The 6 Stages of Doing Homework with Elementary Kids

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When I was in elementary school, I swear to you, the most work I ever did outside of class was remembering to bring my Valentine’s cards to school on the right day. And I feel like first grade consisted mostly of show and tell and learning to color between the lines. Please tell me I’m not alone here.

Our days were not filled with reading and writing and Common Core algebra before we could even tie our own shoes in the same way they are for our kids now. And there certainly wasn’t any homework — real, legit, pencil-to-paper, due-date-specified homework. Given what policy makers today have determined is necessary to master in the early grades, it’s a wonder we didn’t all grow up to be completely inept, nonfunctioning members of society.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad my kids are learning, and they’re genuinely excited about it too. But the homework. Dear God, the homework. It is quite possibly one of my least favorite nighttime rituals, this doing of homework with my 6-year-old. And if you’re a parent of an elementary-aged child as well, I’m guessing you can relate to these stages of doing homework with your kids.

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Stage 1: Acknowledging the Homework

This stage starts out pleasant enough. You ask your kid if he has homework, and he says “no.” Fifteen minutes later, you ask him again. Still no. A full two hours more pass in which you repeatedly question your child about homework, each inquiry met with yet another “no.”  You finally tell your kid it’s time to get ready for bed, at which point he announces, “BUT MOMMY, I HAVE TO DO MY HOMEWORK!”

You channel Buddha with every fiber of your being, fighting back strong urges to lose it on him, and calmly tell him to go get said homework before you start eating your own hair.

Stage 2: Finding the Homework

After sending her to retrieve her homework from her backpack, your kid returns empty-handed, claiming she can’t find it. You stomp upstairs after muttering something about how she needs to use her eyes a little better. You unzip her backpack, expecting the homework to be right there on top, only to take one peek inside and discover that HOLYFUCKINGHELL, it looks like an Office Depot diarrhead in there.

You ask your kid how long it’s been since she cleaned the thing out between hauling fistfuls of worksheets, construction paper, and glue-stick-soaked art projects from its depths. When she tells you she just cleaned it out yesterday, you conclude that elementary schools everywhere are single-handedly killing ALL THE TREES.

Stage 3: Starting the Homework

You bring the homework you found under eight pounds of photocopies back downstairs and find your kid engaged in some Very Important Task he couldn’t possibly participate in yesterday when you suggested it. You tell him it’s time to do the homework instead, simultaneously pressing his invisible whine button in the process.

Four nags, three threats, and one thing you won’t ever repeat again later, and you two are seated and ready to do this thing, but not before the baby shrieks/the dog needs to go out/the pot boils over on the stove/the house catches fire.

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Stage 4: Doing the Homework

Once the crisis du jour has subsided, you and your kid begin going over the instructions. The farther down the page you look, the sweatier your palms get. She really is only in first grade, right? you think, stumped as to how you, an adult, could be having such trouble understanding what the fuck it is a child is supposed to do here.

Instead of admit to your ignorance, you ask her what she thinks she’s supposed to do, praying to every god you ever learned about in high school sociology that you’ll figure out what “write a number bond followed by a number sentence” means before your inferior show-and-tell-color-between-the-lines education starts to show. A half hour later, as the two of you are still working on number one and talking at each other 10 decibels louder than when you began, you seriously contemplate calling your local legislator and telling her you’ve got a number bond for her, along with a really good suggestion as to where she can shove it.

Stage 5: Finishing the Homework

After just three temper tantrums, one of which was yours, you and your kid finally finish up what should have been a 10 minute task in a cool hour-and-a-half. A sense of accomplishment washes over you and you begin to smile, daydreaming about the glass of wine that awaits you as your kid heads upstairs to change into his pajamas. You’re mere seconds away from fermented ecstasy when, out of nowhere, your kid announces he’s ready for you to kiss him goodnight but, oops, not until after you help him complete one more paper he forgot he has to do.

OHMYGOD I WILL KILL ALL THAT IS SACRED IN THIS WORLD! you scream internally, setting your wine glass down and trudging over to the table once more. You don’t even bother asking him how he was able to find this paper, and right now of all times, when he couldn’t find the other one to save his life. You just want to get this thing over with. NOW. Before you have to add homicide to your criminal jacket.

Stage 6: Recovering from the Homework

Finally, three gray hairs, a Xanax, and 25 minutes of sight words later, the homework’s finished and packed safely back in the book bag. For real this time. You escort your kid to his bedroom, tuck him in, and make a beeline for the wine. Only this time, you skip the glass and head straight for the whole stinkin’ bottle. Homework is hard, dammit, and you deserve it. All 750 glorious milliliters.

Related post: Homework Sucks

10 Commandments of School Drop Off & Pick Up

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Taking the kids to school in the morning and collecting them again in the afternoon are quite possibly two of the most harrowing events in a parent’s day. But they don’t have to be. The gods of kid carting have spoken, people, and they demand that we follow these 10 commandments of school drop off and pick up:

1. Thou shalt drive in the correct direction. Not the opposite direction of everyone else. The correct direction. The one is driving in. The clearly posted signs and brightly colored arrows are not suggestions. They are requirements. And all the parents waiting patiently to enter the fire lane, push their kids out the door, and exit the fire lane in an orderly fashion thank you for adhering to them.

2. Thou shalt not park thy car wherever thou please. Those white lines painted on the parking lot pavement are intended to house cars between them. Don’t park on top of them. Don’t take up a space enclosed by more than two of them. And for the love of all that is holy, don’t park anywhere that doesn’t have them (I’m looking at you, dad who thinks the middle of the drive is his special spot).

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3. Thou shalt not drive like an Andretti brother. This is not the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is a school zone, and as such, there are little people not paying attention to anything they’re doing and walking directly into traffic everywhere. It’s great that your car can go from 0 to 60 in a nanosecond, but not here, Speed Racer. Not here.

4. Thou shalt not treat the drop off and pick up lane as thy personal social gathering. You may have forgotten to RSVP to Susie’s birthday party or have a really-cool-super-fun-time story to tell Braxton’s mom, but now is not the time or the place to scream out your window and halt traffic by carrying on conversations with others. Move it along, Chatty Cathy. Better yet? Facebook that shit. This is the 21st century, after all.

5. Thou shalt recognize that there is a line for dropping off and picking up. This isn’t a free-for-all. The same rules of etiquette that apply elsewhere in society also apply here. If you see a line, for the love of God, get in it. No cutsies. We mean it.

6. Thou shalt get thy life together BEFORE dropping off or picking up thy kids. Packing backpacks? Signing permission slips? Dispensing lunch money? Yeah, I’m not on top of that shit either. But once I’m on school property, forget about it. I’m not the only person in the world trying to get rid of send my kids to school or take them home today, and neither are you. So stop acting like it.

7. Thou shalt get off thy phone and halt thy Tweeting and Instagraming and Pinteresting and Facebooking until AFTER the deed is done. Nobody cares about that dinner recipe you just stumbled across or what color the snot coming out of your toddler’s nose is anyway, but they especially don’t care when you should be focusing on other things. Things such as PAYING ATTENTION TO DROPPING OFF OR PICKING UP YOUR KIDS.

8. Thou shalt not form a blockade preventing other parents from entering the school or locating their children at release time. Some parents, particularly those of younger children, have to actually go into the school to release and collect their progeny. This process runs a lot more smoothly when other parents avoid gathering into impenetrable body walls comprised of self-absorption and I-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-anyone-else-but-myself-itis.

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9. Thou shalt hold the door for fellow parents if thou can. Many parents are herding unwieldy toddlers and carrying inexplicably heavy infant seats in addition to their school-aged children and all their crap. If you can help them out by holding a door or two, please do. It’s not a contest to see who makes it out alive the fastest.

10. Thou shalt not let everyone and thy brother exit school grounds before thee. Being polite is one thing. But waving every bus, car, motorcycle, and Radio Flyer between the school and the next town in front of you only serves to back up the already congested line even more. Treat that shit like a 4-way stop. Give one, take one, people. We’d all like to get home before tomorrow.

Related post: Random Thoughts From The School Pick-Up Line

The 12 Teachers You’ll Find in Every Elementary School

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You’ve seen them. And if you haven’t, you’ve heard about them.

Every teacher in your child’s elementary school has a reputation.

And just about every one of them falls into at least one of the following categories…

1. The Veteran. Has his/her shit together. The perfect balance of discipline and warm fuzzy. Has somehow managed to survive thirty years of teaching without burning out. You pray your kid has him/her.

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2. The Fashionista. This one cannot possibly make enough money to pay for her wardrobe. All the little girls love her.

3. The Bombshell. Her skirts are short and her heels are high. She shows lots of cleavage. All the little boys love her. And so do the dads.

4. The Overachiever. She’s the one heading committees and volunteering and applying for grants and cutting crap out by hand. She will get married, have kids, retire, and become the overachieving stay-at-home mom that all other moms hate.

5. The Doormat. The substitute who covers her class has more control over the kids than she does.

6. The Dude. Every day is a party. This teacher throws the football around in the classroom. He never gives homework. He doesn’t necessarily prepare the kids for the next year, but the moms don’t care because he’s kind of hot. All the kids want this teacher.

7. The Musician. This is the uber talented classroom teacher who plays the guitar and can turn every situation into the opportunity for a song. The kids love her. The other teachers are jealous of her.

8. The Hard Ass. You do not fuck around in this teacher’s classroom. Parents either love him/her or hate him/her.

9. The Sports Fanatic. This teacher has pennants and sports paraphernalia everywhere. Every math problem revolves around a team sport scenario. All the boys want to get this teacher.

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10. The Cheeseball. You know her. She’s got the apple sweater and the apple name tags and the apple earrings and the apple coffee mug and the apple pencils and the apple bulletin board and the apple manicure and the apple necklace and the apple purse and the apple totebag and the apple lunch box and the apple license plate and the apple…

11. The Curmudgeon. This is the cranky teacher who refuses to acknowledge the passage of time. He or she still writes out homework papers by hand, doesn’t have a class website, and will never make any effort to assimilate into the 21st century.

12. The Cool, Young Teacher. If you’re going to get a new(er) teacher, this is the one  you want. She’s fun. She’s progressive. She can handle anything. And she eventually becomes…

…the Veteran.

Related post: 9 Moms Found At Every Elementary School

9 Moms Found at Every Elementary School

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I have been a mom for almost 15 years now (yikes!). Needless to say, I have spent my fair share of time observing moms with their children at school. Over the years I’ve noticed no matter where I live, there are always certain kinds of moms to be found at school…

1. Wears Pajamas to School Mom. This mom is always in her pajamas. Always. Day after day, she brings her child to school in whatever she wore to bed the night before (or at least it looks like it.) Her sloppy flannel pants, big baggy t-shirt, and messy ponytail follow her everywhere.

2. Tiny Tank Top Big Fake Boobs Mom. She has fake mammaries so large men and women turn their heads as she passes. Her tiny tank tops come in a rainbow of colors with all manners of bedazzling and blingy decorations perfectly enhanced by her perpetual spray tan.

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3. Hippie Granola Mom. She wears long flowing skirts, has extra long (or sometimes extra short) hair. Child is usually named Rain, Flower, or Harmony. Packs child’s lunch in organic tote bag. Said lunch consists of leftover vegan curry and water in reusable stainless steel bottle.

4. Constantly Volunteering Mom. This mom may actually live at the school. Every time you go, (even for random trip to drop off child’s forgotten lunch) she is rushing somewhere on campus. You’ll find her changing the bulletin board, grading papers, or manning the PTA booth.

5. Perfectionist Mom. She shows up to pick up and drop off in sparkling clean car, with full makeup, perfectly coordinated outfit, fresh manicure while toting designer bag. Child’s name is monogrammed on its Pottery Barn backpack and matching lunch box. Has children scheduled for daily enriching activities year-round (like viola lessons, intermediate Mandarin, and competitive tennis.)

6. Fully Caffeinated Mom. Has never seen without a full size coffee in her hand. Zips around from child to teacher to principal to school secretary to playground aide in a grinning, chemically enhanced frenzy.

7. Running Late Mom. She screeches into the parking lot, drags her child through the school gates frantically stuffing papers into his backpack three minutes after the bell rings…EVERY SINGLE DAY.

8. Gossip Queen Mom. She’s been at the school forever. Knows everything about everybody and is eager to share. From Head Janitor to PTA President nobody is safe. If there’s dirt, she’ll find it.

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9. Hot Yoga Mom. She comes to school in her tight yoga pants and workout tank carrying her reusable water bottle making all of the rest of us jealous of her: 1. Incredible body and 2. Dedication to fitness that makes us sweat just thinking about it.

I’m certainly not judging, simply making observations. Personally, I see a little bit of myself in each of them. I seek the comfort of the pajama and shorts moms. I strive to feed my kids healthy lunches. I volunteer as often as I can, the schools need it. And I wish I had the discipline (and money) to be perfectionist mom.

Different as we may be, we all have a common goal; wanting the best for our children.

Related post: The Six Mothers Every Mother Hates

The Bento Box Solution


Well, it finally happened, the thing I’ve been dreading. Yesterday, my precious daughter rolled off the school bus bitching and moaning about the lack of artistic effort that I’ve been putting into her packed lunches. My first thought, “Oh shit, has she been on Pinterest?” My second thought, “We need to update our parental controls to include Pinterest.”

But no, it seems that some better-than-me mother (who, I guarantee, does have a Pinterest account) has been sending her daughter to school everyday with a lunchbox full of “love” in the form of Disney inspired entrees and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom carrots. And Ana has taken notice. Thanks a lot, lady. Thanks. A. Lot.

According to my daughter, Wednesday’s lunchtime was spent watching little Hayden nibble on Elsa’s certified organic noodle braid, while Ana despondently ate from a zip-lock bag filled with pretzels and an enormous amount of apathy. Her tale of woe was really quite heartbreaking. So, like any guilt-ridden mother, I decided to give this stupid Bento Lunch thing a try.

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I promised Ana an Olaf lunch, but when I read the first three ingredients: Japanese Nori noodles, purple seaweed, edible modeling clay, I was all, “Oh heeeellll no!” Packing a lunch should not require me to source food from various specialty shops and craft stores. I haven’t shaved in four days and THAT needs to happen before I start driving around town seeking out cuisine for my five year old to throw out.

But I promised her an Olaf lunch, so it was on to Plan B. Unfortunately, I had no Plan B…at least not until I drank a couple glasses of 2009 Cabernet from the Napa region.

And so, exhausted, not-so-perfect mothers everywhere, I’d like to present my “Damn you, Hayden’s mom!” answer to this crazy, expensive, and time consuming lunch fad:

The “I ain’t got time for that. Here’s some lunch money” Bento Box.

Step 1: Get lunch money from your purse.
Step 2: Arrange money and tape down
Step 3: Use a Sharpie to draw the rest.

The "I ain't got time for that. Here's some lunch money" Bento Box -

Screw making little broccoli trees with an “I love you!” tediously carved into their stalks with an X-Acto knife while freebasing your blood pressure pills and trying to remember your insurance provider’s Mental Health co-pay. No thank you. Besides, unlike a scene from The Lion King made out of graham crackers and Russian caviar, my “I ain’t got time for that. Here’s some lunch money” Bento Boxes provide the perfect canvas for real communication between you and your child:

Confronting potty issues:

The "I ain't got time for that. Here's some lunch money" Bento Box -

Offering friendship advice:

The "I ain't got time for that. Here's some lunch money" Bento Box -

Calling them out:

The "I ain't got time for that. Here's some lunch money" Bento Box -

I realize the “I ain’t got time for that. Here’s some lunch money” Bento Box still requires a minimum amount of effort on your part, which is something I’m normally against, but just think of the look on your child’s face when they open their lunch box and see something like this:

The "I ain't got time for that. Here's some lunch money" Bento Box -

Arachnophobia, cured. “Thanks, mom!”

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Ladies, even if your child doesn’t buy lunch, I’m here on my linoleum floor, begging you to step away from the melon baller and to embrace the beautiful quadrilateral simplicity of a square cheese sandwich.

After all, you don’t need to win the “MOM OF THE YEAR” title because, as far as your child is concerned, you already have it.

Related post: The Lunch-Packing Manifesto