When I first see my daughter’s homework assignment for this week, my first thought is “She’s got off lightly!”
These were her instructions:
Child: Now you are in a new class, you should start to do something new to show that you are getting older. Why not set yourself a new goal or target? Make your bed, get dressed without help, choose the clothes you wear, help with the cooking, wash up or tidy up, do your homework without being told.
But then I read on. There are instructions for parents too.
Parent: Now your child is in a new class, you might want to set yourself a target. Read a story with your child at least once a week, help your child spend some time with a friend, take your child to the park, walk your child to or from school, get up nice and early so you don’t have to hurry in the morning.
I’ve done all of these most days in the last week, so no novelty there – but the last one is a delightful surprise:
Have some time to yourself.
Suddenly I’m warming to this assignment.
As a family, we discuss which targets we will choose.
My husband’s is to take Laura swimming once a week. A keen swimmer himself, he’s been taking Laura swimming since she was tiny, but lately the habit has lapsed. He’s pleased to receive this prompt to take her again.
Laura suggests that she pledge to wash up. She’s not daft – we’ve got a dishwasher. After we point this out, she decides she’ll empty the dishwasher every day instead.
I think hard about my own target and come up with one that feels liberating but strangely naughty: I decide not to work at weekends. This, I realise, should benefit not just me but the whole family. I need no further persuasion to give it a go.
On Saturday morning, resisting the urge to turn on my computer, I feel as if I’m playing truant. My husband trumps my achievement by taking Laura swimming straight away, followed by a trip to the Chipping Sodbury Mop (the odd, historic name for the funfair that’s in our nearest town this weekend), making it an all-day outing.
Which means even further liberation for me: I enjoy the rare luxury of a day at home alone. In fact it’s so rare that for a few moments after they’ve gone, I cannot think what to do. But then long-buried ideas bubble up to the surface, and I spend a pleasant day dashing about the house doing all kinds of constructive and satisfying tasks:
- reorganising the utility room
- sorting out the ironing
- cleaning the birdbath and replenishing it with fresh water
- hanging two strings of bird seed from the apple tree
- picking a big bunch of sweet peas from the back garden
- gathering two big handfuls of late cherry tomatoes from the greenhouse
- harvesting lots of runner beans and a couple of courgettes
- making some vegetable soup
- finishing a book I’d started reading on holiday a month ago (Susan Buchanan’s Sign of the Times, set mainly in Scotland, where we were holidaying)
- giving the Welsh dresser in the kitchen a much-needed polish and rearranging the display on its shelves
- decluttering the kitchen windowsills (a bigger job than it sounds, believe me)
- bringing back into the house three huge succulent plants that were taking a summer break in the front garden
- getting out all our winter hats, scarves and gloves, washing them and hanging them up to dry
And I didn’t even have to empty the dishwasher.
Without this assignment, I’d have spent the whole day sitting in front of my computer and have nothing tangible to show for my supposed day of rest. Instead, I feel like I’ve given half the house a face-lift and benefited the garden birds too.
Just as I’m sitting down with a cup of tea to admire my newly tidy kitchen, Gordon and Laura burst back into the house, all aglow after a lovely daddy-and-daughter day together. They look very happy.
All in all, it’s been a very satisfying piece of homework for all the family.
I don’t know what mark Laura will get on her homework this week, but I’d give her teacher top marks!
In the mood for more homework? Here’s a post about some from my own schooldays: And So This Is Christmas
Or if you’re in need of further inspiration on the subject of tidying up, try: Tidying Up, Gary’s Way