Thursday, January 28, 2010

What I'm worried about this week

It's been a little light with the posts around here lately, eh? Argh. I'm going to pick my favorite scapegoat and say that I haven't been blogging because I've been fretting about a presentation. Silas's presentation. Which he may or may not give today but I hope he does so that I, for one, can get back to some semblance of a normal life. JEESH. I'd read about this too-much-homework crap, and I'd been warned by other parents, but I think I secretly thought that it wouldn't happen to us.

See, normally Si is Mr Lickety Split with his homework, mostly because he's not allowed to touch the Wii or the computer with a ten-foot-pole until his assignments are complete. We fudge a little on the spelling, and we may or not have several evenings a week that end with dragging him bodily away from Wii Lego Batman and pushing a pencil into his suddenly-paralyzed hand while he weeps and carries on and asks what's more important, him getting his sleep or him doing spelling? That's a post for another day (you: I can HARDLY wait).

No, this post is about book reports, and the worst kind of all, presentation book reports. Si's school prides itself on turning out kids that are comfortable giving in-front-of-the-class talks (me: what? you mean we're going to be fighting about this through the fifth grade?). That's great. I'm sure it will prepare these kids splendidly for a life of presenting reports before the board of directors, blah blah blah. In the meantime, it's misery. Silas-the-Efficient thrives with a certain kind of assignment: the cut-and-dried kind. He loves worksheets, and math problems, and puzzles: anything he can whip through, fill out a couple of items, and get the answer. He's even coming around to doing small writing assignments and the like. But presentations involve CREATIVITY! And AMBIGUITY! And UNCERTAINTY ABOUT OUTCOME! Which meant it was all just too overwhelming to bear--and that I had to break my cardinal rule about homework, and get involved.

UGH. I will spare you the details of the cajoling, cheerleading, browbeating, and nagging that have gone down in the house over the past week. I was sick of myself after about five minutes. And I kept second-guessing myself. Wasn't I weakening his ability to self-motivate and take responsibility? Wasn't I supposed to just let him fail, if he couldn't bring himself to do the report on his own? What was the worst that could happen, anyway? (and oh, I could TOTALLY imagine the worst--standing up blankly before the class? Standing up and blushing? Standing up and crying? LOTS OF WAYS TO BE THE WORST)

God. It was miserable for all concerned. I could totally understand parents that freak out and just take over the damn project themselves, and I might even have been tempted, except it would have been a little hard to sneak into class pretending I was Silas.

But then something kind of miraculous happened: he put the pieces together himself, and came up with a halfway decent presentation. After a week of robotic recitations of unconnected facts, followed by gentle prompting from us ("and do you think that will give me a good sense of what the book is about?"), followed by slightly less-gentle hints related to things like transitions, which I called transitions, even though he is in 3rd grade and had NO CLUE what I was talking about--when I got home last night he gave a reasonably spirited, funny, and coherent presentation about the book he'd read ("I didn't really LIKE this book, but if you're in the mood for a longish book with lots of facts, this book would be GREAT for you!")

So, take home lesson: nagging works? Procrastination-followed-by-last-minute-panic works? The jury's still out.


Jess said...

It sounds to me like you made a very reasonable exception to a very reasonable policy. My parents never got involved in my homework either, but every now and then I'd run into an assignment that had me totally stumped, and I would NEED their help. Usually I asked for it myself, but I always knew that it wasn't that they WOULDN'T get involved, but that they would only do it if necessary. And I grew up quite independent and self-motivated. So, I don't think you've exactly tarnished him for life with this one.

Kate said...

Cute story. Glad he was able to take the lead on the project. It's hard sometimes for parents to know when and deeply they should get involved.

PS: Procrastination and panic is pretty much the only way things get done around this joint. :)