Yesterday my son came home with a zero on his spelling test. There were eight words and he didn’t get a single one right. When I asked “how do you feel about that buddy?” he just shrugged his shoulders and said “I told Madame we only practiced once“.
It’s true. We did only practice once and my son didn’t seem to be that upset about it, but in all honesty, the only person we can really blame for the big fat zero is me.
I chose French school which means hubby can’t help. I am French First Language, so here in Canada my kids are guaranteed entry into the French First Language system and we take full advantage of that (especially with cross country moves). While my husband is 100% supportive of the French education (and has sat through more than his share of Christmas concerts and school assemblies that he will never understand) it means that when it comes to homework, the responsibility of getting it done is 100% mine.
I am not motivating enough. Grade one is hard, and in the evenings the last thing my son wants to do is homework. His brain is already tired and then to ask him to spend 10 minutes reading two books aloud, then another 10 minutes painfully writing the titles of those books into his reading log followed by at least another 10 to 15 minutes practicing this week’s spelling words is enough to send both of us into a fit of whining. I have tried bribes, stickers, positive reinforcement, taking away privileges - EVERYTHING and it turns out I am just not that talented at motivating my son to sit for 30-40 minutes of homework every night. Don’t even get me started on the weekly oral presentations that we also have to practice for…
I am not a teacher. I thought my role as a parent was to reinforce concepts taught at school and I simply do not know how to teach words he isn’t being taught at school. Last week’s spelling words were “le, la, les, moi, toi, roi…” This week we’ve jumped to “Joyeux Noël, Père Noël, brebis…”. It’s like we’ve jumped from two and three letter words to six to nine letter words overnight and unfortunately they are also the ones that don’t spell out the way they sound out. All I know is that we get a weekly homework email from the teacher and my son continuously tells me that the words on the email are not ones he’s practicing at school. I do take that with a grain of salt because they may very well be presented at school but clearly not enough to make an impression on my child.
I don’t ask the right questions. I’ve had one-on-one meetings with my son’s teacher three times since September. She tells me he is a sweet boy, very polite, easily distracted but doing well. When I ask her advice about how to help him with spelling at home she gives me suggestions (like bouncing a ball and reciting the words or putting the words up all over the house) but none of them are working – he can read the words, he can say the words, he understands the words, he just doesn’t have a single interest in learning how to spell them out at home, after a full day of grade one.
I work. I know we are not supposed to mention the challenges of being a full-time-work-outside-the-home-mom but there are many and one of them is homework. The best time to get homework done is right after school but unfortunately I can’t leave my office every day at 3:45pm without getting fired. My son gets home at 4:10pm, I get home at 5:30pm (if I’m lucky!). By the time I’ve made dinner, fed the children, spent some time hearing about their day, it’s 6:30pm at the earliest and my littlest two need to be upstairs in the tub by 7pm. I don’t want to spend the only quiet(ish) half hour I have with my children fighting one of them on homework. I want to snuggle him. I want to read to him at bedtime and listen to his imaginary play in the tub. I don’t know how to build homework in there and quite frankly, I think 30-40 minutes of homework is ridiculous at this age.
I don’t know the solution here. My son is not struggling with school, we are struggling with the amount of time and effort required to help him memorize spelling words. He understands the concept, he can do the work, I just don’t know how to accomplish the amount of work it takes at home.
I’m thinking of getting some coloured sand for him to write the words with his finger instead of on paper because sand has got to be so much more fun than a pencil and paper right?
What I do know, is that I grew in a time where we were definitely not writing Joyeux Noël in grade one and if we were we headed to the gifted program.
I also know that if our homework didn’t get done and we came home with a zero that there was no one else to blame but ourselves.
But in this case, that big fat zero cannot be the responsibility of my just-turned-six-years-old son. That zero is my fault, only I’m not sure if I’m getting a zero on my ability to teach spelling or on my parenting overall.
I guess I have the rest of grade one to figure that out.