“Daddy, are you doing your homework?” My five-year old daughter gets it. Not that there’s much to get. If Daddy is surrounded by a splattering of books, journal print-outs and scribbled notes, with a pencil in his mouth and a quizzical-to-stressed look on his face, chances are he’s studying.
She started school in September and has homework every day (except Fridays). The letter tracing and phonetic spelling exercises that amount to her homework are accomplished within minutes of her whirl-winding home. It’s not exactly taxing, but she adores it. There’s an obvious sense of self-importance, but also a real sense of duty. This isn’t a task done in the classroom with the teacher breathing down her neck. This is her responsibility, something that she does on her own, away from the structured school day.
As a parent, I silently questioned the need for homework in the first year of school. Why would a five-year-old need to supplement school learning with extra tasks at home? I should have known better. I’m an external student, juggling one and a half jobs, parenting and lots of other demands, problems and commitments that life flings at me everyday. Why shouldn’t my daughter’s school life spill into our home life? Isn’t that what I’m doing right by taking this degree?
What I hope my daughter’s homework assignments are helping to cement is the notion that her learning takes place outside school as much as inside. Gaining knowledge isn’t something that she switches on and off. As a parent I strive to make everything my children experience a learning experience: every trip to the park, every car wash, every supermarket visit, every mealtime is punctuated by facts, half-true stories and wildly-exaggerated yarns (to stimulate the imagination, of course). However successful these end up, seeing Daddy reading books and “doing his homework” will probably do more to instill a love of learning than behind-the-steering-wheel ad libs.
I’ve said before on this blog how my studies in global politics are fuelled by curiosity rather than a need to shift career. For others, the University of London courses are a stepping stone to a new or better career. No matter which, we are all studying while facing the daily grind of a job (or the stress of no job) and other day-to-day distractions. However taxing the next couple of months will become for us all as exams loom large, we still offer an inspiration to our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces… you get the idea.
“Yes, Daddy is doing his homework, but he’s having a break now. Hang on a minute…is that a tickle I see on your foot?…”