The School Learning Curve


Teaching them to eat- easy!

One of the things I’ve come to realise as the children have got older is that its not the process of learning how to deal with a baby which is the steepest learning curve of parenting. Not at all. By far the steepest learning curve happens when they go to school and they get homework.

You think I jest don’t you? I really mean this. Changing nappies: a doddle, the midwife showed me once and I got it straight off. If you asked me to change a nappy now I might shudder, but I could do it with my eyes shut whilst writing a 3000 word essay. Teaching the children how to eat- well that was easy, just required a bit of reading around what to feed them. The Key Stage 2 child’s homework, well if it wasn’t setting a bad example to my child, I could quite easily find myself tantruming on the floor sobbing my heart out in frustration.

It was a hard day, that dawning realisation that actually, I cant do the primary school child’s homework. I’ve got a degree and two further university degrees. I cant do the primary school child’s homework. How did it come to this?

Well, firstly being a child of Thatcher I was subject to an enormous amount of experimentation in government education policy (sound familiar?). The upshot being that I wasn’t taught grammar. This is something which has haunted me throughout my life, making foreign languages very difficult to learn and also causing no end of stress with my writing. When I first wrote museum exhibition panels they would come back to me covered in red pen. It was humiliating. I’m still not completely sure of it, a lot of my writing is guesswork, which i’m sure for lots of you explains the grammatical errors in this blog. I am trying, but it is hard to re-learn (or indeed learn) something you don’t know to start off with.

The impact of this now is that I simply do not understand what is being asked of my children. Fronted adverbials, subjective noun clauses and their friends all mean nothing to me. School workshops which aim to tell me what my child is learning by asking me to define these in sentences are the very epitome of horror and humiliation. I didn’t really want a Year 5 child to know my weaknesses but now they do and now I feel very small. I’m putting this down as another learning experience, just one I probably could have done without. Sort of akin to when you learn that its easiest to watch the school bully pick on someone else rather than intervene.

For me the ‘school learning curve’ doesn’t stop there. Maths is now taught in a completely different way to when I was at school. So although I can get the right answer, I cant explain the proper working out method and so I am in effect, useless. So useless that we have had to employ a tutor at £20 per half hour to help out. I have failed.

More failures on the school experience are in the realms of my personal and social education. Clearly mixing with artistic and creative types in my world is no match for those you find in the suburban playground. I have failed my children with my lack of understanding of the social dynamics and politics of these people, I’ve very few school run friends. This means that I am the mum standing alone in the playground whilst the others all seem to throw their heads back laughing and having fun, like they are participants in some sort of wine advert or at the Ferrerro Rocher presidents ball. The knock on impact is that my kids have very few playdates and the eldest, who struggles with social interaction is often found talking to himself at playtime.

What can be done? I cant be alone in this. I really didnt think that when my children went to school I’d have to go back myself. I’ve been mulling the options:

  • Train as a primary school teacher myself. Its quite possible that this would be the cheapest option overall by the time i’ve paid for all the tuition.
  • Try to teach myself. This is quite a challenge for the sleep deprived, middle aged and fiscally challenged.
  • Abandon all hope and rely that the teachers will sort out any issues and tell the children you cant help with homework.
  • Another solution. I can’t think of the best thing to do really so i’m hoping readers might be able to help! Can you suggest a brilliant book to help me understand what the children are talking about enough to be able to explain their maths and english homework if they can’t understand it? Can you identify with this problem, has it happened to you? Can you make me laugh about it? I’d really love to hear your thoughts and comments and I promise I wont judge your grammar!

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