When school means more homework for mothers

Updated: 2011-09-28 07:54

By Debbie Mason (China Daily)

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When school means more homework for mothers

I have been bombarded by criticism about my choice of a Chinese school for my English boy.

It wasn't just that international schools are way beyond my means; they are also too far away and many don't seem to offer much Chinese.

"How could you do this to your own son?" have sounded the peals of dissatisfaction, although they have not been accompanied by other suggestions or indeed reasons why the choice is so wrong.

I admit I did have one concern and that was the large amount of homework doled out at Chinese schools, on top of the pure hard work.

What I didn't realize was that actually it would be me that faced the challenge, and not my little dear.

It started innocently enough, with a couple of lengthy meetings to explain procedures and what equipment the children would need.

The school kindly invited equipment vendors to the school, and everything was laid out on stalls warped under the weight of books and pens and pencils and erasers and paper and plasticine and skipping ropes and abacuses and things I'd never seen before.

Scared of missing something my little emperor would need, I saw no choice but to buy the lot.

Consequently he now has a heavy schoolbag - but it's not him that lugs the thing to and from school every day.

Labeling each item took three hours.

Every evening I dread the three or four lengthy text messages explaining exactly what was achieved in each lesson, and what the children are expected to go over for the next day.

What the children have to do at home rarely takes more than two minutes, but translating the reams of text takes me far longer.

Every night I have to go over the books he has learned from in class, signing each page to show the teacher that I have understood what the children have already done.

My child waits for me to play with him while I have my nose buried in his books.

"Have you done your homework yet, mom?"

At least once a week we are handed fliers about various events going on, while the homework keeps piling up.

And while my son throws his books in his bag every day quite happily, it's my responsibility to check he has everything he needs, that his lunchbox is washed and dry, that his water bottle is clean and full.

My child is sailing through the classes, especially, of course, English, in which they have been asked to choose an English name and decorate a nameplate for lessons.

My son, who already has an English name, has chosen another one, Harry.

Wu Shenhao, a little boy from my child's kindergarten, has chosen Helen. The girl who sits next to him has chosen Peter.

English is the one lesson I am not swamped with illegible requests and homework. The kind teacher has decided to let us off this one.

With 42 children in a class I have heaps of respect for the teachers who sustain their dedicated, detailed training of these young minds.

Perhaps with the homework load they are wreaking some kind of revenge on the parents who have produced these little charges, and in doing so have caused them all this work.

To my little boy, it's all good fun with a bit of writing and numbers thrown in.

He loves most of it, especially the weekly flag-raising ceremony, which, while a little mystifying to the little ones, is at least accompanied by rousing music and bright red flags.

In a few days' time it is the National Day holiday.

I don't know about my little boy, but I shall be collapsing with exhaustion by then.

Anyway, I'd better go. Homework to do.

For China Daily

When school means more homework for mothers