Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What I learned by watching my Mom do my homework

Yesterday I did a second grade science project. See, when you wait until the very last day to do it, you pretty much have to do it yourself, because you can't really say to your barely-eight-year-old, "well, son, I know your parents haven't actually mentioned any of this to you, but you sort of generally knew you had a science project due, right? I'm gonna slap some love and logic on you real hard tonight and tell you 'Oh, so sad! What are you gonna do about this'?" because it is more than he can do to organize this sort of thing at all, and he certainly can't do it in an afternoon. Heck, it was more than I could do in an afternoon. That's why I started it yesterday morning, right after I dropped him off at school.

So what have I learned from this experience? I mean, besides the fact that no one could tell the difference in taste between regular and low fat string cheese and regular and low fat peanut butter? I have learned that if I want him to do his own work, we cannot procrastinate a la my usual fashion.

But really, an even better question: What has Sam learned?

I pray, enough second grade science that he will be able to do his own childrens' projects, about 20 years from now. It seemed to work for me.

See, doing all this homework has made me reflect on my own education; specifically, how I learned to write. And so I'd like to take this opportunity to send out a special thanks to my Mom, who wrote that Etiquette report for (with, next to, instead of- let's not be picky about our prepositions) me in 5th grade. It was really good and interesting. I mildly revised that thing over and over again, turning it in a total of 5 times. It  reached the apex of its career in 1991, when I turned it in to a Pierce College psychology class (which I was taking so I could get out of high school early in the day, to free up my afternoons for eating In-n-Out burgers and watching The People's Court and Days of Our Lives) in 1991, where it received an A+. (It only got a B- in my sociology class at the University of Arizona, and I was afraid to try it out again at BYU, for fear someone would turn me in for honor code violations.)

I'd also like to thank her for the buffalo and crab reports, the Germany project, the three poems that won prizes and were published in the Granada Hills High School Literary Magazine, and the college essay that got me into UCLA (a real tear-jerker about how I desperately wanted to be a teacher. Even though I didn't want to be a teacher.).

At some point, though, our parasitic writing writing relationship became more symbiotic, and then, I learned to actually write for myself. See, sometimes I would procrastinate so long that I was writing my papers at lunch, and they were due 5th period. And I noticed that I got good grades. A literary bird flown the nest. And my Mom almost never writes this blog for me anymore.

So maybe I should have stayed in Education, because I've got this revolutionary theory that doing your kid's schoolwork for them occasionally might actually be good parenting. (Or it might have been my sister's revolutionary theory, but either way, we both graduated from the same Mareen Layton Literary Course.) The theory is this: that watching the process- being involved in the brainstorming, trying out sentences and watching them be revised, spending 15 minutes throwing out words, trying to find just the right one for the third line in the second stanza,  realizing how much time and effort it takes to produce good work, in addition to what a quality product really looks like up close- are all skills you don't learn in the classroom.

They are learned by watching your Mom do your homework.
(And maybe you get some of it by reading one trillion books, just for fun. Using time you might have spent going to a party, out on a date, or being a cheerleader, all of which you forgot to do. So you really hope all the books were good for something.) 

Do you agree? 
Vehemently Disagree? 
Are you going to call the cops?

How did you learn to write? 

**Update: My my just called to tell me she'd read this, and she only had a couple small changes she wanted made.


Bee said...

Very entertaining post, but I can honestly say that my parents never did ANY of my homework for me (not even science projects) and I have repeated the favor (lack of favor?) for my children.

I think the only way you can learn to write WELL is by reading a lot. Not sure if that advice will help a second grader, though.

Ginger said...

I remember in high school having papers to write, and asking my mother to proof read them for me. She would give me suggestions of a different way (better!) to say something, and I would almost always take her words verbatim and put them in the paper. I believe this helped my writing to develop.
I find myself helping my son in the same way. Teachers have too many students to help them one on one... this is the best way I know to help my son develop his writing.
Reading is good, but the actual rewriting experience, with someone who knows how to write, is priceless.

Kristen said...

I think that 90% of science fair projects are done by parents, and I am emphatically against them entirely. I don't need to be given homework at 30, which I think is essentially the case with the science fair. I will be saying to my kids what my mother always said to me: "I already passed such-and-such grade".

*Helping is a different story, but "helping" is not in the cards.

missloulou said...

I just read this as I helped my kindergardener,and 2nd grader with their homework. That was after I proof-read the fifth graders report, gave awesome notes, and then did some extra online research for him so the report would be better written. We have already worked on some many projects this year I can not keep count. This weekend I will be helping to create a power point presentation. So I can honestly say you are doing the right thing, and I am never wrong. Just ask my husband.

Azúcar said...

I have an allergy to doing my kids' homework.

Helping? Correcting? Supervising? Making them do it over again when it's not right? Yes. Doing it? Nope.

And yes, I stared right into my seven-year-old's face this year and said shucks, then it looks like you won't be in the science fair this year.

The HELL I'll ever do their homework.

And that's what I learned from my parents never doing my homework.

compulsive writer said...

Since you asked...

I learned to write by doing my own homework. And my kids learned to write by doing their own homework. I'm pretty sure we all learned a few other lessons in that as well.