Saturday, January 24, 2015

Independence & Homework

I need my children to be independent. With three of them - and both of us working full time - independence is not a "nice to have" but an actual necessity, if I'm going to stay sane. Independence takes training.  Yes, it is definitely faster if I pull up my two year old's pants for him ... but then he never learns.  Yes, my oldest son has some cavities because he has brushed his teeth himself since age four, but at least they are in baby teeth and he is now listening to the dentist about how to properly brush his teeth.  The idea is that the investment in time (and, apparently money) will pay off later with kids who are able to take care of themselves.

This is why the second grade homework has annoyed me ALL YEAR.  While the activities could be done independently, they are not presented in such a way that he could do them himself.  The font is too small.  The chart to fill out is poorly labeled.  The instructions are too vague.  After the first two weeks of school, my son gave up on homework out of frustration.  He knew he wanted to do it, but he couldn't quite do it himself, and by the time we got home/ate dinner/bathed kids, it was too late for him to be able to concentrate.  On top of which, he one time saw his teacher throw the homework chart in the trash, from which he deduced that she didn't really care about his work.

And it wasn't worth the struggle for me.  I identified completely with this WaPo article.

Except this week, apparently his teacher finally spoke to him about the fact that he has not turned in a sheet since SEPTEMBER.  I had already informed her we wouldn't be doing the activities, and she had acquiesced, as long as he was reading and doing some math.  Since he reads -- and makes up elaborate box scores by quarter for basic math skills -- I figured we were fine.  We were, until now, I guess.

This homework chart, however, has been causing much consternation this past week.  So much, that Friday night he refused to eat dinner in the kitchen because then he would have to see the blank homework chart and be reminded that: (a) his teacher was disappointed with him and (b) he didn't know how to fix it because he couldn't do his homework himself.

After yesterday's meltdown, I realized I couldn't be quite so blasé about this homework situation, even if I did think the assignments were silly.  So, today, I took the 10 activities on the chart and typed/printed up 10 corresponding "worksheets."  He read the instructions and said he understood them.  We found a "homework folder," placed them in the folder, and agreed he could pick one worksheet each day when he got home from school.  He immediately recognized this wouldn't work on Wednesdays (Patch has piano then Wm has choir), so he asked me to remind Lea to bring the folder to piano so he can work on it there.

Independence regained.  Life back in balance.  Fingers crossed this new approach works.  Again, as with encouraging all independent activities, it will probably take about 30-60 minutes for me every other Saturday to transform the chart into worksheets, but that is a small price to pay for a kid independently completing his work.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

On raising feminist sons

After Ian was born, a friend commented how sad it was I only had boys, since I would be a good role model for daughters about charting one's own way.  Before I could jump in with any number of comments (first of which, honestly, is that most mothers, regardless of work-life choices, strive to be excellent role models for their daughters and I don't do the "mommy wars" debates because I really do believe every person, man or woman, should decide what is best for him or herself, and as long as he or she is responsible and contributing to society, what do you care? .... but I digress...), another friend sitting with us said, "what do you mean? Pam's sons will all grow up thinking moms and dads can do lots of things, so they'll be great spouses!"

Shortly after that, a different Foreign Service spouse mentioned how the two years she spent as a single parent, while her husband was in Saudi Arabia.  I noted my surprise, because the expat compounds in Saudi generally have a pretty family-friendly reputation.  She said she was just worried about the impression it would leave on her then-middle school aged sons, seeing their mom being restricted from doing some things (e.g., driving) or required to do other things (e.g., head scarves) that didn't apply to them or their dad.  And she didn't know how to parent through those situations.

Thankfully, I've never faced those kinds of decisions and really the only sexist comment I've heard from my kids to date is that "salad is for girls" (though, Uncle Andrew worked to dispel that theory last night).  And most days, honestly, "feminism" isn't really a subject of debate at our house.

I think a subtle message must be getting through, though.

Today at church, Wm was working on the kids pew-sheet handout, decoding a message.  He finished, and it read: "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law and about whom the prophets also wrote -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

He immediately turned to me and asked why it didn't say "son of Joseph and Mary," since "isn't he just as much Mary's son."  (and, I replied, even more Mary's son, given the immaculate conception)  Then, he crossed out the period and added: ", Mary and God."

It's a work in progress (he's only seven after all!), but knock on wood things are on the right track.