Hammer house of homework

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Follow Claire Smith's Mothering Heights on Twitter @MinistryOfMum - Credit: Archant

In the early 1980s there was a TV series called Hammer House Of Horror.

I remember it, some of you won’t because you were probably born in the 80s (no I’ve not got love for you and it’s not acceptable). Anyways, it was a pretty scary show that ran for 13 episodes, which usually saw the protagonists fall into the hands of that episode’s horror.

Well, I’ve got my own personal Hammer House running daily in my life and it’s called Homework. Running for the next 13 years, it ALWAYS sees the protagonists fall into the hands of the horror.

With two children of school age, the show brings a regular mix of screaming, blackmail, devilish behaviour and almost bloodshed every evening with a particular violent episode on a Sunday afternoon. Recently Hammer House Of Homework was featured at Number 12 in Channel Four’s “100 Scariest Moments”. The clip shown was the spellings scene in “The Mummy Who Stabbed Herself With A Pencil”.

Homework is horrible when you’re a child but it’s even worse when you’re a parent.


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I resent helping with it, I resent the person I become when doing it, I resent the people my children become and I resent the mere existence of it. And my kids are only 8 and 9. Those of you with teenagers are probably laughing right now but I know – the worst of the horror IS YET TO COME. Right? But don’t worry; I’m fully preparing myself for the satanic rituals and voodoo of future episodes.

At the moment the show starts with “Previously On Hammer House Of Housework” – the bit that runs through my brain as I’m psyching myself up. By doing this I always think I’m prepared, learning from mistakes made, ready to handle any monstrosity that is thrown at me - but I’m not. Because each episode brings in some new horror that the audience was just not expecting. (Therein lies the success of the series – its shock value.)

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Each programme follows a similar format – the moaning, the flailing of limbs, the stomping, the evil eyes, the tears as the realisation that IT IS HAPPENING sets in and always, always the intolerable shouting as the children try to put off the inevitable and beat down the evil monster (Mummy).

I’m really trying. I start each episode with a fresh outlook, determined that this will be the time that good will conquer the evil. I’ve tried different weapons of the right attitude, sweets, bribery, encouragement, threats but none of these are enough to beat the monster down. Homework is my kryptonite.

If the homework involves reading, then the kids will stumble on words that they have read beautifully on the previous page or guess with something random which doesn’t even share a letter. With spellings, if the words have all the same ending such as ABLE they will add in an extra T or B. If it’s maths, they will lose all ability to multiple a number by 10. Often they have told me on the journey home all about what they have learnt, but this has been forgotten when it comes to writing it on a worksheet.

My kids get a lot of homework. There is the Learning Log, the spellings, the reading, the worksheets and the projects. It takes up a lot of our family time. Time that I’d rather spend out and about doing stuff, or just lying around chilling and chatting. I’m a strong believer in what they can learn outside of the classroom too. It was frustrating that today we would have gone to London except there was still homework to be finished, spellings to go over and a ruler to be pushed into my eyeball. Tonight’s words included EXHAUSTED and EXPLANATION. I would have worked harder, but after an hour of going over them, I was too exhausted to give further explanation.

I am not an anti-education parent. I strongly believe in all of it. I just don’t understand what arguing and upset over doing work at home is teaching my kids. All they are learning at the moment is how to hate homework. I know that the point of homework is to reinforce concepts that are being learned at school, but mostly I just want to hang out with my kids and have some fun on their time ‘off’.

I confess – sometimes I do the homework for them by giving them the answers just to get it over with. Or I write in the reading diary even though we haven’t read. Anything just to get the horror over with and move on with the next programme.

Today amused me because there was an exchange on Facebook over our Year 3 homework which involved translating Arabic words to English. I’d managed to do it much to the delight of my friends – especially as we totally cheated by giving each other the answers. I was awarded Most Gifted & Talented In Google.

Because that’s A FACT – at this age and younger, it’s the parents who are doing the homework. I’ve seen the projects of five year olds and the only contribution some of those kids have given is handing it into the teacher. Parents delight in receiving the Headteacher’s Award because clearly it’s an accolade earned BY THEM.

Save yourself some money by not buying a ticket to the latest Evil Dead movie. Grab that popcorn and head on over to my house one evening next week around 6pm. Hammer House Of Homework will scare the bejesus out of you, especially because the latest project involves glitter.

I’ve seen the road to hell, and it’s lined with homework.

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