If Einstein Was in 3rd Grade Today…

October 13, 2008

I expected that one day I would be unable to help my kids with their homework. What I didn’t expect was that it would happen in third grade.  Nothing makes Dad look like an idiot more than having to google for instructions on how to complete his 8 year old son’s math homework.  Honestly, folks, if the great minds of yore were subjected to these types of academic acrobatics during their early developmental years, they would have all given up and pursued careers outside of academia.

A couple of nights ago, Mack and I were working on his spelling, something that I can still accomplish thanks to Microsoft word and spell check (as long as my laptop is within arms reach I can look very much like the smartest man in the world).  While working on the mechanics of the long and short “O” sound, I noticed several graphs in Mack’s homework folder.  Curious, I asked my son what the papers represented.  Mack broke out some audio visual equipment and quickly shot a power point presentation up on our wall. Next, he pulled a laser pointer from his pack and told me that he would appreciate it if I did not eat while he was lecturing. Then things got weird.

Mack explained that the first graph illustrated activities that children his age normally participated in and that the numbers associated with each activity represented academic value equivalence on a scale of 1 to 10 (1=rolling a booger; 10=building a cold fusion reactor).  Most of the activities that Mack had graphed such as tossing a baseball, playing army men and shooting a BB Gun were assigned academic values somewhere between booger rolling and paste consumption.  It would seem that these activities do little in regard to developing cerebral functioning and, as such, are not really valued in the fast-paced world of elementary education.  This is my own assumption, I’ve never received a note from Mack’s school saying not to do these types of activities, but the sheer volume of homework that he totes through the door daily seems to tell me just that.

On an average day, Mack brings home a couple of math worksheets, spelling exercises, projects and, oh by the way, translate Homer’s Iliad in Latin by Friday!  Of course, after an 8 hour day sitting in a classroom, Mack would rather eat a pile of steel wool, so you can imagine the amount of time I must invest to get him to produce even a marginal academic product- painful.  Sorry, I started to spin out of control. I get fired up when I talk about the number of competing interests that define my boy’s day.  Let me explain. If you’re a parent, this will probably sound familiar.

I get fired up because both Mack and Cay walk through the door at 3pm.  They go to bed around 8pm. Connie and I have approximately 5 hours per day to accomplish everything that needs to be done prior to sending the kids off to Dream Land.  So what needs to be done?

Like every other set of parents in modern day America, we have character building activities like team sports, guitar lessons, swim class, etcetera.  For a while, we even had the guys going to hip hop dance class and cub scouts.  Hip hop was Connie’s idea.  We are obviously attempting to cultivate the most well rounded children in the universe.  Maybe we have fallen prey to the idea that our childrens’ resumes are a reflection of our parenting ability and to not get them involved in multiple activities/sports/hobbies will send them spiraling into social disgrace. Sounds serious, doesn’t it?  Connie and I are by no means the most extreme parents in this regard either.  We know plenty of parents who go above and beyond in the activities category.  Their kids are headed in so many directions they need personal assistants, Blackberry’s and a case of Red Bull each morning just to keep them in the game.

So, add in the pile of homework I mentioned above, plus somewhere in there we have to feed, nurture, clean and love on our kids and suddenly that 5 hour block of time seems pretty inadequate.

Therein lies the dilemma, what’s most important at this stage in my sons’ lives.  Do I really need to worry about the progress they are making toward their college entry exams or should I be more concerned that neither of them has learned how to properly “hawk a loogie”?  Should I encourage them to spend time dissecting the quadratic equation or should I be kicking their butts in a hot game of Yahtzee.  Do Mack and Cayden really need to know how to “pop-lock” and spin on their heads or should I help them master the front yard cartwheel first?  Bottom line, what’s most important to the development of a 6-8 year old boy?

I wrestle with these questions mostly because of my own childhood experiences.  I think I played one year of t-ball as a kid and then didn’t see organized sports again until high school.  I wasn’t a cub scout, but spent an inordinate amount of time in the woods with my buddies hunting gardener snakes and building forts from scrap lumber.  I don’t remember homework in 3rd grade, to be honest I don’t remember 3rd grade, but I think I was learning how to color, not building graphs to reflect my poor time management skills.   That being said, even though I didn’t get the benefit of all of those organized activities and homework assignments, I still turned out fairly normal (fairly meaning almost normal).

Have we, as a society, complicated our childrens’ lives so much that they can’t find the time to enjoy just being kids?

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Mary Ann posted the following on October 14, 2008 at 9:56 am.

Amen! too much homework, what ever happened to catching frogs, polly wogs and bugs….I remember making a fort in my friends garage in the rafters, secretly riding our bikes to the dime store to buy Jolly Ranchers and savoring them in our dusty spider infested fort.
Third grade hmm who WAS my teacher….

Connie posted the following on October 14, 2008 at 12:11 pm.

In my defense, the hip hop class was 6 weeks long and purely an attempt on my part to thwart the boys’ breakdancing efforts and replace those “moves” with something a little less apt to send us to the hospital with a dislocated shoulder. Besides, who wants their kid being made fun of at the school dances? If you saw my boys dance moves, you’d totally understand.

admin posted the following on October 15, 2008 at 8:19 pm.

My kids still chase after little living creatures. Mack and Caydens most sought after prize is the Maryland Blue Crab. They love to catch them, and love it even more when Connie fires up the crab pot. You never boiled a frog did you Mary Ann? Maybe my kids have taken this time honored tradition to the next level.

I imagine they will continue the hunt until Wii comes out with a game that simulates catching bugs, frogs, turtles and crabs and then they’ll sit on the couch and catch cyber critters. So sad…


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