Friday, October 17, 2008

Home School?

No other aspect of parenting taxes my personal reserves like having to provide oversight during homework time to my kids.

Looking over my daughter’s math book, I spotted an error. “Two plus five doesn’t equal eight, you need to check that problem again.”

She pouts; her eyes begin to water, “I’m stupid! I’m never going to get this, never never never!” She folds her arms and puts her head down on the table and wails.

Over the two years of helping this one with homework, I’ve tried various responses, soothing tones of reassurance, militant aggressive “you’ll learn it and you’ll like it” boot camp, incentive offerings that make me feel like a time share seller. “Add now and get this glorious peanut butter jelly cookie, fresh baked from the oven…add two and get an additional glass of milk, Vitamin D enriched to ensure that even though you are missing prime playing outside time by doing your homework, you won’t get rickets.”

I've even tried praising her every attempt. Because it made me feel vapid, I used song. Cue Perry Cuomo! “You know that doing your work is… Wonderful! It’s Wonderful…so they say…” She'd humph, bury her blonde head on the table and refuse to move. But then, it might have been my singing.

Research within my own home has revealed all approaches equally ineffective, so now I just stay with the time honored, “I’ll get back to you.” when this happens.

“Do you like my essay?” My eldest daughter brings me her first draft. The writing is excellent but the spelling makes it hard to read. I praise her use of words and turn of phrase effusively as she beams. Then, I gently offer to underline the wrong words so she can look them up.

A cloud appears on her face, she draws in a deep breath and screams. “I can’t spell alright? It’s just too hard!”

“I know you can do this.” And I hand her the dictionary
“I don’t want to!” she shouts tearfully and stomps off.

Now this one, I know. She’ll huff, she’ll puff, she’ll pout up and down but in the end, she’ll fix the errors.

The first one had forgotten her pout until the sister’s response reminded her, “Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be upset.” She reboots her sad face.

Buying time, I check on my son.
“How’s it going?”

Having to read assigned books for school has reduced his verbal expressive skills to annoyed and angry.

“You know, I loved Charlotte’s Web when I was in third grade.” I started.

“Humph! That’s because YOU WERE A GIRL!”

“Whatever! RRRAGHH!” and he thrust the book back in front of his face with a scowl.

O for 3.

I don’t remember fighting this hard with my parents over homework, although I do remember getting poor grades for what felt like forever until I figured out what the teacher wanted. It involved actually paying attention. Who knew?

“I don’t like the book!” my son was insisting. I tried sympathy. I told him about hating “Lord of the Flies.”
“That book sounds cool! Can I read it instead?”

“No.” Ack! Conversation veering out of control. Going in very wrong direction!
“Why not?”

Think fast! Ummmm…..“You’re not old enough.”
“Do we have it?”

Knowing that if I say yes, there will be a wild gleam in his eyes as he then spends the time that should be allocated to discovering the lyrical joys of E.B. White to find the verboten tome that epitomizes adolescent male rage run amok, I swallow and answer honestly, “I don’t think so anymore.” It is vague enough to cause disappointment. I know in a moment, the spark to be contrary will be extinguished by the return to school work.

“I still don’t like this book.” He explains, thumbing the pages.

“That doesn’t matter. This is the book that was assigned. This is the book for the project. Here is the rubric. Just answer the questions.”

Reading the actual assignment for what oddly feels like the first time, he discovers he can make a 3-D poster instead of a report. Suddenly, Charlotte’s Web rocks as he breaks out the scissors, construction paper and glue.

The fourth child is nowhere to be seen. She has used the commotion to escape to the basement. It takes every fiber of parental discipline I have to call down to her to return. I discover she’s been spelling the words for her older sister. They both give me a mild look of, “and I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you and your meddling!” before sitting down.

Meanwhile, the pouter has returned to coloring and may be safely redirected to math once her masterpiece is completed. She bolts through it like a champ and gushes, “This is easy! I’m really smart in math. You were right Mommy!” complete with a very earnest warm hug. Melted beyond my own willingness to admit, Perry unbidden comes back into my head to finish the song.

“It’s wonderful…so they say.”

1 comment:

MightyMom said...

so...when MY kids get to the homework stage can I send them to YOUR house to do it???


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