?)
  7. What is a gulf? Give examples of five gulfs in India. Draw a map identifying it (I remember passing out at this stage).
  8. Many more such stuff, but I refuse to spend typing energy to be wasted on more!

While I am not a parent who sits over my kids’ shoulder to watch if their eyeballs ever leave the page while they study (believe me, I know parents like that too), I am definitely not one to ignore the fact that they need to put out a decent grade at the end of the year (to which the holiday homework contributes, in no small measure).

I have been extremely honest with the homework strategy with the kids – “It’s your homework, and you shall do it”. But this can cause occasional heartburn, because sometimes you are faced with two explanations to the masterpieces that their classmates bring back from home. Either the 4th graders are all rebirths of Picasso or Rembrandt, or we have parents going through quite a bit of fourth grade homework in their free time (what the heck!! I know colleagues who do their kids project in the office too!).

Now, I implore you to please go back to the questions mentioned in the beginning of this post, and do let me know how many of us could have done this on our own, without referring to Google? And the expectation is that the kids be able to do it themselves.

Just for fun, I tried using some of the easier questions during campus interviews of management students. certainly had lots of fun, my colleagues eyes nearly popped out of their sockets because of all the fun, but I can assure you, the candidates wanted to rip me apart right there.

So let me end this outburst with a question to all the parents out there (the would-be parents too, needn’t feel left out).

What do we hope to accomplish by the holiday homework?

Do we want the kids feeling grossly inadequate while sitting to write the answers out? Or is our primary aim to gather exceptionally skilled artwork made by the kids’ parents and adorn the school walls with them? Or better still, is the aim to take the parents back to their high school days (Of course I meant high school – this definitely isn’t primary school stuff!).

A corollary to this question – so are we teaching our kids that it’s okay to take credit for someone else’s work? There are kids in higher classes who have now started paying professionals to create project work; I think I know who did their homework for them in the 4th grade!

Today, I push back when my kids tell me so-and-so’s mother drew the butterfly’s life cycle for so-and-so’s science book. I sit with my daughter, and I help her make her caterpillar look cuter. But I do not draw it for her. She understands when I explain to her that she has to do it herself. But truth remains, she does feel a little miffed when her peers come back with accolades for something their parents have done.

As far as the homework was concerned, my daughter has definitely earned herself place of pride in my heart for all the hours she has spent trying to decipher what must have looked like a PHD thesis paper for her!

And her drawings may look a little less Picasso-ish, but it definitely will go up my wall. *Smug smile by proud mom here*

Meena Bhatnagar is a mother of two, with a passion for the written word. She dabbles with fiction, a couple of them finding their way into published work, is an avid blogger, and works as a corporate trainer to pay for all the damages. She blogs on parenting, social issues and humorous incidents of her life and on hotel & restaurant reviews and corporate training.

  • I shudder at this! Some questions these! phew!

    That leaves us with a larger question. What is the state of ‘education’ per se! It is palpably out of sync with the realities of modern day life!

    This should lead us somewhere! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

    • That video is so refreshing!! Its going to take us a million years to get there, kavi… 🙁

  • Amrita Thavrani

    Ah ! Our education system is in hands of bunch of private institutes. Government is busy with dusting the rug below their feet, and current blooming generation falls in trap of screwed education system. Its a vicious circle, in a forced attempt to make kids smarter , they are eventually making them more dependent and insecure. And, we parents are paying hefty prices every year only to get our kids grilled. My “dukhti-rag” have been touched Meena !

    • I know!! Thats why its so frustrating. We can all see that the system is using our resources, our energies, and yet, irrepairably damaging our kids’ futures!! Sad!

  • Just reading this list is spinning my head…. 🙁 🙁

    • dT, believe me, almost all parents involved with kids schoolwork would have a sense of deja vu here …

  • Roshni

    ugh!! Sounds terrible!! I too refuse to help the kids (much) with their homework and have neatly designated any homework relating to any kind of numbers to the husband!!

    • sigh!! the scene is drastically different in Indian schools, Roshni. I myself had done my schooling abroad, and I feel the international system is far superior in terms of all round development of the child.

  • ooohhh… really brain racking questions… i remember, me being the eldest used to sit and complete my young sis’ holiday homeworks in summer holidays.. used to google everything.. put down in cute calligraphic fonts.. decorate her files and sheets.. make charts and what not… sometimes used to write for her… then it was fun for me as i never got to do such assignements wen i was her age… but now i cannot think doing all this for my kiddo-to-be 🙂
    hehhe.. 🙂

    • I know Supriya…. as an elder sibling, I too, have been through that stage. But believe me, its a different ball game when the kids start schooling!! 🙂

  • Gosh …these are questions for a 4th grade student. It is a tricky situation when the kids who get homework/artwork done by someone else get the praises … unfortunately our kids has to bear the brunt of the shallow educational system of our country 🙁

    • True, Nbose, but isn’t it better to let them discover the joy of a job well done, early on? I feel as parents we owe it to them, no?