Lars has begun bringing home schoolwork. Yes, apparently kindergartners have homework and, yes, if you were curious, it is extremely difficult.
Never have I felt so dumb in my entire life until I realized I was reading the instructions to his alphabet matching game three times to try to grasp the concept of it.
There in the desolate ambiance of our dim-lit kitchen, Jamie and I hover over a photocopied slab of paper. Jamie is slamming his fist insistently on the kitchen table out of pure frustration. We cannot comprehend this child’s worksheet. This child’s worksheet that happens to house three smiling cartoon dinosaurs that seem to be pointing their prehistoric hooves at our bewildered mugs as though mocking our stupidity.
What has happened to us?
Eventually, I think I figure it out but no quicker than I do, Lars begins having a meltdown because he doesn’t understand what it is I am trying to explain to him.
Jamie holds his standpoint of discreet exasperation beside us.
Why can’t you just tell me to go over the letters of the alphabet with my kid instead of the awkward paper sent home from kindergarten class?
No, no — that would be too easy.
You see, Jamie and I have nearly come to blows due to our difference of opinions when it comes to the homework thing.
I believe we should stay true to the school systems process and use the worksheets that are sent home to our full advantage (that is once we figure out how to do them ourselves).
Jamie thinks that his methods of teaching are much simpler and on many an occasion I find him attempting to teach our son his own way.
“No you can’t do that!” I say in a desperate sort of tone. “They have this specific way they do things with the kids and if you try teaching him something different, you will only screw him up. And then what if you delay him and he becomes traumatized from the whole experience? What if he ends up being semiliterate? Then he is so ashamed of it he spends the rest of his days pretending his way through life when it comes to anything written.”
At this point, Jamie and Lars are both staring at me with blank looks.
But for some reason something compels me to keep going, to really get my point drawn.
“His friends, coworkers, random Joes on the street will ask him if he has read the latest and greatest coming-of-age novel that everyone has read and he will have to lie and say yes. That night he will set out on a wild goose chase in search of the audio version and then have to listen to that really boring monotone voice read an entire book! It would be terrible!”
I am near hysterics when I think about my own blood unable to enjoy the written word — that is until I remember that this whole scenario is my own head-fiction.
Apparently my rant got the point across, however, because Jamie has stepped back from teaching Lars his own way and continues to struggle right alongside me to understand this new way of schooling.
I’m certainly not knocking it — I assume it works and can see the improvement in Lars from the beginning of the year to now.
But change is sometimes difficult for us fogies.
And maybe it isn’t that different, anyway, maybe Jamie and I have just been out of the game for too long.
Once again I find myself pondering another extremely complicated and busy-looking worksheet. It has been sent home with minimal instructions, as though assuming I’m some kind of elementary school guru.
I feel the anxiety rising. I sit down, I really have a good long concentrated look at what I am supposed to get my child to do and again I’m stumped. Are they supposed to be drawing the lines to match from letter to word? Or are they supposed to be drawing a picture that resembles the word? And how does that help in the first place?
But I’m no teacher — not even close. So I am going to do my best to translate these unholy worksheets and get my child to complete them.
And in addition, I will read every day to the kids, introduce sounds and letters, and explain how the alphabet works in hopes of preparing them for our literary world.
I will be supportive and try my best not to let my frustrations about change and misunderstandings get in the way of their education.
Because that is what we do as parents — we are there to assist and challenge. We are there to support and cheer on. We are there to nurture them so they can become the best they can be.
And in the meantime, I will quietly stress about what the damn worksheets will look like when high school algebra comes along.
Lindsay Brown is a Sylvan Lake mother of two and freelance columnist.