With our youngest child in kindergarten, all three of our children are in school and while the boys have been doing this routine for a while now, this is new territory for our 5-year-old.
All I can say is, I’d forgotten how involved parents of young students are asked to be in their children’s academic career.
But I can also say, it’s all coming back to me.
You see, our boys ages 15 and 17 respectively, have been fairly self-sufficient for some time now. I don’t have to check their backpacks for important school notices — in fact, most times they chase after me with their important paperwork as they try to get me to sign or pay for something —and I’ve become accustomed to this routine.
However, a 5-year-old doesn’t quite have that sense of what’s important and what’s not and therefore, as we’ve already discovered, a few things, well, um, have slipped through the cracks.
Things like…uh, homework.
Okay, first off, homework in kindergarten? Really? Geesh, I know things have changed a lot since I was in kindergarten — gone are the days of naps and graham crackers and milk — but I don’t recognize anything about the kindergarten my daughter is currently enrolled in.
At Back To School Night we were informed by the end of the year our child would be reading and doing algebra. What? I didn’t start algebra until high school. Now I get to look forward to scratching my head in confusion over my 5-year-old’s homework instead of waiting until at least junior high to feel completely inadequate.
Trying to help my kids with their homework often feels like I’m a contestant on Jeopardy — and I’m in the hole. Or worse, I’m a contestant on Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? and I’m getting owned by a kid who still sleeps with a stuffed animal at night.
I’m flabbergasted by the complex work, disguised with funny cartoon characters and whatnot, that these kids are doing.
The kindergarten routine of my era consisted of playing, singing, drawing, napping and for some kids, eating paste and learning about the importance of packing invisible “cootie” spray. We learned the alphabet, socialized with our peers, and memorized the Pledge of Allegiance. We certainly weren’t learning about variables.
So, confession-time, not so good on the follow-through with the homework stuff. My daughter forgets she has homework and because she’s not chasing after me, waving the paperwork in my face, I forget, too. What a pair we are. Of course, I care about her academics. She’s a smart kid and I know she has the brainpower to do the assignments easily but my scattered brain on the other hand, doesn’t work in a linear fashion and, well, some things just don’t stay on the grid.
And because of this, homework time in our household has been, shall we say, erratic? I mean, we have good intentions, but again, follow-through is not so good. Thankfully, our daughter doesn’t seem to be suffering in the academic area in spite of our best attempts to completely screw her up.
I look at it this way: We’re teaching our kids to navigate obstacles. In this case, those obstacles are their scatterbrained, preoccupied parents. If a kid is serious about their academics, they’ll find a way to be successful. Now, I’m not saying I just throw my kids to the wolves when it comes to their academic career, but I don’t hover either. I tell my high school age boys: You’re the captain of your ship, it’s your choice to let it run aground. And that’s the crux of life, right? No one can make you succeed, no matter how hard they may push or pull. You have to be the driving force behind your own success. This is something I believe in and I encourage my kids to take it to heart. It works with my boys and I hope the same philosophy will work with our daughter.
However, at this moment, I have a kindergartener with homework every night.
I guess I can’t ask a 5-year-old to navigate those academic waters alone — at least not yet.
In the meantime, it looks like we have homework, too.
Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.