Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I've got the first grade blues

Last night it took Bella a full hour to finish her homework. And that was just to finish it; she had actually completed a worksheet and a half at after school care. At one point I actually said out loud, "This is taking forever!" - (not in an angry way, just kind of not believing that her homework was taking so long) to which Bella responded, "Well I'm the one actually doing it!". Point made and taken.

My homework policy is as follows: I am available at homework time. I don't hover, but I make sure to be nearby. I am available for questions that help her to arrive at an answer herself, but I refuse to provide the answer to the actual homework questions themselves.

I do check her homework to make sure that she has completed it, and I also check it to see what is right or what is wrong so I can gauge how she is doing, but I don't correct it for her. If I correct all her mistakes at home, how is her teacher supposed to know what areas she is having problems with? I will say things like, "Do you want to look this over one last time before you put it away?", and then I will discuss things with her - for instance, she has a problem with capitalization and punctuation (hmm, wherever does she get those pesky grammar problems? It must be from her father). When she writes sentences at home I will talk about capital letters and periods and whatnot with her, and she still forgets and leaves them off. So I send them back to school that way. I could be wrong, though - I'm open to thoughts on the subject.

I do my best to support her. I know education doesn't stop when school ends, so I try to make our home life as educational (yet fun) as possible. We read all the time, do science experiments together, we cook together (and I make her measure and read), we do workbooks and we write stories. I'm doing my part, or at least trying to.

I have been really, really bad about doing an the additional activities that are on her worksheets. Her math worksheets sometimes have this little section at the bottom with a suggested 'Parent Activity', and a box beside it to check if you actually did the activity. The first time I noticed it, the instructions were to take out forks and have the student count them. I confess that I did not bother. Right now, per her teacher's instructions, we are learning to count to 100 by 3's. So the same kid who is learning to count to 100 by 3's is going to somehow learn something by counting our 8 forks? Well, I guess with the salad forks that would be 16, but that's still not going to do much.

Then the next time I noticed the 'Parent Activity' the suggestion was to take down cans and other dry goods and have the student sort them. I see the educational value in that, I really do, but on that particular evening we didn't get home until after 6PM, so we had to eat dinner first, and then we got to homework. By the time I noticed the suggested activity it was going on 7:30m and the last thing I felt like doing was pulling cans and boxes out of the cabinets for her to sort. I have a tiny apartment, no pantry, and cabinets that were built to accommodate the height of NBA players - I have to get on a chair to reach them, seriously. I did have her play with some wooden blocks and instructed her to sort them by shape, then by size, then by color, but since I was busy trying to get Bubba to bed I think she just built stuff - a castle, a bed, then a chair. When I was finally able to offer her my undivided attention she had made a road and was driving hot wheels around on it.

So I didn't check either box to say that we had completed them - the first time because we didn't even bother, and the second time because we sort of attempted it but didn't really get it done. And when the homework came back home, the teacher had circled the little boxes in red pen. D'oh! I felt like a terrible mother. Last night when I was looking over her homework I noticed another parent activity, and I swear to you this is what it said:

Find somewhere one, two or three pictures of someone or something or someone using or doing something that can be used or done at sometime - morning, afternoon, evening, or night. Bring them to school with you tomorrow.

Say what? I had to re-read it three or four times before I actually sort of understood what they wanted. The irony in this was that just the other day I threw away about six magazines that I had been saving for cutting purposes but got sick of them just sitting around. So we were left with my husband's old magazines to look through, and we ended up (thanks to Florida Saltwater Fisherman) with a picture of someone driving a boat, someone fishing from a boat, and someone on a boat holding a fish. Not a lot of variety, but it fit the requirements. Anything would have fit the requirements.

Report cards come out next week, and Bella's school always does teacher conferences for the first report card of the year. I'm looking forward to talking to her teacher - there are some issues that I'm slightly concerned about. My slightly concerned is much more mellow than some of the other parents, who seem to be on the verge of some kind of classroom mutiny. I personally think the problems are mostly organizational and will work themselves out - at least, I hope so. I've heard from people that she is very good at actual teaching, but she isn't the best with details. And neither am I, so I can sympathize.

My conference is Thursday at 3:15, so I guess all will be revealed then. Hopefully. But in the meantime, I hate first grade and it is hard.


Aimee said...

OK - I know that I know pretty much nothing about Bella's school, but seriously? That homework sounds nuts. And I am a proponent of homework! Those parent activities sounds superfluous at best, and if it were I, I would just check off the box whether we did it or not. Unless something needed to be sent in, of course.

And we have the same kind of policy with Francie and Fiver re: homework. They do it, not me. I always say something helpful like , "Hey I already finished fourth grade. Now it's your turn."

Jennifer said...

Re: the parent/child activites. If it's extra and not graded, who gives a darn if it's not exactly what the teacher wanted? (can't believe I, a teacher, just said that)

I would bring up the fork assignment at your conference. Tell the teacher your substituted blocks and that Bella built a city after she was done sorting them. She's going to be an architect! :)

Hang in least you have a few years before Bubba goes to school and you're not up to your eyeballs in grade school homework all at once!