Saturday, 27 September 2014

Homework For a 4 Yr Old

This week has been tiring, to say the least.

J’s second full week at full-time school – he’s bound to be tired. Like me, when he’s tired, he’s irritable, short tempered and moody. He’s four, so I have to take this into account as well as the fact that I’m just as bad! He’s had homework, too, which surprised me for the first full weeks – they went from mornings only for a year of nursery, then mornings only for a week, then straight into full days and homework!

The problem I’ve found, is that not eating dinner by 6pm means a huge battle with J about eating it. By that point he’s too tired; he’s fussing, he’s whinging, he’s distracted. It’s a nightmare. So, I started giving him his dinner earlier and earlier til it works – he’s now eating around four / four thirty. This means by the time we’re home from school, and he’s changed out of his uniform and gone to the loo and is back downstairs with a drink, it’s time for me to start cooking. It takes him up to an hour on a  good day to eat dinner, so you’re looking at it being at least five o’clock before he’s finished, normally half past. At that point, Daddy P comes home so naturally J is distracted talking to him and whatever, so then time gets round to six or half past and it’s time for our dinner – if I don’t do it then, we won’t end up eating til ridiculously late.

While our dinner is cooking Daddy P will try to sit with J to do his homework.
This week we’ve been practising writing letters each night, and there was maths homework to do over the week and finish by Friday. By this point in the evening J just wants to relax. Getting him to knuckle down and do the homework is difficult. Most times it’s only half done by the time they have to stop for Daddy P to have dinner. After that, it’s time for J to go upstairs and get ready for bed – I aim to have him in bed between 7.30 and 8 or else it’s a nightmare with him being too tired and screaming / crying / yelling.

Daddy P and myself have had several very trying encounters with J over almost anything and everything, from brushing teeth and going to the loo before bed to scribbling in the homework book and throwing things. J has been tired and frustrated and lashing out. It’s been tough.

Just how are parents expected to manage the juggle of homework on top of schoolwork at such a young age? I’m trying to do my best by getting a decent dinner into him and trying to ensure he gets a full nights sleep – which at four years old, he generally sleeps from 8.30 / 9 til 7.30 in the morning, and I think that’s reasonable. It makes me wonder, is four too young to be in full time school? Is he really ready for this, emotionally or physically? I could have deferred him for another year, due to where his birthday falls, and had him doing nursery now and reception next year – but last year he was so ready to start nursery, and to be honest I think he’s benefitting hugely already from being in reception – in two weeks he’s learned the A, B, C song as well as counting to thirty (he could do to 10 before) He’s reading me books – not because he knows how to actually read all the words, but because he’s memorised all of them, which is to me a basic step toward reading, and to my absolute delight he loves reading. At the moment, What's In The Witch's Kitchen remains a firm favourite but has been joined by The Hungry Caterpillar and Whatever Next, stories I remember reading to my brother when he was a child.

I’d like him to go to bed a bit earlier, but Daddy P says then he’d never get to spend any time with J. He has a point, but most families surely must find the same issue? Myself, when I was at school, my mum was a hairdresser in a salon til I was 8, and then worked from home, and my dad worked as an ambulance technician. If both of them were working I would be looked after by either my nan and granddad or my cousin. My dad’s shifts meant that sometimes he would be leaving for work before I got home from school, finishing after I’d gone to bed at night, and would be asleep when I left for school the next morning. During shifts like that, sometimes I’d go three or four days without actually seeing him at all. I don’t know whether it was more ‘normal’ then because of the whole ‘role’ of each parent in the nuclear family, or whether because both Daddy P and I work and have always worked such odd hours, but it certainly seems to me that it can’t be something that no other family finds.

And how about families with more than one child’s homework to get through? If one or both parents is working shift work, or even if they’re not – there never seem to be enough hours in the day as it is. You’re torn between cooking a nice fresh meal, doing housework and helping everyone get their homework done on time as well as trying to deal with a full time job. On top of shopping, cooking, cleaning, feeding the animals, there’s e-mails, unhappy customers, product launches and meetings. Several of my friends have partners in the armed services, and have to cope as a single parent effectively for weeks on end while their other halves are away – I also know several single parent families. That must be even more difficult to get everything done. How do people do it? I suppose you just have to, but still!

One thing is for sure, J is definitely tired today – we had a wonderful afternoon with friends, but he wore himself out so much that he had a major meltdown when we left and then another two once home! He was in bed by 8 but I’m not sure when he fell asleep as it was Daddy P’s turn to put him to bed and he fell asleep up there himself!

Tomorrow we have nothing planned; I need to pop to the shops and get a couple of bits but apart from that I’ve done loads of work hours this week already so not much more of that to do which means I can enjoy a nice lazy day with my family.

Bye for now!

Mummy P x

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