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Homework – the early days (How did we survive?!)

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Homework – the early days (How did we survive?!)

On February 1, 2016, Posted by , In Living in Italy,Schools, With No Comments

I had a discussion this week with an American family about what to expect in the early days of schooling for their kids at an Italian school on moving to Italy from the US (particularly the homework situation). I think I scared them to death when talking about this before. On reflection though I think that the whole episode has been pretty positive and better than I expected.


Excited and nosey


On the first day the teachers and pupils were quite excited and inquisitive about the ‘new arrivals’ and generally were extremely helpful and supportive of the children. We had heard that there MIGHT BE a teacher who spoke English on hand to assist for the first few weeks , we are still waiting! The school Englishteacher caring teacher was around but only in emergencies to be fair, we soon realised that she had her own classes to attend to and so was not going to be sitting at the desk next to our child during the entire day (I now feel stupid for even thinking this!). I must say though what the school lacked in English language they more than made up for in effort. Italians have a wonderful love for children, they are very protective of their children and so therefore will do their level best to restrict or diminish any amount of suffering that the children may experience.


Had we thought this through?


While we had made every effort to learn some Italian before moving to Italy from the UK, we had really concentrated on topics that we thought were really important such as food, weather and your general day-homeworkto-day polite conversation. Silly us! What we should have focused on was Ancient Greek history; the Romans; Art History and as many Maths and Science terms as we could muster. Why you ask? Well, it hadn’t occurred to us for one minute as to who would be helping (or doing, in fact) the children’s homework every day for the first few months when they got home. I must admit it was a bit of a shock the first day when the kids came home with two bits of homework each…but when it happened every day we were beginning to think that God didn’t like us and Hell had been sent early or maybe the stranieri (foreigners) weren’t welcome and this was a ploy to wear us down and chase us out of here.


We got organised


Realising what was in store for us we went and bought as many dictionaries, grammar books and the such-like as we could and armed with Google Translate we got started. The process was as follows:


  1. Type each page into Word
  2. Have a drink
  3. Cut and paste into Google Translate
  4. Cut and paste English translation into another Word docItalian language
  5. Read and understand text
  6. Have a drink
  7. Find the answers on the web
  8. Write out answers
  9. Type answers into Word
  10. Have a drink
  11. Cut and paste into Google Translate
  12. Cut and paste Italian translation into another Word doc
  13. Child writes answers into their exercise book
  14. Have two drinks – one because its needed and one in celebration


On average it was taking us about 3 hours every night to do each child’s homework (to be fair the drinks probably didn’t help but they were needed). We have two kids, eventually my wife and I worked separately otherwise we’d never have any home life. What would have taken any normal Italian child 30 – 40 minutes ended up taking us all night! Let me tell you never in my life have I regretted not taking a ‘touch typing’ course in my latter years at school when the opportunity arose.  I opted for Business Economics (a fat load of good that did me!)

To add insult to injury


So this was only part of the punishment. What made matters worse was 2 days later we’d get the marksteacher back for the homework that he she they we did. Now, I’ve prided myself throughout my life on being pretty good at maths and to be given an 8 out of 10 when I can clearly see that the answer is correct and the proof is there had me marching up to the school to demand my his other 2 marks. I was promptly told by someone half my age that ‘it was a good effort but it is not the Italian way’. Luckily he is still alive….


Prepare yourself


I guess the advice I’m trying to give you here is a) either prepare yourself to be whisked back to your youth and to having to do homework again after all these years or b) look for a school that doesn’t believe in homework as all the schoolwork is done during the day (good luck with that!)


If you have any of your own stories I’d love to hear from them in the comments below. I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can on these.

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