Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Grade 4: Homework

Jackson came home with the happy news in September he had the "no homework" teacher. I am pretty sure she did not actually say that, but that is the impression he came home with. Although I did not believe that Jackson would come home with no homework for 10 (long) months of grade 4, I admit I let this assessment temper my expectations of how much homework there might be.

I knew that we were in for a long ride when in September, I read in Jackson's planner "Math, p. 257 #1-6". I too easily jumped to the conclusion that the notation meant that Jackson had homework to do. In math. And that it was on p. 257.

"You have math homework today?"

"No, I don't"

"It says so in your planner".

"It does?"

"Here, isn't this your handwriting?"


"What does this mean?"

"I have no idea."

"Does it mean you have math homework?"


I think that is what we in the legal profession call implausible denial.

A further cross examination, elicited the admission that he had worked on math in class that day. He may or may not have finished the work in class. It was all a little futile anyway, since Jackson did not bring home a textbook or anything with 257 pages in it.

On reflection, Jackson grudgingly acknowledged that he may have unfinished business on page 257. He then expressed some anxiety over the fact that they were not allowed to take the math textbooks home. Which created, for him, the impossible situation of having work he did not get done in school that he could also not do at home.

So I sent a note to the teacher in the planner asking which one of the incompatible statements was untrue:

1. He had math to do at home.

2. He could not bring home the math textbook.

Unfortunately, the teacher was away and the substitute did not read my message or did not know the answer to my question. In the planner, however, was a more urgent message "Math Math, p. 257 #1-6 due TOMORROW!!!!!!" All the excessive punctuation did nothing to calm the feathers of mother or son.

Fortunately, his teacher was back in the saddle at school and solved the great math text mystery and confirmed that he is allowed to bring home the textbook.

We then went through a period where the following exchanges would happen:

"Do you have homework?"


"It says in your planner Language Arts finish questions"

"I finished that at school"

"Then why is it in your planner?"

"Because it was on the board and we have to write it in the planner even if it is done"

"That doesn't make sense"

{sigh} "I just do what I am told Mommy"

It turns out he was right. More often than not he got his work done in class and the notations in the planner are solely for the purpose of testing the J Boy's memory and vexing the J Boy's Mother.

Since then the homework came home only infrequently. I think Jackson's distaste for Mommy's homework harangues motivated him to use his class time wisely.

In mid October Jackson had his Cubs' camping trip, the only weekend Jackson was busy all fall. This of course was the weekend a boatload of homework came home. I could not complain given the dearth the previous month, except for the really unfortunate bad luck of trying to accomplish one of these impossible tasks:

(a) get Jackson to do homework right after school on Friday (as likely as getting Charlie Sheen into any kind of meaningful rehab);

(b) get Jackson to do homework on Sunday afternoon when he'd had about 90 minutes sleep and I am in the middle of cooking a turkey dinner (as likely as Mel Gibson ever successfully completing sensitivity training);

(c) get Mommy to forget the homework was due (as likely as my being invited to Prince William and Kate's wedding in April).

Until Christmas the homework was pretty tolerable. After Christmas the pace has picked up. This Christmas to spring break period, I have come to know, is the 'meat' of the school year. I can tell you so far that I much prefer the bun.

Last weekend alone Jackson had math, language arts, socials, music, spelling and a speech to finalize. This of course coincided with the longest trip Husband has ever made in 11 years of marriage. Admittedly some of this work was making up for work his missed when he was in some extra (computer!!) classes he was able to attend. But still!

Jackson and I are learning to cope. I have learned to give lots of notice, to let him pick what he will work on next, to do it in small chunks, and to keep Sydney busy with the dog so neither interferes. I have learned to let Husband take over when the mother-son interpersonal dynamics become toxic.

And finally, sometimes letting the J Boy break a pencil is surprisingly therapeutic for him. An HB pencil broken into four pieces lets him purge his homework demons and we can get on to the important work of three digit subtraction, learning the eighth notes in recorder are twice as fast as the quarter notes, sorting out Jacques Cartier's three explorations to Canada ..

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