The Five Rings Of Battling Homework Battles

There’s a new resistance party. It’s called Opposition Homework. The party members are not like anyone you’ve ever known, they’re uber defiant, unbelievably stoic and under five feet tall. You wonder how such little people go without snacks or water and produce enough tears and snot to require a change of clothes – all because it was time for homework. I’d rather deal with my period than deal with my kid doing math at home.

Before I came to terms that I wasn’t the only parent with a homework defiant kid, I tried everything. Kumon, using a metronome or classical music, Yoga – still, all those sessions ended with me as the FINISH-YOUR-HOMEWORK banshee.

Now with a fifth grader (who hasn’t brought home a reading log since second grade) I admit, I’m still losing the homework battle. I have made two important discoveries through the interim: one, teachers don’t consistently check the content. So the homework – while done – is also crappy. And the second revelation is, it’s not the homework that needs to be addressed – it’s the work ethic.

The poor attitude towards homework is baffling because as a kid, I did my homework – no questions asked. If I “forgot” to do it – I was shitting bricks the next day – frantically cramming it in before the morning bell. But my guy? He once walked the whole five blocks to school before he realized he forgot his backpack and then had his dad “text” me to bring it.

Seeing that he can’t hide under the excuse of being a child anymore, I did some homework of my own. Using the elemental structure from the “Book Of Five Rings,” this new “way of the warrior,” is in the works to construct the ultimate, Homework Jedi.

Ring 1 Strategy: There are planners – and there are strategists. One does weddings, the latter does revolutions. A plan’s factor is usually time, whereas strategy is anticipating the reactions of the other side. Believe me, getting homework done – without stress – requires strategy. Therefore, when your kid starts flailing on the floor, wailing like the fat lady in a Puccini opera, just start doing his homework for him. At first, he’ll think you’re the stooge, until he realizes that for his name, you wrote “Meat Head” and at the end of every page, “I secretly love Selena Gomez.” He’ll never trust a ghost writer to do his homework again.

Ring 2 Spirit: To have the right spirit, you need the right stance. It might be old school, but I make my boys sit up straight with both feet on the floor (or a step stool for Merry Legs) and make them hold the pencil properly. You’d be surprised how many kids, especially in the upper grades, think it’s cool to hold a pencil like a neanderthal. They write like they took dictation from one, too. I advised them that it’s not real “essay like” to write “Ha! Ha!” as a conclusion and they seriously asked me if I speak English. Spirit is normalcy and fluidity – it’s the element of water. So when their spirit of homework is down, challenge them to the ice bucket – but please – don’t post it on Facebook. I don’t really give a damn who freezes their nipples.

Ring 3 Environment: Examine the environment. I know a mom who sends her son to his room to do his homework. She comes back an hour later to discover he’s been tooling around for the past hour. Despite his distraction-free, ergonomic, Ikea p.o.s. study desk – he exercises his free will to – get out of his friggin’ chair. We do our work at the kitchen table. When I’m preparing dinner, which is during the blue moon, I find holding the chopping knife adds just the right punctuation mark to “finish your math NOW.” For my boys, the kitchen table has become their “station” in which my husband and I can no longer occupy – we take our dinner standing by the island, like outcasts. When I clean their “station” I find scrap notes tucked away that says, “mommy needs a nap”.

Ring 4 Speed: “The quicker it’s done, the more you’ll have fun,” said – no woman ever. Unless she’s the lunch lady. She says it all the time. Speed is superior. Speed and accuracy – that’s Jet Li. To get to “Jet Li” status takes practice. In this world of rebooting at every major obstacle, however, what kid has the mentality to practice? They don’t. As my mom says, “It’s not in their genes.” Did you know that there’s an actual DNA to practice and the current generation completely lacks it? Either you’re born with the knack to play golf, swim, build a spaceship – or not. The arts as we know it, is dead. Photoshop, Pro Tools and death have made mediocre talent sellable, while real talent have to whore themselves off to a mouse named Mickey. But the good news is – YOU have the “practice gene.” Even if your kids can’t, you know how to keep at it. Monotony does rub off – take U2’s new album for example. Don’t misunderstand speed as being fast. When it happens without you knowing when it happened – that’s speed. And that’s what he said.

Ring 5 Void: “…void does not imply something lacking, but rather the elimination of what is superfluous.” Of course, what’s “superfluous” is a matter of opinion. I think fifteen thousand Lego pieces that wind up all over the basement floor is superfluous. My kids think toilet paper is superfluous. That’s what underpants are for. In the case of homework, it’s the actual homework that’s superfluous. If void is virtue, then quality and attitude are the void. To obtain that, you really just have to know – when to call it quits. Focus on the things that will matter in their future: doing the work. Thoroughly, righteously – proudly. Like the brown stains on their organic, cotton underwear.

“Never stray from the way”

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  1. And always ask them to show you their homework, especially when they get to high school. If you just ask them if they had homework, they’ll lie and say, “No,” and walk away. The work I give takes 15-30 minutes, max, about twice a week.

  2. One day last week, the boy and I spent ninety-three minutes, doing fifteen math problems. Yes, I remember EXACTLY how long it took. I would have rather extracted the front teeth of a fully awake African elephant than muscle my way through that again. Geez, he put up such a damn fuss.

    I feel your misery and pain.

    • I hear you on that. Our record is 3 hours. Then I realized it was the teacher who was being ridiculous. These days, if he can’t get it done in one hour, he can face the music of unfinished homework by himself.

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