## April 25, 2010

### Homework Hell

Can someone tell me how many math problems is enough to demonstrate that your kid understands subtraction that involves borrowing? I have a feeling it is less than most teachers might think. The thought of one more worksheet makes my skin crawl--and they aren't even my worksheets!! The research (or so I hear), says that homework isn't even effective until around 5th grade. On the other hand, my sister who teaches K says that most parents feel reassured by homework because they see what their kids are doing in school. I am not reassured by homework or by worksheets. I support education, but I want it to be interesting and compelling and not 2,000 opportunities to show everyone that you know what 82 minus 53 is. (It's 29, by the way.)

In second grade at Neighborhood School, weekends aren't made for homework. On Mondays, a packet of math worksheets comes home, to be returned on Friday. These are dreaded worksheets, or at least dreaded by all in our family.

It seems that while I was away, J did not do his weekly homework, and it was still lingering around when I got back. We slunk off to Target, our place of choice for doing homework these days.

One page spoke volumes: there were probably 30 simple two number addition problems on the page, and then my favorite part: "Shade all of the boxes that result in the number 72."

J sighed every time he found the answer was 72. At one point, he said, "Don't they know this is a waste of pencil lead?" At another point, he inquired, "What is the point of shading all these boxes anyway?" I responded impulsively, "You should ask your teacher what state standard that requirement addresses." J thought for a moment and said simply, "Motor skills."

In addition to those 30 problems, he had another 30 or so of subtraction that involved borrowing, and another page of the same. He also had a few pages of telling time, and some other things I don't even remember anymore.

On top of that, he had to write a journal entry in response to the following prompt: "If I owned a restaurant, I would serve...." J is too pragmatic for these things. He doesn't want to own a restaurant and serve anything. Yet, he knows that's not the right answer, so it takes him forever to come with something. So we sat there for what felt like an eternity, talking about serving lego sandwiches (no one would eat it), cat food (too complicated to write about), and the list goes on. We settled on fruit.

As an aside, I'd like to just take a moment to say that having a reluctant writer has really been a reflective moment for me as a former writing teacher. I remember my enthusiasm in assigning prompts like, "If my writing were an animal, it would be a...." I am the proud parent of a child who does not care what kind of animal his writing is. Not that one shouldn't be challenged by those assignments now and then. There is some metacognitive value in thinking about whether or not one's writing is a bat (can only be done at night), a sloth (slow, slow, slow), or a tiger (I'm not really sure here--quick bursts involving lots of carnage?), but I can see the other side, my friends. I have come to understand the other side.

I won't say how the writing got done, but it did get finished. In his own handwriting. The math, on the other hand, is another story. A flock of penguins (are they a flock? or a gaggle? or a quorum?) seemed to waddle by the windows of our local Target, catching J's attention. When he looked back at the table, the math worksheets were gone, and we're not sure where they went.

Obligatory cute kids picture

If J's teacher is reading this, I am so busted. But, I'm sure she's too busy grading papers to take time to surf the net.

Posted by chri1010 at 11:38 PM | Comments (2429)

## April 9, 2010

### the art of passive resistance

J has been going to his new school for three weeks now. He likes that we stop off at a bakery on the way to school each morning. He likes that there's no homework on weekends and there was no homework during spring break. The lovefest ends right there.

The lunch lady called the other day to tell us that he doesn't each the free breakfast, and he also hasn't been really eating much for lunch. Well, I suppose stopping at the bakery on the way to school doesn't leave him much of an appetite for the USDA approved free breakfast. Did I mention it was free? As for lunch, he tells me he drinks a carton of milk and eats a bag of carrot sticks--he says he's just not hungry at that time. He eats a big snack after school and a good dinner, so I'm not worried. But I guess they told him he needs to pick three items so that they can charge him for lunch. He added a pear to the carrot sticks and milk the other day and said it was ok. I think it is just fine he's somehow not eating the chicken nuggets, the meat patties, the pizza, etc. But, that's just my opinion.

We signed up for the virtually free afterschool programs for the spring term. It's our way of not having to pick him up until 5pm and hey, we don't have to pay \$12 a day for the afterschool care program. On Wednesdays he had his choice of art adventure or soccer, and he thought for a long time and chose art adventure. This week, when the class met, he sneaked a book into the program and read during the art lesson. They were making paper crowns, he told us later. I'm sure the kindergarten kids had fun with it.

Today, the principal called to say that J had refused to go to music, and he was in her office, and she was unsure what to do. C talked to J, who had no real explanation for not wanting to go to music, and J agreed to go back to class. Sigh.

No one said it would be easy, that's for certain.

In other news, S is refusing to stand on her own. This is a skill marker she should have passed a few months ago, and frankly, she doesn't seem to be anywhere close to making this one happen any time soon. She can do lots of interesting fine motor things--feed herself, empty containers, try to scribble, take things apart, etc--but she's not into standing and walking. We're giving her another couple of weeks to figure this standing thing out before we do something about it. She did just discover that she can hold TWO things if she doesn't have to hold onto something for support. So...that's a good sign!

I guess with kids, it's always something...keeping us alert and making sure we're paying attention. So, here's some eye candy as a reward for your paying attention:

Happy spring, everyone!

Posted by chri1010 at 3:35 PM | Comments (2117)