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?
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.