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.