Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Friday, June 3, 2011

The final crunch

One of my daughters told me last night that she needed my help with her homework. Only, not in the traditional way. Specifically, she needed me to help minimize distractions so she could study for her final exams. She wasn't asking me to keep her sisters quiet. Rather, she was asking me to keep an eye on her and make sure she wasn't drifting over to check Facebook or one of the blogs she follows, like Cupcakes and Cashmere (lest you think it was this blog luring her away). Throughout the school year she had all kinds of safeguards on her computer that would prevent her from checking in with her online world until homework was done. With the imminence of final exams, though, this was no longer enough to keep her in check. She needed me. On the one hand, I rejoiced in the fact that my assistance was being sought. It doesn't happen as much as it used to and, like most of us, I like feeling needed. On the other hand, I knew I was being set up and so did she. She acknowledged it. She told me she would get mad at me each time I reminded her to focus but that I needed to accept that this was just the way it would have to be and that deep down (and certainly by the end of next week) she'd be grateful. I'm not sure it's manipulation or even sabotage when all the cards are laid out on the table and everyone knows what they're getting into. We tried it for a little while and, as you can imagine, it didn't last too long. I have a fairly thick skin when it comes to my kids but I do have a breaking point and there's only so much scowling and growling I'm willing to take in one night. I suspect there will be more of this ridiculousness in place over the weekend so I thought it might be good to pace myself and her.

Learning how to study and developing awareness of yourself as a learner are important parts of growing up and critical to genuine scholarly development. Every once in a while, one of our daughters has a test to study for and Jeff and I try to suggest studying techniques. What works for one of us, though, may not work for someone else. I always find it useful to write things down and then read them aloud. Jeff has always been a pacer and, even now, when he prepares professionally (he is an attorney), he paces until he achieves the optimum level of comfort and conviction with his presentation. Some people work best in groups. Some people study with music. I think it's important to make our kids aware of the choices but then we have to let them choose whatever it is that works best for them. As long as they're flexible if it turns out not to work. And as long as they're not insisting on studying in front of the television. And as long as they're not lying down. And as long as the lights are on.

School is about more than test taking. It's about learning to learn, learning to participate in a collaborative society, learning to socialize respectfully, learning to make and deal with friends and learning about rules. How about the book Rules by Cynthia Lord?  Twelve-year old Catherine has an eight-year old autistic brother from who she creates rules, so he can understand how the world works. At times she is mortified by him and at times she is fiercely protective and at all times, she does a great deal of learning and growing herself and how the world really works.

No comments:

Post a Comment