I’ve been trying to spend more time doing homework with my daughter. She comes home each week with some spellings and some maths.
Spellings I can do. She writes them out, I ask her to spell them back to me and then I show her how to use them in a sentence. We can discuss the meaning of words and how the same sounding word can have different spellings and meanings. I started her off early learning her to, too and two’s and there, they’re and theirs.
Maths is a whole different conundrum. Obviously I can do the basic level of maths. But how to explain it, that is the problem. Take for example, your times table.
Me: 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 15
Which is the same as saying
5 times 3 is 15.
Mini Monster 1: I don’t get it.
Me: You have five lots of three. Count them. The number three is written down five times. So five lots of three are fifteen.
Me: So what is 6 times 3?
MM1 : I don’t get it.
I am left banging my head on the table in frustration. Homework time is not an enjoyable place for MM1 or for me. In addition (get it!) there are other factors to consider.
Take language. I say ‘subtract’. I may also use ‘minus’ or ‘less than’. MM1 has been taught ‘take away’. I asked her what she had learnt in arithmetic yesterday, she told me they didn’t do that at her school.
Methods change as well. MM1 was carefully drawing something called a number line to do some basic addition. I couldn’t help her – I didn’t have a clue what she was trying to do. Instead we spent a painful hour learning how to add up in columns, the way we did when I was a child. I am reliably informed that they don’t learn the time tables anymore, or at least, not the way we did. No more rooms of chanting children learning ‘three times three is nine, four times three is twelve.’
Don’t you think parents need lessons these days to update us in whatever it is our children are learning, so that we can do homework with them?
The biggest issue with doing our homework together, however, is patience. I apparently have absolutely none.
I mean, I already knew that I had very little.
But apparently, when it comes to explaining homework to my own child, I have none.
We both get fed up and irritable. There are tears and tantrums, on both sides. Six year olds cannot learn without climbing up and down from their chairs, lying half across the table, fiddling with whatever they can reach. Seriously, they cannot sit still.
I have come to the conclusion that teachers are very special people. They are blessed with deep wells of patience. Clearly they took my share and possibly yours as well. Teachers are able to explain magical things like why two plus two does, in fact, equal four.
Teachers are amazing. They are very clearly also, absolutely, completely and utterly, no doubting it, totally insane.
Which brings me to my last discussion with my darling daughter.
Take a deep breath!
Me: Something minus 16 is 11. What is something?
MM1: What does minus mean?
Me: Take Away
MM1: What was the question?
Me: It’s written there. Something take away 16 is 11
MM1: I don’t get it
Me: You had some apples. I took 16 of them away. Now you have 11 apples. How many did you have in the beginning.
MM1: I don’t get what you want me to do.
Me: You had a lot of apples. I took some away. How many did you start with before I took them away,
MM1: My feet hurt.
MM1: I can’t think, my feet hurt.
Me: You had some sodding apples, I took 16 of them. Now you only have 11. What are you doing now?
MM1: Drawing a hand.
Me: Why are you drawing a hand?
MM1: So I can count the fingers.
Me: Why do you need to draw hands, you have hands?
MM1: I want to do it this way
Me: What are you counting?
MM1: I dont know.
Me: Sod the apples. I need a drink