and a one and a two

I feel sorry for that mom, I thought as I closed my web browser. I empathized with the blogger who had described her anxieties about back to school, specifically her struggles to get her child to complete homework.

Let’s call a spade a spade: I pitied that other mom. Good thing that Philip’s only in kindergarten, I thought. I won’t have those issues.

It’s like I’ve never heard the word jinx before.

Philip returned from day three of kindergarten with homework. As I read the instructions on the math worksheet I asked myself, What the hell does “counter” mean?! I recognized the word, but had never seen it used this way. That’s probably why the teacher had sent home the manual that I hadn’t yet read.

In kindergarten, your math homework features number recognition. The numbers one and two were the stars of last night’s worksheet. Tracing the numerals and counting them aloud would be a piece of cake for Philip. Dozens of scraps of paper decorated with “1 2” in various shades of marker litter our house. One of Philip’s favorite vocalizations is “one, two, one, two, one, two.” Philip is a master of one and two.

“Philip, it’s time to do your homework,” I called. He joined me at the kitchen table. For two seconds.

“Philip, sit down with mama.” He ran a lap around the living room before complying. I showed him the worksheet.

“Trace the numbers,” I instructed. He took the pencil I offered and examined it before putting it in his tub of markers. Then he began his ritual of picking up and putting down markers, uncapping and recapping each one. Maybe he’d rather use a marker, I decided. I selected a blue marker and handed it to Philip. He put it back where it belonged and left the table.

After the third summoning, Philip took the pencil and traced the numbers.

“Great!” I praised him. “Now let’s color in the boxes.” The boxes are the counters, in case you were keeping track.

Philip threw the pencil and took off.

I put Philip’s folder away lest he decorate it with markers while my back was turned. Probably with ones and twos. I put on my sandals to take Philip outside to burn off some getting-used-to-school energy.

“Did he finish his homework?” Peter asked.

“Not yet,” I sighed.

After Philip ran several laps around the house, climbed up his slide, and became covered in mud, I took him back in for round two of homework. This time when I got his worksheet out, I flipped it over.

Oh crap, I realized. There’s a back page.

There were more pencil-throwing, marker-sorting, and various other not-sitting-down-to-do-homework shenanigans before Philip finally traced the rest of the ones and twos on his worksheet. I then demonstrated how to color in the correct number of counters.

He wasn’t impressed.

To his credit, Philip wrote 1 and 2 in the counters beside exercise number three, but that was the extent of his interest in counters/boxes and homework in general. In case this wasn’t clear to me, he tossed the pencil. With this one-two punch, I was down for the count. I returned his folder to his backpack.

“Homework all done?” Peter asked.

“As done as it’s going to be,” I said.

“Gee,” Peter quipped, “third day of school and he’s already failing.”

Philip may not be failing, but his mom sure feels like she is.

Crap. Math homework again tonight.

Crap. Math homework again tonight.

37 thoughts on “and a one and a two

  1. To my mind it’s not you or Philip who is failing but the homework itself. It sounds completely inane and confusing! If he already knows what one and two are, then there’s no need for him to do the homework anyway. (I am a bit counter-cultural when it comes to school though!)

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    1. I realize the reason for homework is that not all parents support learning at home. There are much more meaningful ways to explore the concepts of one and two rather than a worksheet, but there’s no guarantee that all parents will reinforce the learning without the guidance of homework.

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      1. I guess my cynical mind feels that in homes where parents don’t support learning otherwise, they’re unlikely to help with homework either. Not that simply accepting that fact is a solution either!

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  2. Kindergarten was the year of discovery for us! On recommendation of a social worker I was reading The Out of Sync Child when Laura started K for the second time. She had a young first year teacher with a chip on her shoulder who knew everything and nothing. While other parents blamed the teacher I knew my little sweetheart was having trouble at home as well. She’d rather destroy materials than do homework. With help from some pros she is now able to work through her ADHD and Reactive Detachment Disorder. She is now in second grade and doing a lot better. MRM is right, hang in there, and keep writing, it does get better.

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    1. “The Out of Sync Child” is a fantastic book. I’m glad that social worker recommended it to you. It sounds like it helped you find the right path for your daughter. If you need other resources for sensory support, please let me know.

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  3. oooh man. i chuckled at all the pencil throwing, et al. but i’m sorry. and i really hope you don’t feel like a failure. there’s too much dang pressure on these kids in KINDERGARTEN for crying out loud. it’s one reason i’m glad we put Lovie into Montessori- they don’t have homework because they do all their “work” at school.

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  4. Really well written! My 6 year old never, NEVER, wants to do homework. I skipped doing the summer assignments all together. Then, I learned they were “due” 4 days after school started. We did them and I was immediately reminded why I put it off in the first place. Homework is the world’s most sucky thing. He hates it. I hate it. I need it to get better, but if last year was any indication…it ain’t gonna. Deliver me from this evil! And you! Deliver YOU from this evil. Again, well written. And, best of luck. -Lisa

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  5. Our second grader is bringing home work to do for the first time. We’ve been lucky so far. Of course, he told me about it after soccer practice last night … at bed time. I feel for you. Good luck, Momma!

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  6. Elementary school homework was a nightmare for us. I think there’s this idea that the work is simple so the kids should be able to do a bunch of it (front and back sides of a worksheet). But at this point, they’re still getting accustomed to having to do something and turn it in. The homework should be writing their names in the upper right hand corner of the page and not eating it before they turn it in. But hey.

    Good luck! I hope that you guys find a good rhythm.

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    1. We got more homework last night and Philip had his own plans for it. Thank goodness he didn’t try to eat it, but he drew a line down the middle and folded the paper. I’m not sure what he was creating, but I made him stop. And then he wrote the numbers 1 -11 on the page. I guess he’s trying to get bonus points for not finishing the night before.

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  7. Getting used to school means getting used to homework too (unfortunately). My Mum got us to do homework when we first got home from school so we were not out of our school zones yet, she had us sit down to do our work and when we were done we would show her and get our afternoon tea. I don’t know if you feel that system would work for you, but I thought I would put it out there in-case you could use it. I have my fingers crossed that he will settle into it for you once it becomes routine šŸ™‚

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  8. We have lots of homework struggles in this house. Hope you can find a routine or something that works for you to ease things. (And there’s no way you’re failing. You are trying and it’s new for both of you. School just started. Go easy on yourself.)

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  9. Oh yeah – I know that routine very well. We have our good days and bad days with homework. On the days that it’s clear that every single second is going to be a fight I don’t push it. Sometimes it’s just too much for them and we have to respect them enough to accept that.

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  10. Jeeze I thought it was bad they started homework in first grade over here, but kindergarten? That’s just too early! I think anyway. You certainly are not failing. It’s hard to get most kids to do homework, especially after they’ve just had a full day of school and want to play. One step at a time.. you’ll get it done.

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  11. Wow, homework in kindergarten!? My son goes to an alternative public school and they don’t do homework. Like Montessori, it’s all done in school, partially because they feel that the kids whose parents won’t help them are disadvantaged compared to those whose parents will. But the thing is, when he gets to non-alternative middle school, all the other kids will have a routine and know how to do homework, and he won’t. So I guess what I’m saying is, though kindergarten seems a bit young and it’s a struggle, eventually it will teach him some good planning and study habits. It sounds like you have a good perspective – no need to force him beyond what’s necessary for now. And NONE of you are failing. At all! Sounds like you’re doing great šŸ™‚

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  12. When I first started working in educational publishing, I was amazed that the jargon used for teaching math had changed so dramatically since I was in school. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that teachers send home a manual explaining what everything means.

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    1. I still haven’t read the manual since Philip just does what he wants on the page regardless of what he is supposed to do. I’m just happy when I can get him seated to pay attention to the page.

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  13. Homework sucks but pointless homework sucks even more. Two of my children were blessed with a teacher whose policy was ‘there’s no crying in homework.” Whether parents or kids were stressed out or if there was any fighting we were to stop IMMEDIATELY put everything back in the folder and write her a quick note. I LOVED that woman! I am anti homework for homework sake. The 2nd grader is suppose to write 20 spelling words each night for 4 nights to practice for his spelling test. The first night I gave him the spelling test and he aced it so guess what…Momma ain’t making him write no stinkin’ words!

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