don’t know much about history

i have been quietly but officially branded as The Idiot Parent™ by BC.

i was trying to do six things at one time yesterday as i tried to help her with her math homework from afar. long story short, girlfriend (AKA einstein junior) suggested a way to solve a word problem, and i told her it was incorrect. fast forward to later in the evening, when she was finishing her work with BS. BS told her that her solution was actually correct, and i was wrong.

from here on in, BC only wants to do math homework with BS.

i should be happy about this: one less task (check.) truly, i do have the mathematical ability of a raccoon. my scholastic math experiences didn’t help matters. but over the years, i have built up my confidence, at least to the point that i think i’ve mastered things like long division. (do they teach that anymore?) but where i memorized my multiplication tables to multiplication rock as a child, BC is learning more about thinking about numbers in a way that i never did as a memorizing fiend.

i just don’t want to set a terrible example for her. while i find math about as interesting as watching grass grow, i know i have to put on a big show about how cool math is. (anyone have ideas as to how i do this convincingly, let me know.) and yes, i know math is important in the world; no preaching required. i just never found it interesting the way i found reading interesting.

and, in a related vein, girlfriend wept last night. she has to give a report on the sun. she worked on said poster and picked out five interesting facts about the sun all by herself. however, she is afraid the boys in her class will rip her apart. her sun facts apparently aren’t terribly impressive to anyone but herself. after giving her a mini-lecture about how she shouldn’t care what the boys think (boy, do i see this as something that will come up again and again in the future), and that she should only care about what she herself thinks about her work and what her teacher thinks about her work, i started to have a mini-reverie.

and i got pissed.

in this family, i make my kids do their own projects. (i passed third grade. i don’t need to pass it again.) i was surprised when i went to her parent/teacher conference last week and saw some of the other solar system posters, which clearly had serious adult contributions. what the hell? i want my kid to learn all by herself, and here she has to compete with projects completed by forty-plus-year-olds? i sure hope teachers see through this sort of thing, as it is unfair to compare her work, which clearly looks like the work of a third grader, with the work of a grownup.

what do parents think when they do their kids’ projects? do they think they are helping them? will they be walking into chemistry class later on in high school to help their child complete an experiment? joining them on job interviews? i don’t get it. and i hope my kid doesn’t get penalized down the road because she did her own work. why the hell do they need to start the competitiveness crap this early?

in short, grownups need to grow up.

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7 Responses to “don’t know much about history”

  1. Yeesh. The more I hear about what we have to look forward to, the more afraid I am.

  2. I am totally with you on this one Wreke. So far my son has had a few big projects and he has done them all by himself with minimal help from me. I was clipping the shrubs in front of our house and saw the long and very straight clippings and decided they would be perfect for his Chanukkah Menorah project. The only help I gave him was the cutting. That was great, but when he had to make a tree for Tu B’shvat, he did a very nice tree, but clearly less than what other kids brought in. I was so afraid that he would come home crying because if it. Luckily the teacher gave him a big sticker for this work.

    I basically refuse to do my sons work. I help him when he needs it, but that is all.

    Here is something even worse. When I spoke to my friends about the Solomon Schechter School we were going to send our kids to they told me to watch out for “parent homework.’ These are assignments that come home for the parents to do. I was so upset with this, that I asked the new head of school, but he of course could not give me a good answer. For example, we were told to come in to class one day and give a talk about something (I cannot recall). The only reason my wife did it, was because she had to be in the building that day anyway. In 2nd or 3rd grade I have been told that we will get an assignment that we will need to write about our family history. If I get that, I will refuse to do it. What good does my doing an assignment do for my kids? Perhaps they should ask my child to interview me and right a short report on my responses.

    ARRRGGGGH! Being a parent is hard enough without my kids school giving us work to do.

    Anyway, sorry for the rant, it is an issue that is always in my head.

  3. Hear, hear, Wreke. On the parents doing kid homework. My preK-er had a ‘report’ due on a famous African American figure and we were told repeatedly to have her do it herself (good so far, huh?) — then when we handed it in, apparently the picture she had drawn all by herself didn’t measure up to the color copies of book covers like the other kids. Luckily my kid missed all that. I used to teach 7-9th grade English and I graded more than my fair share of parent essays (yawn). Let the kids learn, folks. You learn by DOing. As for math, hmmm, my dad’s a mathematician. I think you are right on that you want to model for your daughter that you’re into the math she is doing. Math fear is a powerful societal construct for girls (my dad used to run workshops on this in the public schools with his university students, trying to break down stereotypes for girls and students of color). I guess maybe instead of trying to relive the memorization, see if there’s anything cool she can teach you about her new ways of looking at numbers. I know that whenever i taught anything i learned it so much more deeply than i ever imagined i might.

  4. mamabird, how interesting that your dad ran such workshops! i went to a womens college that still tries to support women in math and science (and lookie, i ended up an english major…) but i didn’t regain my confidence on math until graduate school. no lie. i don’t want that for my kid.

    i’ll ask her about how she understands her math. i may learn 🙂 thanks!

  5. This is a timely post for me to comment on. I just spent all day yesterday judging the local Odyssey of the Mind tournament, where kids are supposed to do *all* their own work. There is even an “Outside Assistance” form they fill out, detailing exactly how other people helped them (which should be relatively empty, mind you). The part I judged (this is my third year doing it) involves the kids and only the kids, no coaches or parents in the room, so I don’t really have to deal with the potential for adult assistance. However, the other part of the competition has the potential for adult interference. Some of the judges are specifically tasked with talking to the kids about their creations, asking how they got their ideas and put their materials together. Many of those judges tell me about the “oops” statements they hear from the kids. Example (to a group of fourth graders): “Wow, that’s a pretty elaborate PVC pipe construction. Can you tell me how you made it?” “Oh, so-and-so’s Dad cut the pipes, and so-and-so’s Mom fastened them together.” (!) Can you say penalty?

  6. torent my friend,

    last year at OOtM was when i first realized the extent of parental over-involvement. i was shocked to see vehicles that were clearly not built by kids. our group leader specifically was hands-off about our kids’ project, and we were extremely proud of the work they did. but when we saw what other kids had done, we were definitely chagrined. what kind of lesson does that teach kids — do the right thing and get screwed over?

    i sure am glad there are judges out there like you :)))

  7. Had to comment on this one – we noticed the same thing in the school science competition, which may be why M. didn’t want to compete after doing it one year. You could really see the difference between the ideas the kids came up with and the ones driven by parents, which generally involved petrie dishes or complicated aerodynamics! The most Jeff will do is help M. find images on the internet to print out for her posters.
    Interesting postings about OOTM. That’s one reason we were so proud of M.’s team last year when they came in 3d – the group leader was scrupulous about no help for the kids, but we heard that not all teams take that approach. But again, after one season of competing against teams like that, M. lost her taste for it, and who can blame her?

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