Friday, February 4, 2011


By Allison Adams 09-15-07, Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 09-18-07

I really try to avoid dabbling in my kids’ homework.

You see – I began to struggle a little once my children passed the point of being required to memorize Dolch sight words, multiplication tables, and state capitals.

Oh, I still ask the usual generic homework questions (Do you have any? Have you finished it?), but my confidence as a competent study partner was shattered once each of my children reached the sixth grade.

I’m pretty sure it was their math homework that shut me up. Their graphing calculators confused me – way too many options.

I’m a plus and minus gal. I don’t do decimals.

My point is this: I know my homework-helping limits. It is very … limited. So, mostly I try to express my genuine concern about my kids’ homework situation without actually becoming directly involved - unless I can use flash cards.

Recently though, during routine questioning, I lost my cool. Then I lost my perspective.

“Have you finished your homework?”
“All of it?”
“Are you sure?”

That’s when I got the Look.
“Don’t give me that Look, mister!”
“Sorry, Mom. I didn’t mean to look at you.”

That little remark ignited my mood and before I knew it I was flaming with a false sense of self-confidence.

“Well,” I said, “it sure didn’t take you long to finish.”
“I only had six problems.”

Six problems. Problems? That meant math. Darn! Probably algebra! Please, oh please, let there be flash cards.

“Well, mister – march yourself upstairs and bring me your flash cards.”
“Flash cards? Jeeze, mom. We don’t use flash cards. We use a formula.”

Formula? Problems with a formula? Uh oh. Where was my husband when I needed him? He could solve a math problem while blindfolded, at twenty paces, with one hand tied behind his back.
I kept pushing.

“Let me see your work.”
“Are you serious?”
“Dead serious, mister.”

He flashed me The Look. I get The Look several times a day so it usually didn’t really faze me. I pressed forward.

“I’ll wait here while you get it.”

In a few moments he returned and handed me several worksheets stapled together. I felt him Looking at me as I rifled through the papers.
As I suspected, I found the stuff on the worksheets undecipherable.
“Do you need me to explain it to you, mom?”

Oh. Oh. Oh. How DARE he! I turned around and unleashed The Look.

“Thank you, but no. Just give me a minute to familiarize myself with the way your teacher has presented the problem to you to solve.”

I thought that sounded pretty good, but I was in Deep Doodie and he knew it. With no flash cards to fall back on, I would have to rely on The Bluff.

“Ahhhhh. Here we go.” I said confidently. “Uh huh. I see.”

I continued to stare at the pages.

“Now, son, you know I’m just doing my job – just trying to help you.”
“Right, mom.”
“If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t care if you finished anything.”
“Uh huh.”
“Okay then,” I said, trying to slip out of my charade, “This looks fine. I mean – the ones I’ve checked here – uh, you know – they look fine. You may have a little adjustment to do on this one here, uh, thingy. The others, uh – well, I guess your math teacher will just have to check it and deliver the final grade.”
“My math teacher? Mom, that’s science homework.”


“See mom - based on the information in those problems, we had to find the given and unknown values so we could determine the volume, mass, and density.”

(Well I know a little something about density.)

If you need me, I’ll be sitting on the stool in the corner … wearing the cone hat.

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