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Unless you’ve been living in a cave (one without WiFi), you’ve probably caught some of the buzz about Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I first heard of the book over winter break, when I read a review in BookPage. This was only days after I’d lobbied my husband for a homework-free Christmas Day for our children.
“They need to learn discipline in the face of temptation,” he snarled. “Their future depends on how many points they get on tests.”
So my kids were up at six on Christmas morning, doing homework at my brother’s house in South Carolina under my husband’s supervision.
My kids have a lot of homework, and they spend a lot of time at school. The other mothers – the tiger mamas - ask for more homework, more after school classes. Last year I complained because my son rarely got a break, never got to play outside during recess because he was correcting his homework. Instead of taking up the complaint with me, my son’s teacher admonished him in front of his classmates, saying that he should attempt to be more like the hard-working, precise Japanese than the lackadaisical Americans. My son, thoroughly humiliated, ordered me to never complain to his teacher again.
I kept my mouth shut, but that doesn’t mean I agree. I think that in order for creativity to develop, kids need unstructured time. I think that physical activity is as important as concentrated study. Also, kids need rest. And as I always say to my husband and kids, when I was in elementary school I never had any homework, and I turned out fine.
I took piano lessons for a while, but when I was ready to quit, my parents didn’t put up any fuss. Same goes for my guitar lessons and the string bass. In junior high school and high school, I did my homework and got good grades not for my parents, but for my own satisfaction. I got into the college of my choice, and so did my brother. And from an early age, I decided that I wanted to be a writer and get published, and I worked hard toward achieving my goal. Again, there was no one pushing me to be a published writer, but my parents have cheered me along every step of the way.
Although my husband, like my son’s teacher, may find me lackadaisical, I still have confidence in my low-key approach. I trust my son to find what interests him most, and to pursue it with passion. And when he does, I will support him in every way that I can.