Q. What’s the biggest difference in the way kids do their homework these days?
A. The kids don’t cry. The parents do.
I might not pass fourth grade. If you recall (correction: if you read) last Monday’s story, I’m working very hard to help my daughter with the umpteen pounds of homework she brings home every evening — Fridays included. She’s learning things at 9 years of age that Mike and I didn’t even hear about until junior high (among other things). Am I smarter than a fourth grader? I thought I was, but now I’m not so sure…about anything.
A few weeks ago, Ava had to edit a paragraph by identifying misspelled words and incorrect punctuation. If you haven’t spell-checked a document on the computer lately, you wouldn’t know that a lot is now two separate words. It takes alot of time to spell a lot in a different way! It’s also not all right to keep writing the word alright. After all (one word or two?), it doesn’t make sense for things to be alwrong.
And let’s take a minute to discuss the friend we love to hate, The Comma. Our elders, Strunk and White, insisted that we add a comma after the word ‘and’. Martha likes to drink wine, beer, and vodka. My media friends who honor the Associated Press style of writing (and believe the Oxford comma should be killed), insist that Martha likes to drink wine, beer and vodka. Strunk and White would’ve shaken their heads in disapproval. Beer and vodka don’t go together. In fact, Martha will probably get very, very sick.
While I’m refilling my glass, let’s move on to math (or is that Math?). Today’s student does not learn subtraction by borrowing from his neighbor. No, no. We don’t borrow from anyone, dear! We re-group. Regroup? Whatever. Students now cross out from the second column and regroup the first. Oh, but remember — that’s if you’re doing subtraction. If you’re trying to solve a long addition problem, you no longer start on the right and move to the left. No, no, no! It’s far easier to find the answer with a partial sum strategy. Estimate the nearest hundred, then the nearest ten, and then go back and pick up the ones. Instead of three steps, students now have 15. I mean, fifteen. I also need to know if it’s still important to set off large numbers with commas. Is it 1,500 or 1500? I guess periods are more important than commas when it comes to math. It’s quite inconvenient to deposit $15.00 in the bank but write $1500 in the ledger. Not that I’ve done that — lately.
As Ava and I sat in the dining room working on grammar and so-called style, she argued with me over the use of hyphens. She’s being taught the way I was told to forget. That goes for capitalization and the “proper” recognition of what used to be a proper noun.
“But that’s not right, Mama!” Ava insisted. “That’s not what she told us!”
This is a classic example of why parents have to stop helping their children with homework. We don’t know how to do anything the “new” “right” way. What’s worse than being wrong is realizing that our kids don’t trust us anymore. This also makes them feel guilty. On one of Ava’s second grade math tests, she was asked to show her work. She completed the problem numerically and then wrote in the white space next to it: This is how my dad said to do it.
Thankfully, New Math experts say it doesn’t matter how a student gets the answer as long as that answer is correct. English isn’t as understanding to be such a subjective subject. Isn’t that redundant?
Still sitting at the dining room table with fists full of graying hair, I fought back tears of frustration and exhaustion.
“I’m not wrong, Ava! I’m just…..diffffferent!”
I meant to type five f’s, by the way. It’s a blog. Someone told me it’s OK. Okay?
Deciding that first grade had to be easier, I went to check on Maryn, who was working on a new list of vocabulary words.
“Do you need help with your English homework?” I asked. Maryn had a blank look on her face.
“It’s called Saxon,” she announced.
So here I am now, pounding out a blog post at the kitchen counter while Ava and Maryn sit in the other room where they can’t be bothered. By their mother.
Yes, that’s a fragment. Or, it used to be.