“Do you have anything for me to do?”
“The thank-you card for your grandparents? Or how about cleaning the – ”
“Oh yeah, I forgot. You’re not good at that.”
“Giving me something fun to do.”
Someday on my tombstone it will read, “Here lies my mother. I hope God doesn’t ask her for anything to do.”
Whoever named the annual gathering of project boards advertising uninspired experiments a Science “Fair” must not have gotten out much. There is absolutely nothing festive about getting together a Science Fair project – particularly when you are the parent, not the student. This is definitely one of those homework assignments that can rip families apart. Before I taught Gifted and Talented students, I was a 5th grade Science teacher. After 3 years of Science Fairs, I realized that the only people who seemed to learn anything from these events were the parents – and the primary topic they learned was the number of cuss words that are applicable to lengthy mandatory projects assigned to students to complete at home.
Of course, it is only karma that, years later, my own daughter should bring home a Science Fair packet accompanied by her own surly attitude. I did my best to disguise my loathing for such projects, but her eye-rolling ensued before we could even start brainstorming possible topics. I tried my “go to” teacherly advice, which is to find a way to make it relevant, and suggested that she somehow incorporate her love of all products Bath and Bodyworks into her experiment. This resulted in more eye-rolling, but I allowed it to percolate for a few days. When the deadline for a topic loomed, Dimples finally decided that my idea was, indeed, usable, if not an excellent one. She chose to investigate the use of hand sanitizer in the prevention of bread mold.
Every other day, Dimples diligently (with my nagging) took pictures of her three pieces of bread – one in a ziploc bag, one exposed and treated with hand sanitizer, and one control. After two weeks, the only thing that had happened was the two outside the plastic had gotten hard as a rock. Since then – and it has been 36 days – there has been absolutely no change, including zero mold growth.
My conclusion from this experiment is that, from now on, upon purchasing a new bag of bread, I will immediately remove it from its manufacturer’s bag (which apparently promotes mold growth at the record speed of three days) and dispense the pieces of bread throughout the household to be collected whenever it is time to make a sandwich. They might collect a bit of dust, but at least they will be mold-free. And, although I like my bread to smell nice, I will probably not be adding drops of hand sanitizer to each slice because I think that mustard might taste a tad better.
If I had to do my own project board on this whole experience, here is how it would look:
Topic: What is the Fastest Way to Drive a Parent Crazy?
Hypothesis: If a teacher assigns my daughter a Science Fair Project and I attempt to help her complete it because she has no idea what to do, then I will end up in a rubber room within 24 hours of her having completed the project.
Materials: A mandatory Science Fair project, a 9 year old daughter, a frenzied mother who once taught science, a supportive but inexperienced father
Procedure: 1. Teacher assigns project. 2. Daughter says she does not understand what to do. 3. Mother tries to help with project. 4. Daughter says mother does not know what the heck she is doing. 5. Mother says, “Fine. Do it yourself.” 6. Daughter wails. 7. Mother caves, and helps, attempting to be cheerful while sullen daughter deftly pushes mother to the brink of insanity.
Results: Project gets completed, and mother is checked into an institution.
Conclusion: My hypothesis was correct, as supported by the data, and the fact that I am currently typing this on a rubber keyboard at the Home for Mothers Driven Insane by Their Children.
If I could hijack a time-machine, I would take my butt back twenty years and slap a twenty-two year old teacher in the face.
That teacher would be me.
I realized today what a smarmy, know-it-all I was back then. Actually, I knew that before but I never really felt the need to beat myself up over it.
My daughter’s homework precipitated this overwhelming urge.
After twenty years of teaching, I have developed some pretty strong feelings about homework. I used to think it was a great skill builder and a necessary character builder. Now, to put it simply, I think that 90% of the time it is a big ole time waster.
Dimples brought home “home”work for the first time today since school started last week. She usually finishes it before I pick her up. But this time it required Family Participation.
She pulled out this mathematical bonding activity, and I started to read the instructions. Apparently this is supposed to be a game designed to practice multiplication. Dimples knows her times tables back and forth. Perhaps the teacher thinks that I am the one who needs to brush up on my multiplication skills.
As I am trying to make sense of the instructions, Wonderbutt is doing his Stevie Wonder routine on the floor next to me. It is a little distracting. Thinking about all of the things I would rather be doing instead of 4th grade math homework is also distracting.
This game requires colored cubes which we don’t have. But the teacher has kindly written next to the materials needed that we can make our own by coloring paper and cutting them out.
“Got it!” the perpetually cheerful Dimples declares as I scowl at the increasing complexity of this “fun game.” She grabs some paper from the kitchen, quickly snips out a bunch of squares, and writes a D on half of them. Good enough.
Next thing needed are number cubes (school talk for dice). Or we “can make a spinner using a paperclip”. Surely we have some friggin’ dice around here that Wonderbutt hasn’t consumed.
At that moment, Wonderbutt falls over, nearly conking his head on the table leg.
“Yahtzee!” Dimples yells, and runs to find the miraculously intact box full of number cubes and half-completed score sheets.
I look at Wonderbutt, half-dazed on the floor, and seriously contemplate feeding him the homework. Now I know how dogs got such a bad rap.
Once the number cubes are obtained, the game goes quickly. Through no fault of my own, I win. The bottom of the page suggests we may want to play again. I reluctantly suggest this to Dimples. She shakes her head. I sign the page with a flourish and she returns it to her backpack.
I eye the Yahtzee game, mentally ticking off it’s educational virtues – addition, multiplication, gambling… Plus, there is no assembly required.
Too bad we spent so much time bonding over Dimples’ homework that we don’t have time to play it.