If there was one thing that I disliked (abhorred, more like) as a child, it was homework. All day long at school, starting from 8 in the morning, they would make us toil and learn.
During the gruelling day, breaks were few and far in between and sports were extremely limited as well. Once home, all I wanted to do was have fun. I wanted to run around, play hide and seek, go swimming, play cricket and sometimes even climb trees and of course annoy my sisters.
My biggest problem was homework. I somehow got through school — sometimes grumbling and sometimes pretending to be sick or sleeping, but sadly, little seems to have changed even after I am a grown up and am expected to bring up intelligent, homework-loving, conscientious children.
I’ve now had a glimpse of what homeschooling might be like and believe it or not — it’s growing on me. The attention my little one gets from me, me learning to be patient and kinder, my child feeling a real sense of achievement and me being there to watch and enjoy that with her — I wonder why I wasted so much time
Our once a week homework in Year 1 for my little one at the start of this Academic Year was treated with displeasure (bordering on contempt).
I would look at the task online, do a little gag when my child wasn’t looking and then clear my throat and in true Julie Andrews (the impeccable Fraulein Maria) style, I would smile brightly and say, “Right, shall we get cracking on this then?”
The next few minutes would be a mix of hard work and utter denial. Hard work because I am after all a qualified teacher (so in theory, I should be really good at this stuff) and denial — of the fact that I might be quite good at teaching other people’s children but have little patience when it comes to my own.
Two pages of squiggly handwriting
I would plead and bribe and encourage and one or two pages of squiggly handwriting (with a coloured drawing to boot!) would be done and I would forget all about homework and its evils until the next 6 days.
The week would pass in a blur of my own assignments, lectures and classes, school runs and chores. Then corona happened and our lives turned upside down.
Suddenly, the once a week homework turned into 10 or more ‘tasks’ that I had to do everyday with my 5 year old on See-saw, the app whose notifications would pop up on my phone and make me recoil and cover my face with my hands. “No! Not another homework! I firmly refuse to watch any more videos on phonics!” I would say to myself.
Every morning a ping on my phone would signal the avalanche of assignments. I can be a very able and accomplished procrastinator, so I decided to hold off the homework for as long as I could.
Excuses ran out
I acted like the indignant and perpetually busy mother on my WhatsApp groups (Why am I paying the school when I am expected to teach?) and of course since I was doing some work from home the excuse of the working mom seemed just fine, too. Until, of course, realisation kicked in and my excuses ran out.
What the past few months have taught me about my daughter and myself has been invaluable. I’ve learnt that the responsibility of bringing up my child and making sure she has all the knowledge and skills she needs has always been mine and no one else’s.
Yes, her teachers and school can give the parents a helping hand, but we can’t ‘outsource’ childcare and forget about it. The fact that fractions scare her has always been my problem, but I just didn’t have the time (or the realisation) to actually understand why the problem exists and help her out.
I’ve now had a glimpse of what homeschooling might be like and believe it or not — it’s growing on me. The attention my little one gets from me, me learning to be patient and kinder, my child feeling a real sense of achievement and me being there to watch and enjoy that with her — I wonder why I wasted so much time.
I would be lying if I said I truly enjoy homework, but it isn’t all bad. I’m aware of where my child stands now — what she enjoys, what she dislikes and what she might need help with. Now, if you will excuse me, we’ve got some skip counting to practice.
— Mehmudah Rehman is a Dubai-based freelance writer