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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