291. The Homework Club

I volunteered to substitute for a friend at something called “The Homework Club.” It had been set up by parents who wanted to give children a chance to do their homework in an atmosphere conducive to actually doing it, with adults around whose only reason for being there was to give them appropriate support. It would be nice if every child had some time at home when that could happen, but many children don’t, for various reasons.
The way my friend had described The Homework Club, I did not expect to enjoy being there. My friend had done many favors for me, and I thought I was finally going to get a chance to do a real favor for her – something I wasn’t doing for my own enjoyment. I’d done child care for her and her husband, but their children are so delightful that I couldn’t, in good conscience, count that as a real
favor. But The Homework Club sounded as if it was going to be real work. My friend was going to the dentist, and I approached my volunteer role wondering whether I was going to wish, for the first time in my life, that I had gone to the dentist instead.
It wasn’t the best time I’ve ever had. There I was, with children who, for one reason or another, needed help. I enjoy helping children whose needs are academic, perhaps stemming from perceptual problems, confusion, slowness, and/or lack of confidence. I can be patient and supportive with such children. And such children were there. But so were children who didn’t want to be there, or at least didn’t want to do homework there. And so I count it as a favor.
Most children in the communities I’ve lived in have gone home after school, or have gone to lessons, team sports, friends’ homes, after-school programs. They’ve usually liked school, to some degree, but when the bell has rung at the end of the day, they’ve gotten the same thrill I used to get, as a child and as a teacher. Free at last! Even in the best schools with the best teachers, there’s something magical about not having to be in school. I’ve rarely encountered children who didn’t want school to end. When I have, it’s usually been because of negative things that were waiting away from school, not because school was so wonderful.
So I really didn’t expect to enjoy The Homework Club. I spent time with some children who were simply having trouble with their homework, but also with some whose main problem seemed to be that they had homework, and didn’t want to do it. Outside the classroom, unpaid, and not having to be there, I was somehow more able to connect with these children than I’ve ever been. My friend told me, later, that the children who usually presented the greatest challenges hadn’t been there. That probably helped. But I think I’ll be part of The Homework Club next week, too.

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