Sunday, March 01, 2009

Homework in primary school...

I've long railed against the injustice of homework during the primary school years, or even beyond. Arguing that enough time was spent sitting passively at a desk during school hours without adding the same to the after school hours at home...

This is the first year (grade 3) that Erik has had homework and, quite frankly, I've been dreading it! I'm philosophically opposed to homework, to forcing children to spend their time doing stuff they themselves are not motivated to do, and to making the parent the "slave driver" in the relationship in order to make sure homework is handed in and on time...

So, anyway, the first week at school, Erik brings home his homework book for this term. At the front of the book is a grid of 15 exercises. These of these are bolded and are "compulsory". then of the remaining 12, he is supposed to choose a further three to do. If he WISHES, he may do as many of the remaining 9 exercises as takes his fancy, and although not stated, I'd assume this might give him some sort of "extra credit"...

So, that was three weeks ago, or so... The last two weekends we've heard a bit of "I'll do some tomorrow/next weekend"... LOL, didn't take long, the procrastination gene is alive and kicking in my mini-me...

Today Dave starts nagging Erik a bit about this homework, and then I butted in (as I tend to do, bad me) and said, "Erik knows what is expected of him, it's his responsibility to do the work, when he's ready we'll go over it with him, and that's the last thing we're going to say about it for now"...

About an hour later, Erik brings out his homework book, plus a sheet of "extra credit" maths that he's been told he "can" do if he has the time this weekend, and feels like doing it... He decided to the do the maths first, and it starts out very easily with 2x tables... He whizzes through those.

The comes the sum: 2 X 9 + 2 = ? I ask him to break the sum down and ask him what part he'll do first. He says the multiplication, so I ask him what 2 x 9 is... He replies, "20". I look at him, and Dave says, "Try again, Erik" He goes, "No the answer is 20" Dave says, "Erik, think about it..." Erik goes, "2 x 9 + 2 is 20"... And then I realise he's done EXACTLY what I used to do at school, and what used to get me into no end of trouble... He's intuited the answer. His brain has raced through the equation, found the answer and popped it out of his mouth before he is able to rationalise it enough to explain how he got to that answer.

This is such an Attention Deficit trait that I was at once thrilled and concerned. I told Erik he was absolutely right, but that had he answered the question in class that way, the chances were that his teacher would react exactly the same way Dad had, and assume he was guessing and not thinking the problem through. That he had to clearly STATE how he came to that conclusion one step at a time, so people could see his thought processes... This means, slowing down his thinking (a very good exercise for people with ADD) and accounting for the intuitive leap...

OMGoodnes. I swear Erik is ADD like myself - or maybe I'm NOT ADD, but either way, he thinks so much like me!

It was great, when he got to the sum that said, "A number, under 20, is multiplied by two, then added to 150 and the answer is 172, what is the number?" He was able to say, "11" and then explain to me how he got to that number (172 - 150 = 22 /2 = 11)...

So, HOMEWORK this weekend became somewhat of a bonding experience for us, where I came to really appreciate how my son's brain work!!!

We then went on to do the three "compulsory" exercises, one of which he'd already done, and two which he worked on between doing other things (he simply CANNOT sit still and finish something in one sitting - another trait he shares with me)...

One final note... I just had to say, I find it incredibly cute that Erik still (aged 9.5 years) calls Daddylonglegs spiders "Dandylonglegs", LOL. I have images of spiders in top hats and bow ties twirling walking canes like batons....

2 comments:

Karen said...

Hi Sif,

What you described of Erik doing his maths is sounds really similar to visual spatial learners. There's some articles about it here.
http://giftedservices.com.au/handouts/index.html
My kids show some traits and so do I. Your preferred style of learning and information processing also tends to be genetic.

It's really interesting reading (although it gets hard to find the time hey!)

Cheers
Karen (sorry I've lurked for a while reading your blog, about time I said hi!!)

Sif said...

Hi Karen!

Yes! Erik is a visual-spatial learner! I identified him as such when he was about two years old (was doing a Master of Education (Early Childhood Development) at the time. As I read back over one of the documents there, I can see more stuff that fits him into that way of learning - thoough he seems ok with maths and his handwriting/ability to stay within lines is probably pretty good actually. And, of course, yes, this totally describes me, even the handwriting and the multiplication issues...

It's been a while since I've looked at the visual-spatial stuff, and now I'm seeing how it might easily be mistaken for ADD in adults (perhaps why I was diagnosed as ADD at the age of 18)...

Thanks for the link, will read some more stuff there :)!

Teenagers and the failing parent...