Using analogy to explain math homework

Other posts on school or homework here.

Homework, assigned or self-imposed by the meany parent that I am, will be the end of me.

So I switched gears and I found myself in a rather enlightening parenting moment the other night. But to get to the point about the analogy, please allow me to provide some background first:

My third grader does not get a lot of homework in the form of the bring-home, repetitive, fill-out-worksheet, regurgitate-memorized-information type. And frankly, I’m on the fence whether I want to have him do this type of work, or not. On the one hand, practice and repetition is a good way to learn foundational material, like arithmetic, but on the other hand, no one in this house or within proximity of earshot to this house wants to hear the complaining about those kinds of activities.

Still, grade 3 is elementary school which is foundational learning which in my view requires a certain amount of repetition. But my child finds the entire idea *boring*, and *crap* and won’t do it without a certain amount of, let’s use the word encouragement, from me.

[insert parental eye-roll]

But I insist on it anyway. Continue reading

Climbing out of the parenting pit

Every now and then, while parenting your offspring,  you might find yourself all the way at the bottom of some deep, dark pit. There seems to be no light penetrating down into the abyss and you wonder if you’ll ever find the stamina to climb back out again.

When parenting challenges you beyond what you think you are capable of, you may feel an urge to lash out at the culprits. Often the culprits are not the children themselves at all, since they are prone to picking up conflicting messages and reacting to them without the insights, or sense,  that comes with maturity. They see their world in linear terms, and you, the parent, sees beyond that immediate scope. You see a larger picture evolving and causing more confusion, which in turn affects your family dynamic.

In my experience, the culprits are often external. And we all know the world can be a confusing place. Continue reading

What the child heard the teacher say

Two lovely people have commented on this post.  Please go see what they have to say.

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When a teacher says to his elementary school children

I want you to write a story, don’t worry about spelling and grammar, just get the story out

I get it. I get it because when I have a blog post percolating in my head, I just want to type it out and worry about the editing later. Some of those posts never get published because my editing ends up frustrating me and the piece remains illegible, but the point was made. It’s right there in text, on the screen in front of me. The words are out. They may not be clean, grammatically correct or error-free, but they are out of my head.

Point taken.


The teacher is speaking to 8 year old children. He wants to impart the importance of getting the story out while it is fresh in their heads, by allowing them to overlook the correct grammatical structure of their sentences.’ Just get the words out’, he says to them.

Unfortunately, as a parent I am experiencing a dramatic wake-up call in HOW an 8 year old child is interpreting this exact sentence. And the result is far from educational.

When an 8 year old child hears ‘just write the story, spelling and grammar are not important‘, he hears this:

Spelling and grammar are not important.

Please allow me to illustrate further. Continue reading

A sign of things to come?

In today’s weekly newsletter issued by Benjamin’s Kindergarten teacher, there is a little remark about March Break, which is coming up next week.

The remark suggests that the children draw a picture, and if they can, write one sentence about something they did during their week off from school.

I read this to Benjamin at lunch. I said: “How exciting, you get to draw a picture of something you did during March Break and share it with your friends at school. You love to draw pictures!”

His response, to my surprise, was lackluster.

“That’s going to be VERY hard”, he said.


“I don’t know what to draw”, he continued.

I said that chances are pretty good that we’ll drive someplace at least some of the time during March Break. For one thing, we’re driving to a church to have his birthday party in their basement on Saturday. I’m pretty sure at one point during the rest of the week we’ll drive to suburbia to visit his grandparents, possibly for a sleepover. Since he knows how to draw cars, there is no excuse that his homework assignment is “too hard”. He could draw a car, with a smiley face in it indicating himself, and then write the word “nonno” (what he calls his grandfather, showing how he went to visit him and his grandmother). Or he could draw a car with a smiley face in it indicating himself going to his birthday party and then write his name and the number 5 next to it, showing that he had a party on his 5th birthday…

The possibilities are endless.

His less than enthusiastic response to the ideas however makes me wonder if this is a sign of things to come in the homework department…

10 piles of 10 = 100 Lego pieces

Benjamin’s Kindergarten class is counting. In celebration for their 100th day of school, the children are to count 100 items of something that they can take to school with them on that day. They suggested pennies, or beans, or beads.

Well, we have the Lego King here who decided that counting out 100 pieces of Lego could be fun.

In order to challenge him a tad further, I thought we could make it a little bit interesting. Instead of counting out 100 random pieces of Lego, why not make piles of 10 similar Lego pieces? He figured out quickly that we would need 10 piles, and he had a lot of fun decided which Lego pieces deserved the honour to be included in his piles.

In addition, I wrote out “the tens” (10, 20, 30 etc) on a square piece of paper and let him choose the correct one once he finished counting out the piles of 10.

The book One Watermelon Seed is a good introduction for small children on how to count, and how to count groups of ten.

Full-day Kindergarten in Ontario

*quotes taken from The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I seem to be one of very few people bothered by this. It rubs me the wrong way. It makes me realize  that parents of small children really have very little choice, since all the emphasis is to warehouse the kids rather than support the parents and let THEM make the choice as to what may be best for their kids.

Here are some quotes from the Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne that are keeping me up at night:

  • …a regular school day program led by a teacher and early childhood educator working on a new play-based program tailored to help four- and five-year-olds learn and grow.

Program? Children at that age need a program from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed?

  • …it is imperative to get all children no matter their background, into the classroom as early as possible.

Why do they have to do their learning in a classroom at age four and five?

  • …the kids who are going to be the employers and the employees…etc and so we need to give them the best start possible.

So the kids NEED to be in a classroom in order to get the best start possible? The stay-at-home parent is offering her kids a disadvantage by keeping them home?

Here is what Minister of Children and Youth Services Laurel Broten says (who has preschooler twins, if I’m not mistaken):

  • A full day of learning means a full day of guidance and instruction from those who know how kids learn best.

So a certified teacher, possibly one that has no children of his or her own, is better equipped to teach a four and five year old how to learn 8 hours per day in a structured environment than a stay-at-home parent who is going to be spending his or her day tuning in to daytime TV while the kids watch Nickelodeon on a TV in their play- or bedroom.

Both of these women then spend some time talking about how the “integrated curriculum” of “extended day programs” before and after school will only benefit those children more.

While this is going on, we get a nice little note from the federal government telling us that hey, by the way, we owe them $500 of money they have given us in the form of a Child Tax credit. They made a mistake based on their calculations and we should send them a check immediately or face a penalty.

While Javadad heads out to work, I stay at home and make do with just enough money to manage, and instead of support from our government who is already taxing us up the yingyang, we get penalized.

What happened to childhood?

The message is clear:

Get a job Javamom and put your kids in full-day Kindergarten with extended learning opportunities before and afterwards so that I give them the best start to become a contributing member of society.

Thoughts on mainstream public school

Now that I have one child in a public school system, where the mainstream prevails, I spend more and more time reflecting on a variety of things that could be, if only….what? Better? More alternative? More child-centered? Less mainstream?

If only we lived in a different time? A different country? A different community? If only we had the money to put him in a private alternative school?

Many articles in Psychology Today address the current problem with contemporary child-rearing, and child-education. (Freedom to Learn/Psychology Today)

The reality is that we, most of us, do the best we can with the restrictions and limitations handed out to us.

Had I known just how much I like the Montessori way of educating children back when I was a non-parent, I would have started saving for that benefit with my first job.

We do what we can with what we have (and we make mistakes).  And currently, on day 2 of junior kindergarten, my 4yo doesn’t seem unhappy with his new, non-Montessori environment. Really, he’s only there a few hours per day, the rest of the time he is home with me. I have to focus on this, on him, on what he likes or dislikes, and not subject my negative attitude on him. He doesn’t see things the way I do…

It’s hard…but it has to be done. Like I said, he’s not unhappy. (yet)

A funny, educating, interesting read is Bill Bryson’s The life and times of the Thunderbolt Kid. He talks about his childhood in a town in the USA during the 1950s, and boy, is it an eye-opener. If they taught history that way I would have liked the subject a heck of a lot more!


I’m not sure what kind of parenting will be required of me now that I have one child in the public school system, considering that I dislike almost everything about it, and that only on day 2. Will I have to conform against my will? Will I have to let go of my discomforts if my child ends up “like them” and isn’t unhappy about it? Will I have to move, or homeschool? I’m not uncomfortable with the idea of homeschooling, but I will need some time to adjust to the idea….

For now, I will do what many of us do. Watch the child, follow the child’s needs, and do the best I can with what is.

Even though what is isn’t what I had envisioned.