Evenings look different once kindergarten hits.

By Jessica Hartshorn
October 21, 2015
Credit: Lopolo/Shutterstock

There was a time when I looked for things to fill our evenings. I don't want to overly romanticize the hours between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. with preschoolers, because sometimes having to give voices to My Little Ponies and Matchbox cars got a bit much. Evening wind-ups could result in a broken lamp or all their clothes being pulled out of drawers, or else for "sanity" we'd all watch a kiddie sitcom that would blend into another and then into another. But just as often we'd go for ice cream after dinner or visit the neighbors with kids or, you know, take a walk.

That all unraveled when my oldest entered kindergarten. She didn't have tons of homework, but enough that after dinner I'd have to shush the youngest and be sure she had no distractions while she read for 20 minutes or practiced writing or did a math sheet. And I do understand that teachers need kids to practice reading, writing, and math at home. It just took a lot of fun out of our evenings and made me "homework cop" on top of my other jobs of "toothbrush-trainer" and "bedtime enforcer" and all the rest.

"Homework ruins everything," I complained to a friend, and was surprised when she quickly agreed. She's a single mom and, as she pointed out, doesn't even have backup if she's confused by the latest Common Core math assignment. And that's the thing: We're told to have the kids do their homework independently, but we all know that's BS. Parents go through homework too, like some terrible deja-vu where we are forced to relearn math and history and literature.

So much of parenting is saying "I'll never____" and then doing exactly that. Homework duties are no exception. I thought I'd never read a book just to help my child understand it, then one night found myself speed-reading a book that was probably about Level N to try and clear up questions my son had. My daughter, now in middle school, has so many questions about science that I am constantly looking things up and watching Brain Pop videos and trying to reteach myself facts that I knew long ago. I thought my children would be naturally curious and search out answers! But in reality, my daughter sobs that she's exhausted and I'm the one who Googles "steps of the Scientific Method" and tries to explain them to her.

Maybe one day I'll look back at these evenings through a warm and fuzzy distance and think, "That was so nice, us all learning together." In the meantime, is it okay that I dream of the day I can take a walk and go get ice cream on a Monday evening instead?

Jessica Hartshorn has also run out to buy cardstock at 8 p.m., begged the neighbors for use of their working printer when hers was out of ink, and purchased a second laptop so each kid can be using one at the same time. She hopes the teachers know this and feel appropriately guilty.


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