School and Home

Hey! I know, I know. It’s been a while. We’ve got some catching up to do. So, first? School. It’s mostly good. M started 7th grade, and she’s liking it. Over the weekend she caught slugs for extra credit in science, and the fact that one can earn extra credit for catching slugs seems, to me, to be a good sign.


Mostly, though, I hear about soccer. This is the first time that M’s playing soccer for her school, so it is very exciting for her. They practice right after school every day, so she’s gone from about 8:30 am to 6 pm most days. It feels like she’s hardly ever home.

(For some reason my “More” link isn’t working properly at the moment–there is more, and you can click the title of the blog post to read it.)

Meanwhile, J likes 4th grade, her teachers, and earning credits in an elaborate new classroom economy system that they’re doing this year.  But home can get a little rough. So much so that I created this sign:

household homework cry

At the time I wrote up this sign, she’d cried 2 out of 2 days since math homework had started, but since then we’ve happily worked our way up to “3.” Once again we’ve got J’s desire to do everything perfectly running up against a world in which perfection is rare-to-nonexistent. But it’s not just her.

The math homework is frustrating. Each day, the homework is a two-sided page in which the front includes reasonable practice and the back is labeled “Enrichment” by whoever created the homework but is treated as part of the assignment by the teacher. In my opinion, it’s the sort of math-puzzle-and-game stuff that’s appropriate to give to a kid who’s great at math, enjoys math, and is a little bored. Not something to assign to a whole class as homework every day. One of the days, it was a number grid, and questions were things like, find the column that contains the longest number that’s a palindrome. By the time J had gotten to this section, she’d already worked too long on the homework, and I was ready to call it quits. But even though we’re supposed to stop doing math after half an hour, when the timer went off, she tearfully begged me to let her continue. She’s in “high math” and lives quaking in fear of being demoted. A fear, incidentally, that I do not share.

Day 3 of math homework was blissfully easy, so in order to Maintain Order In The Universe, J managed to forget her spelling workbook. And then when she rode her Ripstik back to school to retrieve it, she fell and skinned her elbow. I decided that those particular tears didn’t count against what would be a new “1 Day Without Crying” record.

On the same day, there was angst prompted by the sort of fun assignment that I’ve come to dread for this daughter. The class is putting together a video for Back-to-School Night in which the kids will each quickly tell what they’d like to be when they grow up, and they were invited to bring in props for the video.  J was deeply concerned that she is already almost ten years old and still hasn’t settled on a career choice.  I mean, time is running out here, people! If she doesn’t get her shit together, she’s pretty much all washed up. But meanwhile, she was also trying to come up with an idea that might include something around the house that she could use as a prop. She also wanted to make it a surprise for me, so she rejected offers of help. She’d come up with. . . something.

The next day, while she was at school, there were Facebook posts from classmates’ parents who were sharing their children’s fabulous prop constructions, and a small bloom of anxiety sprouted in the pit of my stomach. When J came home from school, she pulled out a professionally-printed business card that another classmate had brought into school, declaring the girl CEO or something-or-other of her own company. After showing it to me, J began folding it accordion-style, with great deliberation: fold, smash, fold smash. “Look at this,” she began, disgusted. I offered up in as mild a tone as I could muster, that the business card seemed pretty cool. J gave me a withering look. “I [dramatic pause]. . . I brought in plastic food. . . . I like to cook and we had some play food, so I said I would be a chef, but I don’t even know if I want to be a chef, and I can’t [smash] believe [smash] I brought in a bunch of plastic food [smash].” Yeah, sweetie. I feel you.

But she ignored my sympathetic clucking and concluded her rant: “And now we still have time to pick something else, but all of the really good careers are taken, and I don’t know what to do.” I offered up that, really, more than one person could be any particular career, but, just out of curiosity, I asked my 4th grade daughter what she considered to be a “really good career?” Her two best friends in the class planned to be a physicist and a marine biologist. Okay: point taken. Those are both rockin’ career aspirations.

After a bit more chatting, J settled on a new career choice: a dendrologist, or tree scientist, based on one of her favorite National Geographic Magazine articles. It brings together many of her favorite things: science, nature, climbing trees, and photography. Plus, our yard offered access to some pretty kick-butt props.

Promise you won’t judge us for being Those Parents? Because, about those props?  I have a confession. A chainsaw was involved.


  1. Claire

    You are hysterical! And what the heck is a palindrome? Or do I not want to know? I wish my son could stay little forever!

  2. @Claire, you know, reads the same forwards and back, like “Madam I’m Adam.” So identifying a string of numbers like 7582857 out of a mess of other numbers is an important skill for. . . never mind. I have no idea why this would be considered an important skill.

  3. Claire

    Oh, okay. I don’t see why it’s important either, but at least it’s something I’m capable of. I live in fear of the day when I will no longer be able to help my son with his math homework.

  4. Big Sister

    Tell J. when Aunt B. was nearly ten, she was trying to decide between being a Rubenesque nude model for a painter so she could be worshipped for her body and kept in Paris — or somebody named “Champagne” who had a nightly salon for intellectuals. (What was I reading and where did this come from?) Good god, who knows what she’ll be — but whatever it is, she’ll be FANTASTIC! XOXO.

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