Thinking fast on my feet

By Ivy Jensen

I SERIOUSLY need to give Maya’s teacher a huge hug.

Not for being a wonderful teacher (which she is) or for contributing to my daughter’s love of school (which she also does — I mean, dancing in class, funny dog stories and making learning fun will always win over my child).

No, this time it’s because of homework.

Now let’s be honest, homework is almost as stressful for parents (don’t get me started on grade 6 maths!) as it is for students.

This is usually how it goes in my house: Ayla asks me ‘‘what does this mean?’’ while I conveniently ‘‘rush to the toilet’’ to Google the answer.

Then she asks me to work through the problem with her. There are three problems with this.

1. I am terrible at maths. 2. I am terrible at explaining things. And 3. Ayla is terrible at taking direction from me.

So it either ends up in tears, tantrums or wine (for me that is).

When it comes to Maya, she is a perfectionist, so homework can sometimes be a highly emotional experience.

If she mispronounces or a word while reading her book, it’s like the world is going to end.

Get one word wrong in her spelling test and the entire sheet of paper is ripped up and thrown in the bin.

The catastrophising and overreactions begin — ‘‘I’ll never be a good reader!’’, ‘‘I’m the worst speller!’’, ‘‘I’ll never be as good as Kokona!’’ she cries as she dramatically slumps over the table. 

Now I would never discourage her love of the dramatic, but this can be exhausting.

So it was nice to see last week’s homework didn’t involve the stress that comes with academic performance.

Instead, it was housework, outdoor activity and an indoor activity with a family member.

Maya was required to perform three chores for me, such as clearing the table, washing the dishes or cleaning her room.

Now cleaning her room is a regular chore of hers so I wasn’t going to waste it on that one.

So for two nights in a row, I had the pleasure of not having to clear the table and wash up after dinner.

It was 20 minutes of bliss.

For her final chore, I filled the washing machine to capacity (I think I even put some clean clothes in there) and had Maya hang them up.

Another 20 minutes of bliss.

At least half an hour of outdoor activity was a cinch as Maya loves being outside, whether it’s playing with rocks, jumping on the trampoline, riding her bike, swimming in the pool or running away from Ayla.

Our indoor activity was playing board games as a family, including Game of Life — which actually made me feel a bit nostalgic as it was one of my childhood favourites that I used to play with my sisters and parents.

Plus she helped me cook dinner — which she does a fair bit mind you.

So, to Maya’s teacher — Julia Reid — I just want to thank you for putting a different spin on homework.

Because it taught her to be practical, independent, helpful, active, patient and co-operative.

Many children leave home not knowing how to boil an egg and wash their clothes, let alone live on their own.

It’s important they learn real-life skills during their youth otherwise they will not cope in the world once they become an adult.

So the more chores they start doing now, the less you will be doing for them when they do leave home.

Because, seriously, who wants to be washing their children’s clothes when they’re 30?