A Path to Story, Ch. 14: Homework

Homework with my daughter can be such a trip. Yesterday she pretended, at least that was my impression, that she didn’t understand how to finish drawing a rectangle on a sheet of graph paper based on simple instructions which gave the number of rows and columns therein. She is quite clever and is usually done with her work before her brothers even begin. I say clever instead of smart because though she is smart and usually knows the answer, she decides to make a game of it instead of simply being done.  And just like if you give her a pencil and a piece of paper she will never get bored, she also rarely tires of being antagonistic.  I wonder who she gets that from…

Normally, the imminent convergence of her brothers finished homework to hers is enough to inspire her to move on, however, yesterday it wasn’t.  Both of my sons were already almost halfway through the next page while she was still “stuck” on the first problem.  My daughter wasn’t going to budge.  Her brothers were pleading for my help on their problems because they wanted to be finished so they could play video games.  I could relate with that.  We were at a stalemate.  I tried again to explain the directions to her and this time she purposely drew a line too long.  Instead of starting over for the 4th time, it hit me, change the story.  So I did.

Suddenly it wasn’t about drawing rectangles anymore, she was building a fence to protect kittens, one imaginary kitten for each square of the graph.  I may have let my exasperation drive my imagination because for speed’s sake I included other animals like sharks, wolves, and crocodiles.  The only way to save the kittens from becoming a meal was to finish the fence/rectangle.  Immediately my youngest son got into the story and started growling; my oldest boy was offended.  But my daughter did her work in record time after which we all celebrated that the kittens were safe.

Changing the story can be very useful, but for Dads, I would also advise caution.  My imagination can at times cause havoc and when I tell a story I have to be careful to rein it in.  There’s no point in getting homework done in record time only to have them waking up from nightmares at 2:00 in the morning.