Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Homework Hell-p

I have a confession to make:  I enjoy solving algebraic equations.  And multiplying and dividing fractions.  (Glad to get that off my chest).  It's all like a puzzle to me and I love doing that kind of brain stimulating homework.  The thing is, it's not my homework.  My almost 12-year-old son is a huge procrastinator.  A big, stinkin', distracted, overstimulated mess of a boy.  He cannot just sit down and power through his assignments in a reasonable amount of time to then enjoy the rest of the evening with his family.  What should take maybe two hours takes him six or seven hours when you count dinner time, a few chores, and hundreds of visits to the bathroom.  No, he doesn't have any sort of disorder that makes focus near impossible (nor does he have a bladder the size of a pistachio) - he is just an adolescent boy with other things to occupy his mind and cause him to forget what he's doing.

When he started middle school we assumed he had the homework thing all figured out.  He didn't ask for any help and we didn't check assignments, but he's responsible and strives to do well, so the threat of failure was his own motivator.  But what is "failure"?  He started to worry after a string of math assignments came back with 3/5 points.  This meant that his grade was a measly 60% (for you math-challenged folks) which translates to a solid D-.  We all started worrying a bit.  And so began the homework checks before he went to bed and his revisions early in the morning before sprinting out the door.  I didn't really care for that method because it didn't allow for immediate recognition of what was wrong, so he and I started doing math together.

Of course, he had to remind me how to do each new process.  Dividing fractions?  You have to flip the numerator and denominator and then cross-simplify before multiplying.  Duh!  Right, I knew that... But he enjoyed being the tutor, which really translates to pointing out what an idiot I was for not knowing this stuff already.  Flashback to my own adolescence: I remember handing over my math book and worksheets to my dad so he could help me.  When he wanted to read the chapter first, I thought he was a total imbecile.  What?  You went to Berkeley!  You should know how to do high school math!  Jeez.  Yeah, what goes around, blah blah blah.

Most of the teachers make concessions for homework that seems to take too long.  If kids are spending too much time on it but seem to have mastered the concept, or the child needs more specific instruction, parents can sign off on the homework.  I don't think Zack's teachers really want a note detailing how long he lounged on each couch, what music he finally decided on, and his chosen method to stealthily shoot Nerf darts across the hall into his brother's room.  He's like the dog in "Up" - everything is distrac --- SQUIRREL! --- ting.  And it doesn't matter how many times I urge him to focus and keep working.  I'm even getting tired of hearing my speech, especially when he has his head on the table at 10 pm because he's so tired.

If only Minecraft made you complete an algebra problem before you could close the doors against zombies, things might be different.

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