calculator-scientific

Monday Morning Moms: Homework?

It’s back to school time in the US and back to school means back to hitting the books and back to homework. I can hear a collective groan from all of you. Because I know as well as you do, homework isn’t just for the kids. Homework nowadays is an entire family affair. And for many families, that includes kicking and screaming and tears (and that’s just from the parents). The Monday Morning Moms explore the topic of homework in this post. I, for one am quite conflicted in my views about homework, both as a parent and as someone who works in a school with students. What do my fellow Monday Morning Moms think?

Monique:

Who’s behind the wheel as we negotiate our way along the homework highway? Writing this piece felt a little bit like doing homework – I may have procrastinated and I may be doing it at the last minute and I may have sighed a bit as I sat down to start (Not that I shared that with my teen because I’m an excellent role-model. That’s not true, I’m more of a no-need-to-repeat-my-mistakes model).

Meanwhile I just proofread my daughter’s essay on the Taming of the Shrew (every woman’s most hated Shakespearean play) listened to her read a speech for her Japanese test tomorrow ( and no I don’t know what she said) oh yeah and she’s playing her clarinet pieces in my ear right now and the dog is singing along.

You guessed it – I’m writing this on Sunday night and twilight depression is descending all over the house.  The joy of the weekend is evaporating  because – homework.

Primary school homework drove me crazy for the sheer mind- numbing monotony of it. The repetitiveness and lack of imagination some of the teachers showed did my head in. If writing your times tables out didn’t help you learn them in year three or four chances are writing them in year five was a big-fat waste of time. That didn’t suit your learning style and it was pointless. And if you already knew them it was a total snooze-fest. At one parent-teacher my daughter suggested to the teacher that there had to be a more fun way to do times tables…nothing changed. (Well  actually I taught her in the car and bribed her with a trip to a water-park and she knew them inside out and back to front in under a week and then I let her just copy them without reading from then on.)

And don’t get me started on books – when the kid in your in-class reading group can literally read the books upside down at age seven, more needs to be done for those kids. Just like the kids who struggle all day don’t need to go home and struggle all night.

Still worse than the homework were the projects. I remember as a kid being incensed when my peers got good marks on projects we all knew their mothers had done and fast-forward thirty years and nothing much changed.

My own mother was an infants and primary teacher for over fifty years and never did my projects. She did give me a wonderful insight though when I was incensed again on my own daughter’s behalf.

“Mon, you can always tell if the parent did the project of if the kid did it – if the kid isn’t allowed to carry their own diorama in the door you know it is because the mother (or father or grandma) is worried he’ll drop all her hard work.”

I’ve since sat watching kids carry their work in with great amusement and even shared this tip with several teachers I know who all now do the same.

High school homework is a whole different issue. It’s all about time management and juggling the conflicting needs of a whole bunch of teachers. As a parent you have to be hands-off. Step away from the schedule people because the little Prince or Princess has to work that out for themselves. You can’t stand over a sixteen year old and make them do their homework, or practice their clarinet or get their assignment done early.

Still there are ways you can be supportive and help them get through it. You can ask them what they have coming up? You can remind them that sure that’s not due until next week but they have  a music festival, a slumber party, three other projects and grandma’s birthday between now and then. You can listen to them when they read their Japanese speech out or quiz them from their notes (if they’re open to that) but they’ve got to be driving it, not you.

The truth is by high school they’re the driver and you’re the pit crew.

And you can do the practical stuff to help them but they’ve got the wheel – keep them fed on green veggies and protein, encourage sleep and make sure you NEVER run out of printer ink.

Hilary:

What do I know about homework was my first thought when the Monday Morning Mom’s came up with this topic. I don’t have any children; so dealing with the drama associated with it is so far off my radar.  And since my life has been so crazy lately I barely remember yesterday, yet alone my school days when I was bombarded with homework myself.

So for weeks I have been wracking my brain obsessing about a subject I thought was a thing of my past.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized while I don’t remember the assignments, the lessons I learned from homework, shaped my present.

I remember being in third grade. I was so jealous of my best friend.  Every day her mother would sit with her and they’d do homework together. Well, maybe the together part was an exaggeration. Her mother actually did the majority of the work while my friend sat idly by and reaped the benefits of a freshly filled notebook. After spending a night at her house I whined to my mom, because unlike my friend’s mom, she made me do my own homework. Very seriously she looked at me and said, “Why should I do your homework? It’s yours, not mine. I already did mine when I was in school. Now if you have a question, that’s another story.  But you have to do the work.”

I wasn’t happy at the time, but I grabbed my notebook, my pencil, and sat down. I didn’t have any questions. I just worked until I was finished. And as I look back now, I realized the lesson my mom taught me that night was one of the most important I would ever learn.  To succeed for yourself you have to do the work yourself!

I’ve pretty much have always been a classic overachiever. I’ve never shied away from working hard, or doing any task that is required at the time. When I mentor recent college graduates I give them the same advice.  Work not at the job you have, work as if you have the job you want.

Me:

When I was in school, homework was solely for the student to do. MAYBE in the lower grades you occasionally asked your parent or older sibling for help with a math problem or something, but back then, the point of homework was so that you could review the day’s lesson the teacher could see that you learned something that day (or if you needed to go over a concept again). Homework wasn’t meant to take you all night (although with my crippling need for perfection, homework would often take me twice as long as a normal person because I would redo it if I thought my handwriting was sloppy). Other than a few times where I was stumped in math (I still hate math), I do not recall my parents ever  helping me with it or even asking me if I had it. It was my responsibility and it’s what made me a responsible adult. But homework back then was simple.

Homework in recent years has gotten a little ridiculous. It’s somehow evolved from a review process to all out “Lets get the whole family involved” process. Why is that? Is it because it’s become too challenging for the students? Are we expecting too much out of them? Homework isn’t just a few sheets of math problems anymore…it’s projects and dioramas and Power Point presentations. And that’s just for elementary school kids.

I stay away from the homework with my kids . I’ll ask them if they have it and get on their case if I go online to their grades and see things missing, but otherwise, I feel it’s their responsibility. While I am very lucky because my kids do their homework without constant reminder and I probably couldn’t help the little smartie pants if I tried, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by my kids that their homework consisted of family “involvement”. For example, one of my son’s English teachers wanted the parents to read their kid’s essays and then edit and critique it. Um, isn’t that what you’re paid for? I already did seventh grade, thank you very much. I’ve had to go to craft stores and spend big bucks on styrafoam balls (who knew they were so expensive?) for science projects. I’ve had to construct bridges out of wood and chain link fences (okay, my husband did that). What happened to kids putting together stuff from around the house?

I get that maybe the teachers do this so that parents know what’s going on in their kid’s scholastic life, but let’s be honest…the parents that are involved are involved and the ones that aren’t, won’t be no matter what the assignment. And besides, that’s not the purpose of homework. Giving ME homework doesn’t help my kid. It’s certainly taking some of the responsibility off of them and putting it on me. And hell, I’ve got enough responsibility. You know, keeping them alive and all that.

So I welcome back the homework for the kids…if it’s fair and has it’s merits. But if it’s just busy work? Well, that’s kind of pointless, isn’t it? That’s like your boss telling you to line up his bottle cap collection in alphabetical order—just to give you something to do. If there’s no reason for homework, don’t just assign it. Or assign what kids don’t complete in class. Oh, and leave me out of it. I don’t do homework anymore.

man-couple-people-woman

#WhyIDrink Wednesday: Because My Kids Refuse to Get Along

My kids fight. I know, I know, all siblings fight. I’m sure I probably even dropped my halo every once in a while when I was a kid and fought with my own siblings. But my kids do more than just fight…they just NEVER get along. It seems whenever they are together, there are tears (and sometimes blood) shed.

The sad part is, my kids aren’t even together too much anymore. The older one has ninety-seven hours of football practice a day, so his contact with his sister is somewhat limited. Most of the time, there is peace in our household. The other percent of the time is fraught with screeching that can make glass shatter.

You see, my son is a typical brother and nothing gives him more pleasure than the fact he can make his sister have a melt down literally in less time it takes for a bullet to leave the chamber of a gun and lodge between your eyeballs. Oh, by the way, that’s what her screeching actually makes my head feel like…like someone has shot me right between the eyes. I’m thinking the headache that might accompany that sort of thing might actually be less painful.

He’s got a whole repertoire of “digs” that’ll make her go ballistic, ranging from “you smell” to his new favorite “you’re fat.” You wouldn’t think such stupidly constructed statements would cause such disruption, but unfortunately, the insultee in question is an eleven year old girl who is quite easy to insult. (I apparently do it without meaning to about seventeen times a day, usually by just glancing in her general direction. That’s enough to send her wailing and crying into her pillow for at least ten minutes.)

I don’t do it on purpose, by my son LOVES to poke the bear. The bear usually retaliates…she’s the one who’s usually causing the blood shed. She’ll start with  a screech, which usually progresses into a slap…and in the case of today’s incident…a plateful of french fries flung at him in a restaurant. And he laughs and dodges the fries, egging her on more, not realizing how much stress this causes me. Why can’t they just play nice with each other? Why can’t they build each other up instead of break each other down with their constant barbs? And what is taking the waiter so long with my wine????

Maybe one day they’ll get along…I can only hope that at some point in time, there will be many more peaceful moments and they’ll actually be more like they are in this picture:

IMG_0639

(You can see how surprised I was to catch this rather tender moment…shocked actually, if you judge by the shakiness of the camera). This picture was taken THREE years ago…I’m still waiting. Meanwhile, waiter, I’d like a refill on my wine because this is #whyIdrink.

 

woman

#WhyIDrink Wednesday: Because I’m a Bad Mom

Today, I was a bad mom. I did everything wrong. Even the things I started out doing right, I screwed up.

I let them sleep as late as they wanted, despite my resolution the night before that we were going to get up early and get something done today. I just didn’t want to start the day with a fight.

I made the 11 year old get dressed when she didn’t want to. I didn’t sit on her bed and stroke her hair and lovingly ask Why she didn’t want to get dressed. I just yelled myself hoarse for an hour before I threatened to take stuff away while cursing loudly.

I didn’t go to my son’s football scrimmage that he MIGHT have gotten in for one play…I went to the grocery store instead because he’s going to want food when he’s done…more than he wants his mommy to watch him play football.

I made them read their summer reading books. I didn’t try to negotiate…three pages and you can stop. Five pages and you can go out and play. I made them sit there and FINISH the &*$@ summer reading books before they were allowed to do anything. I yelled. A lot. They both gave me the finger when they thought I wasn’t looking.

I made the 11 year old pick up her Legos. I didn’t help her. I took her phone away when she refused. I took the iPad away when she refused. She threw her Legos at me. I shut the door and let her scream. The Legos are still all over her room. I’ll probably pick them up when she’s in bed.

I didn’t make my son another dinner after our late lunch and milkshakes for dinner. I didn’t let him have a bowl of cereal after he made a pound of buttered pasta. I yelled that he was eating me out of house and home. He yelled back that he was a growing boy. I gave in.

I asked the 11 year old to empty the dishwasher. She cried that she just emptied it this morning…I told her to take it up with her brother—he’s the one who makes all the dishes. They yelled, they slapped each other. I yelled at them to stop, but I was too tired to punish anyone.

I think I said goodnight when they went to bed. They don’t come down looking for a hug and a kiss anymore. I don’t bother to remind them to brush their teeth or wash their face. They don’t listen anyway. I kiss their heads when they’re asleep…and silently apologize for not doing it by the books, not being a better mom for them.  I beat myself up for a little while after they’re asleep, hating the way I handled things. A glass of Shiraz later, I promise myself I’ll do a better job tomorrow. And maybe this time I will.

IMG_3343

Colt for President

Let me preface this blog post by saying I’m not a political person at all. I don’t really like to watch the news or read newspapers (in person or online) because it’s mostly depressing. It’s a scary world we live in and I prefer to exist in my sheltered little clam-shell. Yeah, I realize some people will berate me for such backassward, unenlightened thinking, but that’s okay. It helps me to sleep at night, not being in constant stress about the state of the world.

With the Presidential election coming up, I did watch some of the debates, both Republican and Democratic, mostly for entertainment purposes. They were not informative in the least, other than to confirm what I had already suspected…we’re in deep doo doo, America. I don’t particularly like either of our choices for President—I liken my choice to the year the Yankees and Phillies were in the World Series…I was hoping for food poisoning to overtake both teams or their buses to crash into each other. I’ve been trying to ignore my Facebook friends that vehemently support one candidate or another, even going so far as to hide posts. Neither of the candidates are pictures of morality, nor are either of them really the most qualified out there. There are many people who got chopped down in this race way too soon simply because they weren’t part of the three ring circus that this has become.

I haven’t decided how I’m going to vote really. It’s not about emails or tax returns to me, although that’s all pretty disturbing. It’s about issues that are important to me and my family.  I am leaning more one way than the other, some issues more important than others. But I will tell you what’s NOT going to fuel my vote. The fact Hillary is a woman. I’m been scrolling down Facebook the past few days and it’s becoming overwhelming. There’s this blog that I subscribe to, a blog that’s supposed to be about parenting, but it has turned completely political. I’m not saying that political issues aren’t important to parenting, but we all know, that’s not what this race has become. On this blog, there are guest bloggers DAILY touting the historical importance of Hillary as the Presidential nominee. Women gushing about how their daughters can be proud to see a strong female role model and know they can do anything. The #imwithher hashtag that shouts feminism. I’ve kept quiet for months, but I can’t take it anymore.

Dear women, the fact that a candidate’s gender is actually important to you is the reason men didn’t want us to vote to begin with. Can’t you see that by declaring the fact she has a uterus as a reason to vote for her is just as sexist as what you claim to be fighting against? If we want people to see past gender, past race, past sexuality, then we need to stop pointing it out. If race and gender doesn’t matter in the long run, STOP MAKING IT MATTER. Honestly, I wouldn’t care if a transgendered German Shepherd was running the White House as long as they were the most qualified candidate, as long as they were representing what people in this country need and want. That’s the candidate I want for President. That’s what I want my daughter to see…not just, hey a girl can be President! No $hit Sherlock. When I was growing up, I never doubted for a second that I could be President—I didn’t think there was anything I couldn’t do except be a boy (which apparently now I can make happen with the right insurance plan). But just because a girl can do something, should she? Should a woman be a firefighter if she can’t perform up to the standard of her male counterparts? If she can, more power to her…I’d support her 100%. But we have to stop lowering the standards to prove to our daughters that they can be anything. We need to raise the bar…give them something to aspire to if we want to empower them.

If you go into the voting booth on November 8th and vote for the woman candidate, that’s fine with me. But be sure that you’re voting for her because she represents what’s important to you and your family, not because she wears a bra. If not…wait. Wait for the female candidate that does represent what you want in the President. It doesn’t have to be Hillary. Something as important as a Presidential election shouldn’t be based on what gender box someone can check off on a form…it needs to be based on merit. We don’t have to “make history”…history should just “happen”. Which makes me want that German Shepherd to run even more. Colt for President anyone?

crown

#WhyIDrink Wednesday: Because I’m the Queen Damn It!

I think I deserve a tiara…and not just because I am a Queen. Really, I am! Check my Facebook page. My job is listed as “Queen of Everything”.   As we all know…..if it is on Facebook, it must be true.

The problem is that my subjects (children) don’t realize…or recognize…my sovereignty. They actually think that THEY rule this land. My (Soon-To-Be-Ex) Husband thinks that he is his own country…but that is another blog. Everyone else just finds me amusing. This makes ruling most difficult. I teeter between Queen Elizabeth II (poised & dignified) and the Queen of Hearts (Off with their heads!). Mostly I just drink. Coffee in the morning….wine when the coffee stops working.

As Queen, I have many different duties:

Head of State ~ As the Head of State, the Queen:

*Goes on official State visits: PTO, Teacher Conferences, Little League Parents Meetings, Recitals, Playdates, etc…

*Takes care of day-to-day activities: Prepare snacks and lunches, pay bills, find lost shoes and blankies, makes sure that the subjects are clean and fed, signs important documents such as teacher’s notes & homework, etc…

*Cares for the health & well being of her subjects: scheduling physician visits, keeping up with immunizations, etc…

Head of the Armed Forces ~ She is the only person who can declare war and decide when it is over. (“Stop fighting right now!! I mean it!!)

Head of the Church of England ~ Ok, this one may be stretching it…She is in charge of everyone getting to Church.

Government Duties ~

*Make, amend, & abolish laws (rules).

*Charge & sentence “criminals” for breaking said laws.

*Entertain parole hearings with foolish prisoners who try to represent themselves. (pleading to get out of time-out)

One would think that ruling a kingdom with only 2 subjects should be easy…..one couldn’t be more wrong.   Especially when said subjects are cunning and slick, constantly trying to make the Queen believe that she is losing her grip on reality. It’s true. I am catching onto their game.

For example: Just the other day my older daughter was caught eating potato chips for breakfast. (Now I am NOT a “crunchy” mom….but I DO have some limits!) While fighting with her about why potato chips for breakfast was not a great choice, my younger daughter sits down next to her and OPENS A BAG OF POTATO CHIPS! (Wait! What?) Then the older daughter tries to plead her case by stating that I allowed the younger one to eat cookies for breakfast. (We don’t even HAVE cookies!) This was about the time that Queen Elizabeth departed and Queen of Hearts appeared…..and this is why I drink.

Maybe I should just buy myself a tiara and wear it all the time. When I clean the toilet….and sing “Someday My Prince Will Come”.   When I fold the laundry….and sing “Once Upon A Dream”. When I cook dinner….and sing “Be Our Guest”. When I….I am getting carried away.   Pass the Pinot.

About the author: Brandi Macholl is the sovereign ruler of two princesses that keep her on her toes and constantly reaching for a glass of Pinot. She writes in her spare time…or when she can get at least two of her brain cells to communicate with each other.

sand-castle-beach-holidays-water

How to Enjoy a Beach Day With the Kids in 39 Easy Steps

What summer vacation isn’t complete without a trip to the beach? If you’re fortunate enough to live close to the ocean, you can enjoy a beach day with the kids using these 39 easy steps.

#1. Pick a day where it’s not raining, there’s no chance of thunderstorms, the UV index is below 6, and the wind isn’t blowing fifty miles and hour.

#2. Throw your kids and their bathing suits in the car (don’t forget towels, a blanket, beach umbrella, baby powder to get the sand off of feet, chairs, sand toys, pop up tent for your kid that burns like a lobster, hair brush, hair ties, ear plugs for your kid that gets swimmer’s ear, boogie boards, sunblock, lunch, drinks, enough snacks to feed everyone in ten mile radius on the beach because one of your children will undoubtedly friend a family with eight kids and invite them to your blanket for snack time, and a book or magazine for yourself that you’re not going to be relaxing to read in a million years).

#3. Drive to beach.

#4. Unload all aforementioned items into your sand cart and beg your kids to carry the rest as you drag the cooler, push the cart, and try to walk with a wailing child who just got sand in their eye attached to your leg.

#5. Reach the beach after stopping ten times to adjust your load and once to remove splinters from the foot of the child who insisted that she didn’t need to wear her flip flops on the board walk.

#6. Dump items on the sand and pause to catch your breath and wipe the sweat that is dripping off your body.

#7. Try to set everything up while your kids ask you no less than 187 times if they can go in the water yet. Rescue beach umbrella as it blows down the beach.

#8. Tell your kids (nicely) to stop screaming and no they cannot go in the water until they get sunblock on. Fend off dirty looks from the annoyed twenty-somethings in thong bikinis that are sunbathing on a blanket nearby. Grab nearest child and begin rubbing sunblock into his or her skin. Don’t forget the tops of his or her feet, the ears, and every other place you would never imagine you could possibly get sunburn unless it’s happened to you and you’ve laid writhing in agony all night.

#9. Drop sunblock on the sand to run to the water’s edge to drag back the child who has ran down to water while you are trying to sunblock the first. Try to sunblock that now wet child. Listen to child scream about sand in the sunblock scraping up his or her skin. Resort to using the spray sunblock. Child runs off before you can rub in spray sunblock.

#10. Start to sunblock yourself.

#11. First child comes running back to you to announce that she has to go potty. Discretely tell child that she can pee in the ocean. Shush child as she yells “Pee in the ocean? Mommy that’s gross!” Ignore looks from twenty-somethings who have now removed their bikini tops and are face down on their blanket.

#12. Pull second child out of ocean to go back up to the bathroom to bring first child who is now wailing about having to go potty. Drag both kids to bathroom. Take child to stall and try to remove her now wet bathing suit from her bottom. Ignore her screams that are akin to you lighting her toenails on fire. Figure you might as well pee while you’re here. Pull down your own bathing suit and shush your child as she loudly asks why you have fur on your hooha.

#13. Return to beach with both kids.

#14. Sit on beach blanket or beach chair for 3.6 seconds before leaping to your feet because your youngest child is already in over her head.

#15. Save child. Shoot evil eyes at lifeguard who didn’t even move while you saved child.

#16. Drag waterlogged, sobbing child back to blanket. Yell at other child to stay close to shore. Get dirty look from both other child and sunbathing topless girls next to you.

#17. Calm sobbing child and try to get her to put her feet in the water while she clings to you like a window stick-um.

#18. Encourage older child to stay close to you and try to teach him how to use the boogie board without letting go of younger, stick-on child. Yell at him several times for going out too far. Have several heart attacks when wave knocks child over and you can’t see him for a few seconds. Sigh with relief when he announces “that was cool!” Try to enjoy the water.

#19. Give up when younger child repeatedly asks if it is time to eat. Wave in a reluctant older child to trudge back to blanket and check phone to discover it is 10:32 and you’ve only been at the beach for an hour.

#20. Let kids eat their sandwiches anyway. Try to pick the sand out of the sandwiches when the kids complain about it. Give up and tell them to just drink more water.

#21. Take youngest child to bathroom again after she drinks all that water.

#22. Tell older child he needs to wait a half hour before going back in the water for some reason that you’ll never understand.

#23. Try to engage kids in building a sandcastle. End up building sandcastle yourself. Yell at kids for flinging sand at each other. Apologize to twenty-somethings who have tied their tops back on and are now moving because they got sand in their eyes from your kids.

#24. Coax younger child back in water while older child dashes far ahead of you despite yelling at him to stay where you can reach him.

#25. Drag both kids out of the water again when younger child poops in bathing suit.

#26. Discover older child has eaten all the snacks while you were in the bathroom.

#27. Calm younger child while she screams about sand in her heinie. Try to empty sand out of child’s bathing suit discretely.

#28. Let older child go back in the water with explicit instructions not to go farther in than knee deep. Panic when older child goes in waist deep.

#29. Reapply sunblock to younger child despite protests of pain. Make her sit underneath umbrella. Call older child in from the water when you see the tops of his shoulders getting red.

#30. Offer child a shriveled up nectarine when she tells you that’s she’s hungry because her sibling ate all the good snacks.

#31. Decide to pack it in when child gets sand in her eyes and won’t stop screaming.

#32. Carry all items back to the car in no less than four trips while holding the hand of a screaming child and a whiny protesting child.

#33. Shake baby powder on children’s feet to prevent sand from getting in your vehicle.

#34. Cringe when both children empty the sand out of their bathing suit bottoms onto the back seat.

#35. Get in hot car and immediately discover that you have sunburn on the entire lower half of your body because you never finished step #10—applying sunblock to yourself.

#36. Drive home. Stop several times because child has to pee.

#37. Dump all sandy items on your front lawn and vow to deal with them tomorrow.

#38. Open bottle of wine and drink.

#39. Decide to skip steps #1-37 next time.

Dear Readers…Something new is coming to this site! Stay tuned for a surprise announcement later in the week….

christmas-xmas-gifts-presents.jpg