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Homework     682 Words

I’d like to know when homework became a family affair? As a child of the 50s and 60s I don’t recall having to prepare a feature-length film with DVD game cartridge on the life of Isaac Newton, but perhaps I’m just out of touch with what’s now being required in the classroom.


Please understand, I think it’s great that children get to exercise all their creative skills so they can “integrate the knowledge into all mediums to improve learning”. Heck, it sure beats the #2 pencil and ruler-on-the-knuckle with which I was taught. Although with such incentives as fear and loathing I still managed to learn.


So, the other night I’m helping my 11-year old daughter with her math. She doesn’t get it. Or at least that’s her story and she’s sticking with it. The problem involves figuring out how many video cartridges 5/8” deep will fit into a box that’s 15-1/2” long.


Now I’ve just spent an entire day getting the kids to school completely clothed and fed, driven 40 miles to the office in bumper-to-bumper traffic, argued with lawyers and finance types, skipped lunch, taken one bathroom break, driven 40 miles back through bumper-to-bumper traffic, cooked dinner for two kids and am just now collapsing on the couch with a donut. I’m as close to a coma as I can be without a physician’s diagnosis and am wishing I had something in the medicine cabinet stronger than Advil.


It’s not that I can’t figure this out. I can. Just not using the teacher’s preferred method. And it’s all I can do not to tell my daughter that the answer to “how many will fit in the box?” is: A crap load. Any remaining space will be filled with packing peanuts.


Which brings me back to Isaac Newton, the discoverer of the principle of gravity. My 12-year old son not only has to do a written report AND an oral report but he also has to fully clothe a paper doll. With real clothes. No just drawing it on with crayons.


So, here we are scanning the internet for a photo of Isaac Newton in period clothes. I’m starting to feel like Scarlet O’Hara ripping down those curtains at Tara as I consider if my husband would notice 6” of missing fabric on his pant legs. If I skin the cat, I can make one fine hairpiece for old Isaac.


Right about this time, I’m noticing that my son, who’s remained typically uninterested in the artistic merits of this project so far, has adhered his fingers together with the last of the Super Glue. Option number two is Elmer’s Glue which I discover has petrified into a white chuck of rock because the last kid who used it (as I recall, our daughter tried to glue 10 lbs. of glitter onto her bedroom door as a way of creating a secret entrance to “fairyland”…) didn’t put the cap back on.


So, I’ve meticulously created patterns, using a pair of scissors just sharp enough to cut Jello, spared the cat and shredded a pair of bedroom slippers instead-- and it all comes down to duct tape. I hand the fabric and tape to my son.


When I come back, I’m dismayed to discover that old Isaac is so full of duct tape that all you can see are his eyes. He looks as if he’s about to be stuffed into the truck of a car and taken to the Jersey Meadowlands.


As night begins to fall, my son is reapplying Isaac’s hairpiece while reciting his oral report on how Isaac Newton explained gravity. A picture begins to form in my mind of what I’d like to send to my son’s teacher.


It’s me, standing on a chair. A hangman’s noose is slung over a ceiling beam and around my neck. The caption on the photo reads:


 “To my son’s teacher: When I kick the chair out from under me, not only will I have explained gravity but I’ll never again have to help with one of these damned reports!”

2004 Nancy Franklin. All rights reserved