Homework starts earlier these days

Bill Nighy and the cast of Ordeal by Innocence

VERITY LUSH: This is my idea of Christmas telly torture

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When I was at infant school in Portsmouth, classes started at 9am and finished at 3pm.

Once that bell had rung to signal the end of the school day, I knew that class was over and fun time was about to begin.

Fun could mean playing with my favourite toys like the popular ‘Mouse Trap’ board game or it could mean watching my favourite television programmes like ‘Fun House’ with Pat Sharp.

At that time in the late eighties and early nineties, homework from school was not on the agenda. In fact, I can’t remember getting homework until I was in secondary school. However, for my five-year old daughter Caitlin who’s in her second year of infant school, homework is definitely on the agenda.

She even has a book which has the words ‘homework book’ written across the front cover in permanent marker. While I do wonder if homework is appropriate for children at such a young age, it does give me a great insight into what Caitlin has been learning at school and how far she is progressing in certain subjects.

As a parent, I’ve learnt that there are certain stages to the homework process. The first is actually finding the homework. Caitlin will come home from school and put her bag down somewhere. Where that bag gets placed changes on a daily basis.

Then once we’ve found the bag, Caitlin’s concentration has to be moved away from what she’s doing, over to her homework book, where she has to remember what she has learnt at school.

This often takes as long as the actual homework itself. Once the homework finally gets started, I begin to get a sweaty top lip as it dawns on me that I have to be the clever, grown-up parent and explain what she has to do, as well as trying to remember information that I learnt more than twenty years ago.

As I look down the page, I wonder how such young minds can learn such clever stuff. I think back to myself as a five-year old, when I’m sure that all I was doing at that age was learning about the alphabet, certainly not about percentages or who was the first man on the moon.

The final stage comes the next day when we try and find the homework to take to school. It’s in the bag, but where is the bag? There are many arguments for and against such young children being given homework and I can understand both. Most importantly though, it gives me the chance to sit down and spend time with my daughter which, for me, can only be a good thing.

Housework is one of those things that most of us don’t enjoy and would rather avoid, but to keep the homes we live in clean and tidy, it simply has to be done.

When there are children in the house, the vacuum cleaner and polish are even more important and are often in regular daily use. I’ve found that some things can make more of a mess than others.

For example, when garden peas are on the dinner menu, I can almost guarantee that many of those little green things on my daughter’s plate will end up on the floor. Glitter is another enemy of mine. When my daughters want to be creative, I’ll be reminded about it for weeks afterwards because the multi coloured glitter gets everywhere.

Having said that, there is something even messier than food and glitter - and that’s grass. I recently made the mistake of letting my daughters play in the garden shortly after the grass had been cut.

From then on, our house had the distinct look of a forest about it. Remind me not to do it again or at least to buy a garden rake first.