While originally Wordsworth might’ve had many connotations to the ingenious statement “The child is father of the man”, I get whiffs of the poet’s sentiments when I get little snatches of my childhood through my children.
The last weekend of a fast depleting holiday season saw us scrambling about to put final touches to the holiday ‘homework’…. (Ugh!! how I detest that oxymoron!), which resulted in me racking my brains to understand the 4th grade questions.
Just for emphasis on the fact that I am not joking about the word ‘racking’, let me share with you some of the questions (while reading the questions, please remember that the said paper is for FOURTH graders!):
- What is a proverb? Give 5 examples and their meanings. Use them in sentences appropriately. (This one put me to shame! I confused ‘proverb’ with a ‘pronoun‘ till the said 4th grader laughed in my face!)
- What is the difference between a ballad and an epic? (errr…… What?) Give 5 examples of each, with names of poets.
- What according to you is the biggest pollutant in the environment? Draw an illustration to explain the same.
- Read one fairytale (THANK GOD!!) by Hans Christian Anderson(huh? How many of us knew Hans whatshisname in the 4th grade? And we didn’t turn out so bad, did we?) Illustrate the lead character (here we go again!), and summarize the story in 10 sentences.
- What is a rhyming scheme? Illustrate with examples.
- Take prints of currencies of 10 countries and paste it. How many languages are there on each currency? Where is it printed? (Now what on earth for do we need THAT information? A heist?)
- What is a gulf? Give examples of five gulfs in India. Draw a map identifying it (I remember passing out at this stage).
- Many more such stuff, but I refuse to spend typing energy to be wasted on more!
While I am not a parent who sits over my kids’ shoulder to watch if their eyeballs ever leave the page while they study (believe me, I know parents like that too), I am definitely not one to ignore the fact that they need to put out a decent grade at the end of the year (to which the holiday homework contributes, in no small measure).
I have been extremely honest with the homework strategy with the kids – “It’s your homework, and you shall do it”. But this can cause occasional heartburn, because sometimes you are faced with two explanations to the masterpieces that their classmates bring back from home. Either the 4th graders are all rebirths of Picasso or Rembrandt, or we have parents going through quite a bit of fourth grade homework in their free time (what the heck!! I know colleagues who do their kids project in the office too!).
Now, I implore you to please go back to the questions mentioned in the beginning of this post, and do let me know how many of us could have done this on our own, without referring to Google? And the expectation is that the kids be able to do it themselves.
Just for fun, I tried using some of the easier questions during campus interviews of management students. I certainly had lots of fun, my colleagues eyes nearly popped out of their sockets because of all the fun, but I can assure you, the candidates wanted to rip me apart right there.
So let me end this outburst with a question to all the parents out there (the would-be parents too, needn’t feel left out).
What do we hope to accomplish by the holiday homework?
Do we want the kids feeling grossly inadequate while sitting to write the answers out? Or is our primary aim to gather exceptionally skilled artwork made by the kids’ parents and adorn the school walls with them? Or better still, is the aim to take the parents back to their high school days (Of course I meant high school – this definitely isn’t primary school stuff!).
A corollary to this question – so are we teaching our kids that it’s okay to take credit for someone else’s work? There are kids in higher classes who have now started paying professionals to create project work; I think I know who did their homework for them in the 4th grade!
Today, I push back when my kids tell me so-and-so’s mother drew the butterfly’s life cycle for so-and-so’s science book. I sit with my daughter, and I help her make her caterpillar look cuter. But I do not draw it for her. She understands when I explain to her that she has to do it herself. But truth remains, she does feel a little miffed when her peers come back with accolades for something their parents have done.
As far as the homework was concerned, my daughter has definitely earned herself place of pride in my heart for all the hours she has spent trying to decipher what must have looked like a PHD thesis paper for her!
And her drawings may look a little less Picasso-ish, but it definitely will go up my wall. *Smug smile by proud mom here*
Meena Bhatnagar is a mother of two, with a passion for the written word. She dabbles with fiction, a couple of them finding their way into published work, is an avid blogger, and works as a corporate trainer to pay for all the damages. She blogs on parenting, social issues and humorous incidents of her life and on hotel & restaurant reviews and corporate training.