12 Awful Things I Don’t Miss About Having A Child At School

The first term of the academic year is winding to a close, fortunately in tandem with the time the kids start to become really feral from the intense pressure of having to concentrate for a whole ten weeks. And I imagine that while some mums are dreading the next two weeks of holiday, some will be cracking open the Chardy to celebrate the break from routine.


Kurt is reaching the end of his first semester at TAFE and I can see the tiredness begin to creep in, the requirement to regiment his lifestyle so he can get up in the morning start to take its toll, and an eery sense of malaise settle over the apartment. still-life-851328_1280


I was at a friend’s house the other day – a beautiful house set in suburbia, surrounded by moving (!) bushland – and the only object to spoil her perfect, state-of-the-art kitchen was the number of gawdy, good behaviour charts stuck to the fridge.


And in spite of being surrounded by other mums, much younger than myself, (hence, trying to be on my best behaviour and not blowing the whistle on how terrible children really are), I might have inadvertently shuddered at the memory of what having a child at school entails.


It brought me back to ‘those days’ of trying everything, (bar selling my body), to get your child through school. Not the good behaviour charts, necessarily – because we worked out very quickly that they were pretty ineffective with children such as Kurt when ADHD kids can barely wait a minute before they expect their reward – just ‘school days’ in general.


Can it really be almost a year since Kurt’s last school turned their back on him?


Not that life has become drastically less challenging since Kurt was asked to leave school, but I never fully appreciated until now, just how torturous the many rules of mainstream education can be for some kids, as well as for their parents.


Here’s what I don’t miss:


  1. Homework – This could be numbers 1 through to 12, such is the relief that I don’t have to touch it these days. I’m unreliably informed that homework is actually voluntary and am still dumbfounded that I never got the memo.
  2. Uniform –the concept of uniform is a sound idea, but the reality of rustling together all the correct pieces of clothing at 7am on a Monday morning when you realise that some vital component has been left at the weekend sleepover, still haunts me. ‘Mufti’ days should be banned unless every parent is reminded by text that morning.
  3. Packed lunches – so much time, so much thought and preparation wasted on food that will be thrown away, bartered with, or left to biodegrade in a school bag.
  4. Notes and Admin – Schools hadn’t heard about a carbon footprint in our day, or seen the statistics for the success rate of one piece of paper making it all the way home.
  5. Performance nights – there was the fear of shame if your child was picked versus the indignation when they weren’t. The inner ear damaged created by the ‘training band,’ and the wet knickers from the uncontrollable laughter at their expense.
  6. Birthday parties – the traumatic pain of being the parent of the child who never gets an invitation.
  7. Sport – the pain/pride of being the parent of the child who is always a ‘supporter’.
  8. Early band/sport practice – the full dehumanization of parents is achieved when you force them to get up earlier than their day job requires to transport a child to an activity that they only want to attend to see their friends/for the free breakfast.
  9. The playground – #shudder
  10. Cafeteria duty – a debilitating-to-working mums scheme set up by evil schools to highlight the school’s most stoic/perfect mums.
  11. Lost hats – a test of morality for those mothers who see the solution to a problem of a lost hat by sneaking into lost property after school hours with the stealth of a ninja to steal another pupil’s hat, even though they’ve taught their child that theft is up there with joining ISIS. Closer to the lesson of ‘what goes around, comes around’.
  12. Those telephone calls from school – the best excuse for becoming a functioning alcoholic and practicing your  best drama school line of ‘sorry, you’ve got the wrong number’ in lots of silly European accents.

And I haven’t even mentioned selling raffle tickets for a cause you don’t give a shit about, parking or having to buy the teachers gifts…

Anything to add?

Horrible Homework

Smarties British Candy
Smarties British Candy (Photo credit: fritish)

I muscled in on a discussion between some irate mums about homework on Twitter yesterday.

Apparently it is a universal issue of monumental proportions and I am not the only parent with the grey hair and eye twitch to prove that my child refuses to do his homework.

There are a lot of us out there who struggle nightly and at weekends to get the homework completed, and feel bullied by schools to make sure it gets done. It’s obviously harder these days when a lot of us women work, to find the time to monitor the kids homework as well as nurture them in other ways.

Homework sometimes feels like yet another way the government has of subtly leveraging parental guilt.

I was lucky with NC. I’m not saying that she always did her homework but she always took responsibility for it – she was far too proud to pass that baton of responsibility onto me.

I even remember scoring a few Head Teacher awards when she was in primary school, for projects that she was initially apathetic about – King Henry V111 was particularly odorous, I seem to remember – but man, if only you’d seen my wicked advent calendar-inspired front cover. The other mothers were spitting.

HEAD TEACHER’S AWARD – I should have been knighted!

Of course Kurt has been a very different story. Not only has Kurt never read a book, but he has also never completed a piece of homework voluntarily or in full.

Homework to kids with ADHD (and their parents) seems like a personal punishment from the Devil.

Persuading Kurt to do homework has been as hard as I imagine persuading Miley to be a good role model to kids is.

I’ve tried everything. I’ve used Smarties as math’s counters, guitar stickers as rewards, MacDonald’s as an incentive, timers, time out and mnemonics to help him remember things in what I thought were fun ways.

But I can assure you that it has been far from fun, and I threw in the towel a while ago. There’s only so much abuse a mother can take from her own spawn.

I still nag remind him about outstanding assignments and I am in secret communications with the school so that I am aware of every assignment he is given. But for the sake of my sanity and his mortality, there has to be a limit to my involvement now.

What I have done, and I realize that not every parent can afford to do this, is to hire a tutor to remove some of the pain. What she does is to brainstorm and organise him with those truly hideous assignments, those white knuckle ones with page upon page of description and educational jargon that make every parent want to hide in a small dark room and rock.

It is easily the best $40 I spend each week.

There are many kids who hate homework and there are an increasing number of teaching professionals (backed by research) who are questioning the benefits of it.

When you look at the pressure it puts on home life and the kids themselves, (who I am sure do far more extracurricular activities than they used to), it’s a wonder that it still enforced.

Home should be a safe haven for kids, not a battleground. Due to Kurt’s ADHD I have had to pick my battles, and in the scheme of things homework is of minor importance in terms of his overall development.