Who would have thought that combining two such innocent words – 'home' and 'work' – could create one of such unfathomable evil?
Homework is the bane of our lives right now.
Ben's school is seriously piling it on this year, so when he's with me it's pretty much all we do.
Take last weekend. We'd hardly seen each other for a couple of weeks, so I was thinking park, movie, general mucking about. But he had SO much homework. My god: geography, maths, English – even RE. Who gets RE homework?
So that was the weekend, ploughing through one subject after another. Nightmare. And the worst thing is I have no idea – and I really do mean NO idea – what half of it means. I'm beyond useless.
'Da-ad,' says Ben plaintively, 'I don't understand this.'
'No problem,' say I, 'we'll figure it out. Let's just take a loo...'
So I do. And suck in a deep breath. And start sweating, a little. Because this isn't maths like converting fractions, or figuring out angles of an isosceles triangle, that hard-but-doable stuff I remember from scraping my maths O'level back in the 80s.
This is the maths Stephen Hawking does. The maths they do in troubled-genius movies like Good Will Hunting or A Beautiful Mind, all massive whiteboards covered in great, sprawling, indecipherable equations.
So I'm standing there, feeling a little dizzy, realising that I can no more understand this than run a two-hour marathon, or recite the Old Testament in Swahili.
'Erm, sorry Benj,' I say sheepishly. 'Not my strong suit, maths.'
He sighs, then concentrates, and figures it out himself, the brainy little tyke (he's seriously smart, my boy).
So that's humiliating. Even worse, the one subject I should excel in, English, still seems beyond me. When I've helped out with comprehensions, say (that is, if his teacher's reading, made the odd suggestion and nothing more, of course), he's ended up getting a C! I'm useless!
So, as far as I can make out, I have three options:
1) Get a tutor myself so I can make some vague sense of what Ben's learning. Except, of course, I can't afford one, so that's a non-starter.
2) Take him out of school and teach him myself. But although I do know quite a lot, none of it seems useful for teaching 12-year-olds, so that's out too.
Or 3) Stop fighting it and admit my utter hopelessness on the homework front.
Sigh. 3) it is then...
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Why my child won't be doing any homework
101 uses for a dedicated dad: Homework