“We must write in complete sentences,” she said, erasing a section and rewording her answer to fit the requirement. It wasn’t busy work. She’d read a chapter on Rosa Parks and was now asked to think about the vocabulary words in context of the essay. It was interesting. But it was late.
Finally, workbook complete, my daughter said, “Now I have to read a chapter in a book and write a five sentence summary of main ideas.”
“Why don’t you go to bed and do it in the morning?” I asked.
“No,” she said, swiping her iPad to find the assigned chapter. She looked exhausted, her eyes hardly alert.
“I’ll read it to you and you listen,” I said, knowing that her reading skills were just fine and even the school librarian encouraged audio books from time to time. I did my best to sound animated as I read about a wolf-dog chasing a deer in some prehistoric saga, but I wanted to go to bed, too.
“Good,” I said when we were done. “Want to write the summary in the morning?”
Of course, she didn’t.
She opened up a document, wrote the summary, saved it as a PDF and uploaded it to the correct submission folder.
“Okay,” I said, noticing it was now 10pm. “Now you go to bed.”
I helped her take the bobby pins out of her hair and I kissed her goodnight. I felt so bad that she was this exhausted, but so proud of her determination and desire to apply herself to each task. The stubbornness to finish an assignment was a characteristic I shared with her. I’d been the same way as a child. And if my mom had told me to hit the sack, I’m sure I found ways to defy her by working with a flashlight or doing my homework in the closet with the door shut.
In a way, these longer nights spent on homework that have arrived with middle school are reminding me of other bittersweet lessons about growing up. There’s pain involved. No one can spare you from all of it. And some of it will be worth the struggle and the lessons learned. Some will not.
So, was the academic struggle worth it? Who reading this didn't burn the midnight oil? Who among us now doesn't still find themselves often relying on tenacity and determination even when sleep calls?
"Will it be worth it?" we ask, speculating on the value of old lessons in the new world.
"Yes," I hope.
Something in the act of bettering one's mind and work ethic will be "worth it".
Sarah Vander Schaaff is the editor of Sarah's Notes. Despite her praise of homework, she is not a fan of busy work or depriving children of the opportunity to sleep.
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