“Hey Deb, sorry I have to bail on book club tonight, I have too much homework.”
“Excuse me? You have homework?”
“I mean my daughter, I have to help her. Sixth grade, it’s intense. It’s really putting a damper on my social life. I can’t go out on weekdays anymore, and cocktail hour has been severely restricted. I need all my faculties of reason.”
I don’t mention to Debbie my dissension into madness each night as we work through “our” homework. I start out like Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society; compassionate, funny,with a dreamy “I’m going to inspire you to greatness” look in my eye. As we grind through endless math problems (no calculators allowed), discuss states of matter, absolute entropy, and perform calculations of molecular and formula weight, I become Agatha Trunchbull. I rant, my daughter cries.
“When I was growing up, we were given a mathematical formula and solved the problem,” I scream. “We didn’t have to do each problem six ways!”
“And chemistry? We did orbitals and atomic weight in high school.”
“When I was in middle school, I would go to a friend’s house after school. We would race each other to finish our homework in a half hour so we could watch Brady Bunch reruns.”
In the 1980’s, middle school was manageable for the average student and parents did not participate. Singapore math was taught in Singapore, an island nation that publicly flogged children for chewing gum.
Should I regret not being a tiger mom? Have I caused my children irreparable damage with my Laissez-faire attitude? My children attended play-based preschool. I didn’t drag my kids to Kumon so they could work ahead of grade level, or send them to math and science camp. They’ve clocked hours of Sponge Bob, Scooby Doo, and other banal programs in front of the TV.
It was all good and well until sixth grade. Now I compulsively go to Google Drive throughout the day to view “our” assignments. Have study guides and supporting materials been posted? Should I brush up on Kahn Academy before my daughter gets home? I have an overwhelming desire to attend her classes, to see if I can absorb what they are teaching during class time. My daughter lives in fear of me shadowing her through school. I’m sure I would get carried away and raise my hand constantly, or just shout out the answers. I want to take the tests too. Can I pass the 2014 version of sixth grade? Will they charge me tuition? Will I get arrested? Can I join the debate team?