Homework: isn’t it about time?

03.19.14 | Family | 3 Comments

We’ve been a little worried about Callie lately. Grades came out a few weeks ago and hers were much lower than I expect to see (twos on a scale of one-to-four). She is very conscientious about her homework and seems to understand the concepts, and she reads late into the night. I really don’t want to be “that mom,” demanding that teachers recognize the Mensa-level brilliance my kids exude. I hope I’m aware enough to know that where I see fiercely-delicate, uncommonly superior children, others see pretty average, normal kids. On the other hand I want to be proactive, advocating for my kids just like my mom did for me.

(It’s kind of like trying to decided whether to take your kid to the doctor. Ninety-nine percent of the time I’m confident that Dr. Google and I know what’s going on, but that one percent is the time I’m in with one kid for a routine visit and the doctor hears her sister cough in the corner and whips her head around in concern. Five minutes later you’re out another copay and leaving with a “walking pneumonia” diagnosis.)

On St. Patrick’s Day Callie came home with a themed 6 x 6 Sudoku puzzle. I like logic puzzles (the kind you find on the GRE), and I’ve gotten really good at the word searches Avery brings home, but I hate actual puzzles and though I enjoy math, I’ve never done Sudoku. She struggled and struggled. It came with very few instructions. I tried to find it on Homework Google, but couldn’t find the exact puzzle (lots of other St Pat Sudokus tho, if you’re into that).

I figured this was a good time to remind the kids that they’re on their own when it comes to homework. Much more valuable for them to puzzle it out on their own. (hah!)

Tom came home and took pity on her. I said if they were really serious about it they should make tiles to move easily around instead of drawing, erasing, re-drawing, ad nauseum, harps/shamrocks/rainbows/etc. They worked and worked. Dinner and bedtime came and went. They worked and worked. It didn’t get solved. I was just about to fall asleep myself when Tom told me he’d found the key: cross-hatching. I did the Aged P nod (Great Expectations) as he explained the method and wished him good luck on his plan to brave Callie’s morning brain and breath to teach her.

The next morning Tom woke her up thirty minutes early. I don’t know how to underline this unless you have a kid who is like a hibernating bear every single morning. He explained, quietly-excitedly, how to solve the Sudoku and she (slowly, slowly) caught on. Tom took a later train in order to be there for her, and I don’t know how to underline that unless you have a spouse who doesn’t miss work unless he’s got something much worse than man cold.

As I dropped her off just a few minutes late, she told me she didn’t want to write “finishing my homework” as the reason for being late on her tardy slip. I said, “Why not?” and she said that usually that’s not a true excuse so it sounds weird. I said, but it is true today, so just write it.

All that day I felt pleasantly circle-of-life, remembering how my dad once patiently spent hours in front of a chalkboard with me, explaining that “borrowing” (now known more-helpfully as “re-grouping”) was actually a fair and okay way to treat your subtraction problems.

I spoke to Callie’s teacher and found that her low assessments are a result of the grandfathering in of Common Core Standards and that in reality she’s at the top of her class. There’s nothing to worry about, and Callie can get the new book we give as a reward for good grades, just like her sisters. And then as we walked homeĀ from school, Callie asked if we could find another Sudoku puzzle for her online and print it out. I said yes.

(Tom wrote about this on his blog too.)