Then they stick it in the child’s bookbag and run.
I hate this homework. I hate it for a number of reasons, and it’s taken me seven years of making costumes for various topics, and costumes for book week, and one fun year, a costume for maths’ week, which, in total, equals 44 costumes, to work out why I hate this particular homework.
It’s because the children don’t have to bloody do it.
I am not a supporter of homework in primary school. I've read (heard about) reports that show that homework in primary school serves no academic purpose. I don’t buy the idea that it prepares the child for when they have to do homework at senior school because they’ll learn that when they’re at senior school. I do respect the fact that homework does encourage a parent or carer to engage with what their child is learning at school. However, for that to work, the child has to be in the same bloody room as the homework in question.
There are some homework tasks where my sole input is to hand them a piece of coloured card and let them get on with it. Occasionally, my input is to sit beside them to explain the bits that they don’t understand. Usually, my input is to stand by the table yelling, ‘Just do the sodding homework! If you’d started it before you started this whining session, the homework would already be done! We all have to do things we don’t want to do, and do you hear me whinging about it? Well, Yes! Obviously you do, but it’s not the same because Reasons!’
But then the dress like a pterodactyl homework comes around and I get my comeuppance because this is a piece of homework I have to do or my child will be all left out and will look at me with wide, sorrowful eyes full of tears while I bribe them out of their misery with cake and ice-cream.
Sometimes there is input from the child, in that they come home and say, as they did for the current topic, ‘You have to make a, Egyptian costume, and I want you to make me into a pharaoh!’ So the first part of your homework is trying to sell, ‘Wouldn't a slave be more fun? We could make a wonderful slave costume… I know pharaohs are more important, but slaves are great too! I thought I could put you in one of Daddy’s t-shirts and put a belt around the middle… No! We haven’t done t-shirt-and-belt for every costume! Sometimes we do the cut-arm-and-head-holes-in-a-pillowcase costume! Sometimes we even stick things to the pillow-case with glue!’
Then the child will wander off in a fug of unfairness that they’re going to be a slave and not a pharaoh.
- find a man’s XXL t-shirt that is no longer needed without starting the row that it was the only possible t-shirt that he could ever wear, and then you have to buy another t-shirt which will sit in the back of the wardrobe unloved and forgotten until the next costume homework whereupon it will suddenly turn into the best t-shirt that he’s ever owned.
- find a belt that will go around the child without needing to be looped around three times. Prepare yourself for the inevitable crying about how uncomfortable the belt is, and understand that they will shed it in the first 5 minutes meaning that your child’s costume is now, ‘A t-shirt’.
- be crippled with guilt that your child will be deeply disappointed when they see all of their friends in sparkly pharaoh costumes while she’s the only slave in the classroom.
So I get to work with the homework.
I think it should be abundantly clear by now that I cannot do this homework.
All through my school life I was a good student. I worked hard, got my homework in on time, worked through a beautifully formatted study timetable for exams, and never missed a morning lecture because I’d been out the night before. Yes; I was that kind of smug student.
I cannot do this homework. I will never get to feel smug again. When the picture of the costumes appears in the newsletter, my child will be the one with the sad-face at the back of the group, mostly hidden by someone else’s flung out arms as they bask in their brilliant pharaoh costume.
All my child will learn is that Mum knows an awful lot of swear words. And, because I'm regularly driving them somewhere, they already know that.
I do recognise that there are ways to engage your child in this activity. As well as teaching them the valuable lesson that life is full of disappointments, it is the opportunity to demonstrate that you can do an awful lot with Wonderweb.
You could even, as I tried one time, teach them to sew.
Quick tip for parents out there; don’t teach your child to sew.
Our sewing lesson went like this; ‘It’s a sewing machine! … Yes, I know it’s a bit dusty… Now this is called a bobbin… Yes, just like in the song… Yes, I know the song… Yes, it’s a good song… Yes, I remember the actions… Mostly because of that time when you sang the song for over two hours before I knocked you out with Piriton… OK, I'm just reading the instructions … Yes, I do know how to use it… OK, let’s go… Shit, shit… Shit… No, I don’t know why it’s crumpled… Right… Shit… Do you really need armholes? … Yes, it’s fine for you to go and watch StampyCat, but could you try to find a video with a pyramid?... OK, yes, death-race is just fine…’
I have, over the years and with long practice, become a little bit better at the dress like a pterodactyl homework. This term, my input was to yell into the dining room, ‘Honey, your daughter wants to dress like a pharaoh for the Egyptian costume day! You’d better get on that!’ before scurrying out the door.
She’ll be dressed as a slave in one of his t-shirts with a belt around the middle eating chocolate cake and ice cream while she walks sorrowfully to school.