The Lazy Parent’s Survival Guide

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S1: This bonus episode of Mom and Dad are fighting is on your slate plus feed, thanks to Target.

S2: Welcome to Mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Tuesday, August 25th, the Lazy Parents Survival Guide Edition. I’m Jimmy Little of I am a contributor to Slate Care Feeding Parenting column. And Mom tonight, Emma, who is seven. And we live in Los Angeles, California, and the list of new camp.

S3: I write the Home School and Family Travel Blog, that statute and the mom to three, little Henry eight, Oliver six and Teddy three. And I’m located in Navarre, Florida.

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S2: On today’s show, we’re going to be talking about how to get your kids to complete their homework effectively and efficiently with as little parent intervention as possible. Thank God. We’ll also be talking about how you can help your kids form. Good that you have it. But before we get to that, we have, as always, triumphs and fails.

S4: Elizabeth, do you have a triumph or fail for us this week?

S5: So this is a fail from my youth. I was still am I extremely gullible person. And so when I was in kindergarten, we had a homework assignment to define a sentence. And my father, being the perpetual jokester, you know, gave me a definition, helped me memorize it. So I went back into class and I raised my hand because I wanted to be the one to answer and stood up in front of the whole class and told them a sentence is what the judge gives at the end of the trial with a completely straight face, having no idea that this would not be an appropriate answer. And my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Desh, looked right at me and said, Please go home and tell your father he’s not funny. And you know what? And I remember this very vividly because it was like this moment in which I realized that my father was not on my team and he made his position known. Yeah. Yeah. Like, his ultimate goal was to laugh and whoever, you know, like even when I told them, he was like, but did she laugh? But it did not stop me from falling for many, many more of his pranks like this. But I will say that now as an adult, I am extremely suspicious of things I read and and have applied a lot of critical thinking. So I am I actually feel like in the end, my father gave me a gift for for this time. Yes, I have the gift of not believing anything.

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S6: I see it’s a very valuable life skill to not believe what you see without further interrogation. So that was a gift. That’s money. That’s such a good thing to do. And that’s also how I am, though. Like, I got that part of my dad’s sense of humor, like because I’ve told like I told them that, like when you turn, what was it? I felt so bad because I didn’t realize you took it seriously. Like the mannequins, like, come to life like when kids act up. But it doesn’t happen until you’re five. Like, I told her this and she was because I think maybe I had told her and that she was getting a little freaked out. I was like, but it doesn’t happen. So you turn five. And so then like a few months later, she turns five and we’re in a store and she sees mannequins and she’s like all freaked out. But like my dad told one of my older sisters that she was like feral, that like they’d found her out in the woods, you know, like she held onto this for a while.

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S5: My sister had a USA sleep shirt, and my dad told her that it stood for United Sadan aliens. And it was the shirt she was found in in our backyard.

S7: I think there was like a period of time where she, you know, it’s like she she was young, but it was like, you know, that that’s not right. But also, like your dad is telling this to you, Dad said it.

S6: So this is possible. That’s funny. I am OK. I have a dad. Sorry, too. This is a historical Djamila field as well. So when I was in second grade, I remember that my mother I don’t know what she was doing. She had somewhere to go or whatever. My parents were broken up and my dad had come by to say, spend the evening with me while my mother, like, went out or something. And so, you know, he fixed dinner. We were watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and he had to check my homework for completion. And he found a paper like I guess I had a second folder where I don’t know if I was writing short stories, but essentially I was practicing writing curse words. So like I’d written like, I won’t say things like that, but I just like these complete sentences, curse words. I like all types of practice stuff. And as I recall, I think I was literally just like playing around with writing these things on paper. And my dad, I’m like, he doesn’t even live here of all people. That’s my private Polidor. It was like he found my diary or something, you know, and he was reading it. He’s like, I’m going to what? No, no, you are not. You know? And then he was like, you’re not going to do it. This is, you know, don’t do this, OK? Don’t do this. Again, we know and like my dad was so verbose and has these long stories and usually so much to say for some reason, that was just like I can tell, he didn’t want to deal with it with my mom either. Like, typically they you know, I knew they were not neither, though on my side, they would almost always go to the other parent, you know. Right.

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S8: This one time he like my like he just was like, OK, don’t do this again. And just like, threw it away. And I waited like on pins and needles or mother to say something about it. And I realized that she didn’t tell him. So maybe that was Woodvale for me. But I’m trying for my dad.

S5: Yeah. I appreciate him as a parent though, like as a parent, because now I think I would think, like, OK, well, they’re like bad words, but also like they’re writing them and they’re like practicing using them in sentences.

S7: Like, I’m slightly amused by this, but I also don’t want to condone this very, very you know, I would be the most amused that I’ve ever been.

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S9: Like maybe one day I’ll tell the story. I don’t know. I still think I need to give it a little bit more space because it happened at the beginning of last school year. But Nyima wrote a note to a classmate like the girl had written her note, and I am a wrote back. And I guess she was like, let me tell you how we get down in Brooklyn. Right. Like she she wrote some things to this kid and like, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was keep a straight face when the after school director presents me with the note because I’m like, my baby wrote this one.

S7: Well, yes. I mean, I’m like, you know, like this is your writing. You’re a writer. She’s writing like, all right. She needs a little, you know, coaching on delivery. But it’s kind of funny. She’s she’s standing up for herself here. So. Yes, no, I.

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S5: I probably would I think I would keep the secret to like your dad knew to bringing them in is like, yeah, I’ve come here to because because it’s like I handle stuff and it’s like I know that Jeff would like react all over again and it’s done. And his reaction would be so much worse than mine. It’s like this has been handled and I found it slightly amusing. So it’s best to just not mention it.

S4: Yes. I appreciate the handling it well on your own. There definitely been times like there have been times where the worst thing about what my daughter has done has been like, I’ve got to tell your father, yeah, you know, where I’m like, oh my God.

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S5: I was like, no, but wait, I’m not old enough now where you can make her tell him.

S9: Oh, absolutely, yes. No, like now if I care about accuracy. Oh yeah. I mean like yeah. Yeah. It depends on like I am I like tell them when you get to his house or if it’s a like call him we’re going to go out in front of me, we’ll do this together.

S4: You’re going to get two different events. Sorry, but guess you can get a very melodramatic retelling of events if you entrust Nyamata to repeat what happened.

S5: Oh my goodness. So when I the worst child in the world who never listens, decided to not listen to you, I ruined everything. You know, it’s like that’s what you’re going to you know, one day she’s going to thank you in her memoir for all help. So I really do.

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S4: I really do. And I am thinking, my mom I’m apologizing to my mom like, wow, this is me.

S10: This is me. Amplify it.

S5: Well, that is like the wonderful, not wonderful, but kind of the terrible part of parenting where you just realize, like my poor, poor parent I can’t live about.

S4: You guys were lame like you. You were dealing with a lot.

S5: You’re dealing with a lot with me, but we turned out it turned out OK. Right.

S6: Anyway, so we are moving on. Let’s get into today’s listener question, which is being read by the one and only Shasha Leonhard.

S1: Dear mom and dad, I struggled with completing homework throughout my entire academic career. Shoot. I sometimes struggle with completing my professional work as well. We were able to get away with submitting my son’s homework somewhat haphazardly when he was in kindergarten and there were no consequences, but now he’s starting 1st grade and it’s actually going to matter online. School isn’t helping anything. I hate homework. All the teachers I know either agree homework is a waste of time or that it at least makes it difficult for families to spend quality time together after a long day apart. How do I get both of us on track to commit to this?

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S9: I got nothing for you, letter writer, because you are strumming my pain, singing my words, killing me softly with your song and telling the story of my life.

S5: Elizabeth, how have you been handling name is Mark Poorly?

S9: US know, like that was literally us in kindergarten when homework wasn’t and we had pre-K homework too. Yeah, we would do it or we attempt it, but like in kindergarten, there was a bit more homework, but it was you know, it wasn’t mandatory in pre-K. But I think I felt a sense of pressure to complete things there. And I also wasn’t as much of it. And then like kindergarten, once I found out that, like, it wasn’t counting toward their grades and there were other parents in the class that were like staunchly anti homework. And these are like the PTA parents, you know. Yes. Like I was the American Airlines parent. I was the one who was like running in and out with a suitcase. And I’ll see you in two days, you know. And so I was like, OK, you all know, I didn’t do it, you know? But then when I found out that the parents that were always there were like, no, we don’t believe in homework either. I was like, oh, well, that’s my out, you know, like, yeah, you do the big projects, we’ll do the meaningful stuff. But, you know, the the busywork we we didn’t really bother ourselves with. And so in first grade, it was definitely a challenge to have to adjust to. Homework has to be done. You know, we it and it matters. You know, child’s performance in class on some level is being assessed based on that. And then when school went virtual, it was difficult. And there was a period of time where we were missing some assignments because I was just a little unclear on how to submit them. So we were doing them, you know, but I didn’t realize that, like, every day I was like, OK, now you have to upload it here and make sure, you know, I was like, oh, OK. Like, it’s just it wasn’t really clearly explained to us and it was just a lot. So all that to say so rash and crazy. Yeah. Yeah. But just in general, like I didn’t like doing homework as a kid, I was rushed through it and it always was just something I had to get through to get to the next thing. And I think that because so much homework, you know, there are a lot of teachers that are publicly anti homework. There have been studies that have come out and shown that like homework does not, you know, enrich your child’s academic experience in the way that people once believed. It’s largely busywork.

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S5: When I kind of looked into it, too, I saw a bunch of stuff that said it. It also disproportionately affects like lower socioeconomic classes, like they’re they’re less likely to be able to get homework done or have homework assistance or any of that. So are you like in general anti homework?

S9: Because I’m I’m pretty much I’m one hundred percent answer homework, OK? I believe it should excel. I don’t think it should exist. But how as a home school parent, Elizabeth, I’m curious to know.

S5: Yeah. So we definitely had like in some sense all of our work is homework because the way I run our home school is very much like the kids have during the school year, like a notebook. And I write in the notebook what they need to do for the whole week. And it’s up to them to kind of decide when to do things. And not my little the three year old’s like I’m like we’re doing this activity, but for the older two and then I’m available at certain times. So they need to pick things like if there’s new math or something, I’m going to introduce it to them. And we do read aloud to their stuff we’re doing together. But in general, like a lot of the work, they are responsible for looking in their notebook, getting doing. And then I check it either in the evening or in the afternoon. So in that sense, it’s kind of like homework. So while I think my, you know, my opposition to homework is that the kids are in school for so long that if you’re eating up your precious home time when you could be doing other things with a family or being outside or being with friends. But I guess if you can’t change it. So my my first thing was sort of like, is there anything you can do about changing the homework situation? And I felt like our take away from talking with the teachers was like them saying, come talk to us. So I think, one, if you feel like there is so much homework that it is affecting your life, like go speak to the teachers, because either maybe they don’t know that, like I do have this thought that maybe no one said to them, like, this is so much that we’re struggling or maybe there’s another problem. But in terms of actually getting it done, I sort of reframe homework as like what you’re actually being asked to do is teach your child study skills. And so I think by setting aside an opportunity to do that homework, a place to do that homework and a normal schedule which you follow. So like when you bring home your notebook, the first thing we’re going to do together is like, look over what homework you have, look over what notes you have about that, and take a few minutes to get organized. Because I think part of procrastination is like you don’t have everything. They’re like you try to start something kind of before you’re ready. So setting up that homework time is like, do we have everything we need? Do we have all the pieces of the puzzle? And then I think also looking at the totality of what you have to do and setting that out so that you don’t end up with a project or something bigger than you can do in a small chunk, like all at once. I don’t know really, because we homeschool like what homework’s looking like these days. I kind of heard the like 10 minute per age per class or whatever rules. So that like in first grade, you’re getting ten minutes of each thing. I have no idea if that’s what’s actually happening. Yeah, but I think it’s important that kids don’t feel like their whole day, you know, when they get home from school is going to be this homework. So being able to talk with your child or just knowing your child to say like, OK, when is a good homework time? Like when you get home, do you need this break is like after dinner. Better is before dinner when I’m cooking and you can sit in the room, that’s like depending on what your family’s schedule is. I know some kids do really well. Early in the morning, I have an early riser that I think if we were in school, his best homework time would probably be before school. I am not a like early morning. So that sounds terrible to me. Like I want things done before I go to bed. It seems to me that this parent is struggling with kind of the how do we make it part of our routine to get this homework done? And at some point you have to say, like, OK, I don’t like the homework and I’m going to deal with that either with the teacher or the school, go to school board meetings or whatever that entails. But functionally like to have school, we have to get this homework done. I don’t know. I, I think also thinking about, like, why your child does want to do the homework or why you don’t want to do the homework. Is it because it feels like a waste of time and is it because it’s too hard? Is it because you feel like this is the last thing you want to be doing? And trying to solve those problems is like, did you, Jamila, do find like it’s just that that’s not how you want to spend the time with your daughter or it doesn’t feel like a respectful use of her time.

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S6: I think it’s both of those things. I think the biggest part is this is not how I like to spend my time with my daughter. And then like when I at times when I look at the homework itself, you know, I’m like, OK, if there is something that I could be doing to help expand upon what she learned in school today or what they’re working on during this time period, I still don’t feel like this is really the best way of doing that.

S4: You know, like at the homework should be better. I think that, like, considering that this is something that’s now going to not only perhaps become a family activity, but may like stand in the place of other family activities, such as playing a board game. We’re talking about your day or, you know, like watching TV or doing any number of things that children find pleasurable and also interrupting the ability of the adults to decompress, to cook, to do any number of things that I wish there was some thought put into, like, can we make homework, a pleasurable experience for families. Right. Could this be an interesting story that you all are reading together? You know, it could this be a fun game that you’re playing together as opposed to, you know, what kind of feels like busywork? And I think that because a lot of teachers don’t like homework, don’t want to be bothered with homework that they’re on antagonisms shows up and just kind of like what they assign. Right. So as opposed to putting forth and it’s understandable, you know, you’re talking about a class of workers that are largely underpaid, overworked, you know, oftentimes purchasing their own supplies and enrichment materials and stuff like that. So I. I don’t want to create new labor for them when it relates to homework, but I do wish that there was a way to you know, I would just hope that any teachers that are listening to this like think about especially now, you know, considering how many of our households are in the House, you know, the majority of the time at this point to consider creating the homework assignments that are not a bummer. So you have to complete.

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S5: I totally agree. Like, I just think about all the enjoyable parts of home schooling with the kids, which is so much more like the reading aloud with them and the playing games and having them read something and then tell me about it or those sort of things and the available resources now that are more like video games or just so many things online that are fun for them to do that can report back to the school, but are also sometimes fun for me to interact with them and do together. I like you though, worry like it seems. We send teachers to get educated and they learn all about teaching and then they’re so crippled by what the school district has to do. And so even if you’re against homework, maybe you have to have this any grading things or you have to have this many things. And I think it comes back to this point of like, yes, you have to deal with the homework because those grades and things affect kids. Right? They affect the grades. So you need to set up an environment where you get this stuff done. But I also think that you should continue in a respectful way to let teachers know what’s not working. If they say that their hands are tied, like figure out how you is, the parent can let the school district know, like especially now, like this just isn’t working for us. It’s too much time. I want to have other time to deal with, like their mental health, their emotional health. And like you said, just hopefully be more creative about the ways that that we can have that kind of interaction at home and continue, because the idea is like to continue the learning at home. And I think they’ve tried to like use worksheets as the great equalizer, like we’re sending home the same sheet for everyone and it can be graded and, you know, without too much work from the teacher, which is also important because they don’t have all the hours in the day and they have their own families. But I agree. I think there’s just better, better things, more fun things we could be doing, even if it was like, you know, each week writing up something you did with your family or writing up something your family enjoyed doing together, like aren’t there some benefits of that as well? And I think we’re learning now to like the value of schools is not entirely in its education, but also in what else it’s presenting. So can we pass some of those like relationship building and social emotional learning? Like, can our homework be more focused on on that? Absolutely. I don’t know.

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S10: I think so. And I think that that’s the way that teachers can be gentle with both families and themselves during a difficult time, you know, creating homework experiences that allow them to have some quality time together and address some of those needs that are difficult to address with your students because you’re not physically in the same space with them.

S5: Yeah, our Dutch school experience, like the Dutch, have kind of a no homework in the lower grades rule and then move to a more like what you’re bringing home is reading. And then a lot of the actual work is happening, supervised in school. So like your homework might be to like pre read this chapter on something, knowing that that’s going to be taught in school. I had such little kids that it didn’t really matter, but it seemed that that seemed to to work and reduce some of that ability. And the Dutch really would say like, well, go your time at home is your home time. Like you should be outside, you should be playing until the street lights come on. You should be hanging out with your family and not worrying about this. But their focus, too, is much more on like the family unit and on like a whole picture of a child and less on academic success.

S10: And hopefully that’ll be the picture that more educators and school leadership begin to take on this year, that we had to focus on the whole kid, not just the numbers, not just the you know, for for I mean, good luck with standardized tests. I don’t even want to think about that another.

S5: Yeah, exactly. But maybe this year is a year where we can recognize, like what the study there are studies on all this stuff that say they don’t really work. Right. But we continue to do it anyway for a myriad of reasons. But maybe this becomes a reason to not do that, you know what I mean? That forces us to not do some of these things and then that sticks. I don’t know. That’s my hope.

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S6: I hope that I hope we learn a lot of lessons from this year to to say absolutely. So I’ll just say to you, letter writer, thank you so much. I hope that we were somewhat helpful. And I’m inviting all of our listeners to send your own tips for creating a successful environment, for homework and for speaking to your kids teachers about how to make homework work for your family, because a whole lot of us could use some help.

S11: That right now, and that is our show. If you have a question, email us at mom and dad, it’s Slate dot com or post it to the Slate Facebook group. Just search for Slate parenting, and we will, of course, be back here in the podcast feed on Thursday. And don’t forget to join us next Tuesday for another special bonus episode of Mom and Dad are Fighting. Mom and Dad are Fighting is produced by Rosemarie Balsom for Elisabeth New Camp. I’m Jamilah Lemieux.