by Patricia Maurer

Blind parents face the same challenges as sighted parents. Here Patricia Maurer brings us her perspective on one common to all—getting the children to do their homework. Here is what she has to say:

My husband and I are both blind. We have two wonderful children, David and Dianna. My daughter, who is eight, does not find her homework much of a chore. She doesn't really enjoy it—she just is rather indifferent about it.

Our son, on the other hand, does anything he can to get out of it. The punishment and penalties continue, but sometimes the homework just doesn't get done. I went to a public elementary school in a small town in Iowa. It was the only school in the community. I was blind at that time.

My friends, teachers, and parents read to me and, in many instances, wrote information down on paper for me. I could not read what I had written although I was taught to print and was taught handwriting. In the fourth grade I learned to type on a standard typewriter so that I could write and others could read it.

No one ever considered teaching me Braille because there was no one there to teach it to me. Each evening my father would read my homework assignments to me. Once in a while he would go to sleep reading, and I would wake him up. He had worked all day and was tired. He wanted to help me and did, but sometimes it was not easy.

Later in junior high or high school I learned about the Library for the Blind, and some of my textbooks became available on record. I listened to them on a long-playing record player.

I had a tiny amount of vision, and although I tried, I could not ever really effectively use large-print materials. But, oh, when those books came to me on record—I not only read textbooks but began reading novels. You see, I had never read many novels because there was never time for anyone to read them to me. I would occasionally check something out from the public library, but it took too much effort to read it.

In high school I learned Braille. I spent an entire summer learning to read and write Braille. Now, for the first time in my life, I had a way to write something down, and I could read it for myself.

Although I did not have much confidence, others in the National Federation of the Blind, both by example and just by taking the time to talk to me, made me begin to understand that I could do more. I went to college, and boy, did I read and write. I studied all the time. Well, most of the time. I got a degree in elementary education and became certified to teach elementary and special education.

My first teaching job was in a small school in Iowa teaching reading to third and fourth-grade children. These children were sighted, and I was blind. I remember talking with the administration of the school and landing the job. When I got it I thought, now I have to figure out how to get it done.

I hired a high-school student to read to me. He and I made games, and I Brailled materials. The children used print, and I used Braille. It was a wonderful summer, and I got a contract for the next year. I took another offer, and my husband and I were married and moved away from that small town.

You see, I was thinking about my reading and my homework, because I am trying to figure out how to get that boy of ours to do his work. I want him to learn to love to read, because it is so important when it comes to learning and living a complete life. He's not blind. He can pick up any book and just read. It seems so much easier for him than it was for me when I was doing my homework.

But for now his books and homework pages sometimes get lost. The assignments seem very hard. He doesn't want to read them out loud so that we can help. He just wants us to know the answers. Soon, I hope he will begin to look for the answers and read the assignments. Because if he does, I know he will find at least some of it interesting.

I know there will be the nights when my husband and I nearly fall asleep helping the children with their homework. There are the nights that we are relieved just as much as the children because there is not much homework. I believe that if I ever go back to teaching I won't be able to help the fact that I now have a mom's perspective on homework.