Monday, May 5, 2014

What I Learned from a First Grader's Homework

Listen to most parents now-a-days and they'll tell you they find their kids homework confusing. They feel like they themselves are back in school.

The other day I learned a lesson, but it had nothing to do with math or commas and everything to do with life.

You see, there are some areas of homework my kid flies through. Absolutely loves it. Looks for ways to do it even when there are no more homework problems on that topic. Then there are others that make her cringe. Cry. Throw pencils across the room in fits of frustration that very much mirror her mother's. But we won't tell her that part.

She was working on one such assignment the other day and wailed loud enough that I'm sure her teacher heard her back at the school, "Why do I have to do this, I already know it all!"

[caption id="attachment_448" align="alignright" width="300"]Homework Share this on Pinterest [/caption]

A few things struck me as interesting about this statement.

1. She's in first grade. If she knew everything there was to know about anything, it would be a miracle. There are people graduating from ivy league colleges in a couple of weeks and they don't even know everything about anything. And if you're one of those people and think you do know everything about something, come see me in five years and we'll laugh about it together.

2. This is a deeper problem than a few questions on a homework paper and it isn't limited to my daughter's drooping pint-sized shoulders.

People hate learning about what doesn't interest us. We want to learn the minimum and move on. If we see something remotely familiar and we aren't fascinated by it, we declare we've already learned all we need to know about that particular thing and foisting any more on us is pure torture.

There are times when this is okay:

  • Television shows, music, or really anything related to the entertainment industry. Really. Your life isn't going to be drastically altered if you take one glance at The Bachelor and decide it doesn't need any of your brain cells.

  • Clothes, furniture, and other things that you put in your life because they are aesthetically pleasing. If you're going to have to look at it everyday, it needs to please you on a superficial level. Otherwise, what's the point? Granted, these things come in varying qualities and you should consider that in relation to the purchase price, but they should also be generally pleasing to you.

There are other times, though, when this surface knowledge only thing is very, very bad:

  • People. That first impression isn't usually very reliable. People are complex and it takes time to really know a person.

  • The Bible. When was the last time you really paid attention to a sermon about the Christmas story, or the Prodigal Son, or even the crucifixion? Especially if we grew up in church we think we know everything there is to know about Noah and the flood because we covered it Sunday School for six years running. Newsflash: you will never know everything there is to know about anything in the Bible. God can use it to reveal new things to you every day.

  • Politics, tragedies, or anything covered by the evening news. News outlets, no matter their size or affiliation, are businesses. Their job is to present stories that get readers/viewers. The shorter and more emotion-triggering those stories are, the more avid their readers and viewers become. If you think the story is important, dig deeper.

So before I get too upset at my kid for being unwilling to learn things that don't interest her, I'm going to remind myself that she's human. And that it's a very human trait.

Then I'm going to remind myself that it's a trait I don't like. And I have the power to change it in myself, and maybe a little power to change it in her.

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Let's Tell a Story... Together!

Today is Friday. Normally that means I'd be sharing some tweettastically fabulous gems from the week.

Plot twist!

Any stellar tweets from this week have been bumped to next Friday because the Storium Kickstarter is closing soon and I want to make sure you know about it. Why? Two very important reasons:

1. If they get to $200,000 in pledged support, they'll create Storium for Schools. As a writer and a parent, the dwindling creative projects in schools worries me. Storium is a great opportunity to let anyone flex their imagination muscles and I'd love to see it as a safe tool for teachers.

2. You get to play! As a backer, you get to play in the Beta version of the game instantly. Don't back it in the next few days? You'll have to wait until the public roll-out, projected to be sometime in November.

StoriumLogoI know what you're asking, What is Storium?

You can get the long version (and become a backer) at their Kickstarter page. But in a nutshell, it's a game that lets a group of people tell a story together.

Here's how it works:

One person (the narrator) creates a story. This includes a world of settings, characters, character traits, and more. Currently there are only a handful of pre-made worlds but more than 40 have been funded through the Kickstarter and you can also make your own from scratch.

People who find the story interesting create characters and apply to be part of the story.

The narrator approves the characters they think will play well in the story.

Then the narrator guides the characters into certain scenes and gives them specific goals. The characters play out the scene, trying to be the one to best achieve the goal. That person gets feedback/control going into the next scene.

It's a little bit like doing Improv but you don't have to actually look at anybody and you have time to think of what you want to say. That's a win for the homebody introvert in all of us.

I'm in the middle of my first story and it is a blast even though half of us haven't got a clue what we're doing.


If that sounds interesting to you, check it out. If you choose to back it or are already a backer, come back here and leave a comment. I'd love to get together with some of you and play a story game of our own.

So who's in?