Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Serenity Now!

My dear son has a science take-home test with 34 problems on it that is due tomorrow. I guess it was assigned on Monday, and they were supposed to complete 10 questions a night. I discovered it by accident in his backpack yesterday, after he informed me that he didn't have homework, and left to go play with friends.

Speaking of the backpack/binder: there is a mess of papers in there, but I get yelled at every time I try to go through there and sort it out. I made him a folder with labeled pockets for classwork and homework, and there is a student planner that he is supposed to be writing assignments in, but he rarely does. So, I guess I have no choice but to let him continue being messy and disorganized. He makes As and Bs, and always has his work completed to turn in, so I guess he's doing an acceptable job.

Back to the science packet: Zach worked on it with his dad last night after our Cub Scout meeting, but they made no progress, and Darren informed him that he needed to try to work on it at school today, and he would have to sit down and work on it until it was complete after school today.

Zach came home today, complained about the unfair punishment that he received from a teacher for stopping and waiting for a friend while he was supposed to be walking laps at recess, then sat down to work. After the second item that he could only give me a silly answer for, I asked him what resource he was supposed to be using to complete this thing. He responded that he was supposed to use his science textbook and journal, but that he didn't bring either of those things home tonight. I informed him that my brain was not going to be the resource that he used to answer all of the questions, because I think that was his plan, and told him that I will be happy to check his completed work, or help him with a difficult problem that he has attempted and been unable to answer, but he is on his own besides that.

When did children become such helpless hand raisers? That was something that I had a big problem with when I was teaching fifth grade. Students would look at a problem for a second, decide it was too hard, and immediately raise their hands for assistance. What ever happened to trying your hardest on something, and figuring it out on your own, by looking it up in a book or using your brain? Children these days seem to give up too easily, which really scares me.

I know I should help my child with his homework, and I do, but I don't think it's my duty to teach a concept, or supply the answers to problems. Instead, I try to steer him toward the correct answer, or toward a resource for answering the problem. I prefer that he does his work, and I go over it with him afterward. If he does not get a perfect grade on a homework assignment, I am okay with that, because it should be a reflection of his work, not mine.

When I was a teacher (which was only two and a half years ago), the homework that we assigned had to be a review of what was taught in class, not a new concept, and I always took the time to explain each homework assignment, work the first problem with students, and give them an opportunity to ask questions. If that is going on in Zach's class, I don't think he is paying attention.

So, it's going to be hard for both of us, but I am going to let him sit at the table and work on the packet on his own. He has a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words, and I will look in on him periodically, but he needs to figure this out on his own. After all, I am not at school with him to hold his hand and answer each question during class.

It could be a long night...

***Update: I took Zachary to the public library after dinner, and helped him to look up the answers in the encyclopedia, and in some other reference books. Sure, he could have Googled the answers, but I wanted him to learn how to really look for them. The librarian wanted to know why I didn't just let him look up the answers in an online encyclopedia, but I thought that was too easy. In the process, Zach discovered some nonfiction books that he was interested in checking out (he's not a big reader), and came home and started reading. In the end, everyone was happy, and the work was done.

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