About ten years ago, I was a single, 31-year-old bachelor. I had never been married or had kids of my own. A new show came out that year, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, called, "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" At the time, I thought it was the most ridiculous idea for a show ever! I mean, come on, of course adults are smarter than the average grade school child . . . right? Then I watched an episode, and soon realized, a lot of the stuff I learned in school, had been lost over the course of 15 to 20 years. All of the information these 5th graders were learning was fresh on their minds. In some capacity, these children were smarter than me.
Fast forward, ten years later, and here I am with two junior high age kids, whom I adopted when I got married. We soon added my biological son, who is now in first grade. It's sad to say, but I have no clue how to help my teenagers with their math homework. I think it was about 4th or 5th grade, when the math I knew, completely changed. I remember trying to help my then 8-year-old with some division problems. I wrote it all out on paper, and he looked at me like I was doing trigonometry. He said, "Dad, this isn't how we do it at all." He then showed me some of his work, to which I'm pretty sure it looked to him as if I were trying to read abstract algebra. That was my first experience with common core math. Pretty much everything I was taught in school, was now different. It's not like I was a math genius in the first place. I was average to slightly above average back in the day.
My daughter, now in 8th grade, struggled her first semester of 7th grade in a few classes. I tried to help where I could. I quickly realized, the best thing to do was communicate with her teachers and set up extra time where she could get one-on-one sessions with them. Her grades eventually went up. My oldest son, now in 7th grade, is struggling mightily in math, science and social studies. Again, I've tried to help where I can, including the use of Google and YouTube, but it doesn't seem to be enough. My son also has ADHD, so I've had to adjust his medication, because he has not been focused enough to get his work turned in on time. I've been in contact with his teachers to let them know my plan, and for them to try to monitor his behavior and to keep me posted if things don't seem to turn around. As a parent, you have to know your children, you have to know their strengths and weaknesses, along with your own. It's also good to know what motivates them and what doesn't. Sometimes incentives can help your child try just a little harder.
The homework I most look forward to, is when my daughter has to practice singing for her choir class. I could listen to her voice echo throughout the halls of our home for hours. With that harmonious delight, comes the exact opposite. If given the choice of listening to a feline in heat, claw at a chalkboard for an entire day, or my 7th grader practice the flute for 30 minutes . . . I'd choose Fluffy all day long! Obviously I'd never let him know how I feel, but I do try to schedule my showers, lawn mowing or other outdoor chores to align with his flute practice.
My six-year-old, who I thankfully can still help, has to be reminded each day that his work must be done before he can play on his iPod or play video games. He will normally do his work while I cook dinner. He is the type of kid who thinks everything looks better with stickers on it, including homework and books. I constantly have to remind him it's not appropriate on his schoolwork.
Last week, while making dinner, I was trying to multitask and fold laundry as well. My youngest brings home index cards with sight words on them. He is supposed to write those words multiple times on each card. On this day, while I was in the laundry room, he decided to decorate his work with some stickers he found in a drawer. He was so proud of what he had done, that he brought them to me to show off. Unfortunately, the "stickers" he found, were actually a book of "Delicioso" Forever Stamps. We then spent the next 20 minutes trying to salvage $10 worth of "stickers".
Homework can be stressful for both the student and the parent, but there are far more resources available today, than what we had 25 years ago. Don't be embarrassed if you don't know the answers. Most teachers are willing to spend extra time with your child, if you just communicate with them. Stay on top of their grades and make sure work is being completed. Keep an eye on their mood and behavior throughout the school year. Most importantly, keep the cool looking postal stamps, out of reach from young middle school children.