I’ll let you in on a little secret…I am not smarter than a third grader. Especially when it comes to math. Not the math that served my generation and the many before me just fine (although, truth be told, I wasn’t that great at that math either:). The new math. Common Core math. The math that takes you around the block when all you want to do is go across the street.
When it comes to math, my daughter and I live in two different worlds. In her world, she has learned to write a paragraph explaining why 1+1=2. In my world, 1+1=2 because I said so (*rolls eyes and throws pencil). I got so sick of hearing, “We don’t do it that way” whenever I tried to show her why an answer was wrong that I felt compelled to learn how to do it the new way. Then I could actually help her with homework, thus become a better parent, blah blah blah. Ha! It only took about 5 minutes of bundling, skip counting and trying to show my work for me to ask myself, “What the hell are you doing?” I am not the teacher. Besides, isn’t the purpose of homework to reinforce what the kids have already learned in the classroom? After reassuring myself that I was smart and I was important, I decided to totally change my approach to homework.
Now, I start the school year by letting Journey’s teachers know that I don’t help with homework. I make sure she does it. I check it. I make sure she turns it in. And I sort of hint that her ability to understand and complete an assignment is really a reflection of what transpires in the classroom. Naturally, they agree.
Before Journey starts her homework, I make sure she reads the directions and I read them as well to make sure she understands the assignment. If she has a question, I go over the directions with her again. After that, if she still doesn’t get it, she takes it back to school and lets her teacher know that she didn’t complete the assignment because she didn’t understand it. This approach accomplishes three things:
1. Prevents her from starting the habit of going along to get along and pretending to understand something just because everyone else seems to get it.
2. Encourages her to advocate for herself and not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help when she needs it.
3. Eliminates the stress that we both felt in our attempt to turn in perfect homework assignments. It’s okay if she gets a few answers wrong.
So now I’ve added homework to the list of things that I vow not to “fix” for my daughter. Yes there will be exceptions to this homework rule. But I‘m going to try my best to step back and let her make mistakes and learn how to correct them on her own. And hopefully she will gain the confidence to know that she is capable of doing just about anything—without my help.