Headlines from First Thoughts

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Parker brought home his first homework assignment Friday. Kelly and I picked him up from school together. Friday was his first full day, and the teacher sent home some work to do. It's due Wednesday, but being the industrious Dad that I am, and knowing that Tuesday night could be torture trying to get it done, Parker and I worked on it together Friday afternoon.

Friday's assignment involved the alphabet. They're working on the letter M next week, so the assignment was of course about all things "M": Mommy, munching, M & Ms. You get the picture. The first assignment, however, was really not the homework. It was getting Dad to figure out the assignment. I leafed through the yellow folder that was supposed to contain the worksheet, read through the note to parents, and we began. Parker had an "M" sheet in his hand, complete with an "M" man to color; and I naturally assumed this was the homework sheet.

We began the process. We had to find magazines, tape, and scissors. He was supposed to (1) cut out "M" from magazines, both pictures of words starting with M and the letter itself, (2) paste them on the page, and (3) write his name. We assembled the old magazines we could find and started cutting. Watching Parker attempting this was a little bit like trying to get jello to stop moving. He was all over the place. In my lap, on the floor, looking around, asking for a break every 15 minutes.

About midway through the assignment, I continued reading through the yellow folder. There were other pages inside that contained notes to the parents. I happened upon another sheet that said, "Sample Letter Page" at the top. The sheet had examples of how to complete the assignment. I realized, "Parker's M page doesn't match the sample page in the folder." Even worse, I couldn't find a blank version of the sample page.

I pretended to urge Parker to continue but had this sinking feeling, "I've just caused my son to fail his first homework assignment. He's filled out the wrong homework page." After the 10th time looking feverishly through the folder, I found a blank page that matched the sample completed page.

"I think we were supposed to do that one," said Parker.

"Yes," I replied, trying not to admit a mistake and frustrate him even further, "We were just practicing on the other page. Now this one is for real."

When we finally completed the assignment we had two perfect homework pages, one exasperated Dad, and a reminder that life could be easier if you had all the instructions in front of you at the start. You can't read a book, a homework assignment, a Bible or even a life by just taking one part at a time. You need to see the big picture to understand the concept. That's the kind of work that I need at home.

1 comment:

Bradley said...

Dr. Shiell,

If You think completing alphabet homework is a story, wait until the alphabet wedding...yes wedding. Rocky Hill reunites the letters Q and U in a wedding ceremony every year. You ought to volunteer to lead the ceremonies this year-hahaha!!!!!

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