I have an embarrassing secret to share. My fourth-grade daughter continually puts me in my place in the math department, plus a few other subjects. I still can carry my own in science and grammar, but I need to up my game to prove I can assuredly assist in the homework world.
The retired television show, “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” suggested kids can intellectually pass up their parents by the age of 10; but let me tell you, my child knocked me off my high horse numerous times in third grade!
“Hold on, honey. Let Mama read the question again… hmm. Oh, well! Dad will be home in an hour. He loves quadratic equations!”
Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. She’s not that advanced, but the new math certainly feels foreign to this mom.
Some of you may be up close and personal with our country’s Common Core standards. I’ll add you to the prayer chain. This beastly teaching model produces hives on every parent who partakes in homework supervision. I realize someone who knows better is attempting to make our children smarter by ramming knowledge into their gray matter, but why must the powers at be make parents feel stupid in the meantime?
Recently, my anxiety surged a smidgen when my daughter asked me to define the word “hyperbole.” She’s 10! Why does she need to know that definition, let alone spell it right and use it correctly in a sentence?
How can I expect her to use this advanced word correctly, when I’m not sure of the answer myself? So I did what every other parent in the world does — I lied. Telling her she should do her own research in the dictionary.
Since the nut doesn’t fall far from the genetics tree, my parents also pretended they knew answers when asked the origin, definition or spelling of a word. My mother was notorious for having me get up from the dinner table to find the right answer. Doesn’t every family in America have a dictionary several feet from the kitchen table? It was wedged next to our 1960s complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica. No one was leaving the table until we knew the ins and outs of an earthworm’s reproductive system.
Because I obviously love to over-share, here is what I learned. “Hyperbole” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “an exaggeration by effect and not meant to be taken literally.” Really? I seriously thought it was a story with a wild ending. Now if my daughter had asked what “onomatopoeia” meant, I would’ve exclaimed, “Wow! I know that!” but once again my fifth-grader-to-be caught me unprepared.
There are countless memorable stages as a parent. The first smile, that first step, when she’s finally potty-trained! But right now I’m living the assisting-with-your-child’s-homework stage. It’s more challenging than I would have thought. This phase could easily drive a parent insane, lead to premature aging, or trigger excessive drinking — not that I’m recommending any of these. Carrying those “ones” in a multiplication number sentence should be cautiously completed by a high-functioning, sober mind.
But if you get stuck, might I suggest secretly sneaking a tablet or cellphone to ask Siri? That gal has more right answers than any encyclopedia I came across.
(previously published in the Kansas City Star newspaper on April 23, 2016)