Sunday, September 27, 2009

All I know, I Learned from the Internet

The older I get, the more I wish I’d paid more attention when I was in school.

That’s not because I wish my life had turned out differently, no. It’s just I would have preferred to not have my ignorance revealed on a daily basis when my children sit down to do their homework. Before I had kids, I figured I was all set. I’d passed through college and even graduate school with nary more than two “C's.” But there were subjects I avoided studiously, so as to avoid studying; like science and math.

Now a days, as a conscientious parent, I try to be a resource for all my children when they come home from school. But I’ve learned, you can’t bluff your way through the periodic table or quadratic equations.

When my science oriented children were engaged in a game of mental catch over the dinner table about the various properties and distinctions between solutions and compounds, I foolishly attempted to join in the fray.

But chemistry is a subject I ignored even while in the classroom with Coach Keister explaining that a mole was not an unwanted growth on one’s skin. Not to worry I thought, I’ve got wireless internet. I wikipedia’d the subject “Chemistry” while in the kitchen while getting the milk and cookies for snack. I returned to toss off a pithy reference inserting myself into the conversation while pouring.

My attempts garnered a “Where’d you learn that?” and “Mom, that site is completely bogus…” plus a snort of milk requiring me to return to the kitchen for towels followed. It got me wondering why Wikipedia’s so popular if it’s so inaccurate. Why aren’t real encyclopedia companies creating giant conglomerates of actual accurate information so parents across the fruited plains can understand what their children’s homework assignments are?

But those sorts of questions aren’t answered by “Ask Jeeves” or “Dogpile” or any of the other handy search engines out there that promise to open the flood gates of information to the world. I know, I checked while getting the paper towels.

“You have to go to trusted sites.” And of course they rattled off a few. I listed a few of my current favorite places to visit and got “tsked.” According to my children, these haunts of mine were the equivalent of “The Earth is flat” in their chosen fields. Now maybe others out there are more tech savvy than me and Lord knows I hope so, but the way my kids spoke about it, I felt as if the whole World Wide Web suddenly collapsed into a three volume compendium.

Listening to my children’s recommendations, it occurred to me that finding info on the World Wide Web was rather like dating. One had to make sure the page in question was honorable, accurate and not just playing with your mind. Playing the field was useful for discovering which ones would be worth going steady with, but blind dates were mostly scary and unworthy. If one wanted to be certain about the accuracy of information, one had to hold true to a properly vetted place with the fidelity owed a spouse, or in these days, a political party. My daughter offered to show me her fave spots that were best for tutoring in science. "That way, you can help my sister with sixth grade lab." she explained.

Having to do research on the classes I’d skipped twenty-seven years ago to comprehend a dinner conversation seemed like a bit much so I turned my attention to my other children who might have subjects of interest that didn’t require independent study. Alas, the high schooler started his German assignment which left me with my two years of Latin and three years of French useless unless he just needed the phrases from the song “Cabaret.”

The 4th grader started to tackle his social studies. Now I am social and I do study so here, I thought I could be of some use, but he didn’t want a 43 year old’s perspective on anything, not that that was any different from any other time of the day. Turning to the younger children, hoping to prove my mettle as a resource, I looked over their homework assignment sheets and asked, “Do you need any help?”

One child was working on a project concerning dinosaurs. I got excited. “We have books on that, and you can make a model with clay or paint something.” I began scanning the shelves for a few I knew had in depth articles on the Jurassic period with great color illustrations. “Mom, I’m just going to go on the website.” My son patiently explained. “But why assign it if everyone will look at the same page?” I asked. He shrugged. “The paper says to go to this page and read this article.”

I’d already pulled three tomes for his report. “Don’t you want any of this?” I asked? But he was already typing in www. And I wondered if we discovered aliens and wanted to share technology, would we need to change the internet to be the igww, the intergalactic wide web. Then I wondered if I should buy the domain name or see if the government would offer me money to devise it as part of the stimulus plan. I was flunking the motherhood “help with homework” section of the day. My attempts to provide aid and comfort were being ignored or rebuffed or bombing absolutely. I felt like the UN.

The second grader sat at the table writing her spelling words. She has a kinder heart than most and seeing me flailing at every front, she took pity. “You can help me.” She said softly. “What do you need sweetie?” I asked as I hugged her. She handed me a pencil. “You can sharpen this one for me in case the one I’m using breaks.”

My oldest finished his German. “It’s not that you aren’t helpful Mom.” He explained.

“It’s that we’d have to bring you up to speed and that would take more time than actually studying.” My teen-aged daughter chimed in.

I sharpened the pencils wondering if I had the mental will to go and secretly master everything about ionic compounds or learn the irregular conjugations of verbs in Deustche before the next evening. I decided I could live with my reputation as an ignorant adult. So, I’m educated enough to assist through third grade. After that, they’re on their own.

And when they’re grown, they’ll say “Mom, she was as sharp as the pencils she provided,” until we hit third grade.

1 comment:

MightyMom said...

cummmere and gimme a hug!!!!!

that's a rough night!!

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