I am pro-school.
Pro-books, college-rule paper, graph paper, poster board, dictionaries, pink erasers, messy desks, atlases, recesses and fresh bottles of Elmer’s School Glue.
I love history, and hate math, like a normal person. I still grimace at the memory of the Presidential Fitness test, in which the only event I could complete with any confidence was the Shuttle Run. (Only recently did it occur to me President Reagan didn’t wake up, do his Chin-Ups, the Sit & Reach and the Shuttle Run before heading over to the Oval Office to keep “Red Dawn” from happening in real life. If he was making us do the Shuttle Run, he should have been doing it too.)
Like you, I took Home Economics, Drama, Band, Journalism, Speech & Debate, Photography and German. And, like you, it turns out I was terrible at some things and pretty good at other things, which I guess, is one of the coolest parts of our shared human experience.
But now I’m grown and don’t remember any German and as my kids will be quick to tell you, very little Home Ec. I have a high school sophomore and a fourth grader which gives us an uncomfortable front row seat to how much school has changed since the olden days, and how it has also weirdly stayed the same.
I never thought though, when I was actively hating Algebra from my graffiti-ridden classroom desk (only minimal graffiti from me) that I would one day get to re-live it through my kids, and hate it all over again, all the while wondering if I should pretend that I love it and use it all the time. “Just the other day, I was trying to figure out how much wall-to-wall shag carpet I would need, while slicing a pie ten ways, and figuring out how many rulers I can buy with 11 cents.”
Somehow, totally objective black and white math is different, having made way for creative thinking and areas of gray; adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing – the terminology is different, the methods are new.
Apparently my 1984 method of multiplying is the Shuttle Run of Math. I haven’t been excited to learn the new stuff, until this week. When the fourth grader unzipped his backpack, pulled out the red homework folder (the folder of doom), and a workbook sheet, simply entitled, “Reasonableness.”
His assignment and lesson for the day was… Reasonableness.
Johan is selling baseball cards for $.45 apiece. He is selling 8 cards and says he’ll make $32.40
Now, is that reasonable? No, it’s not. Johan is being ridiculous.
I’ve never been more excited about new math! In fact, I think half of a school year could easily be spent on this one topic. The other half can go to state capitals and quiet reading, but September through mid-January? Reasonableness. In fact, more kids should major in Reasonableness, and shoot for the stars, break the glass ceiling and become Doctors of Reasonableness!
Why stop at Reasonableness?
“What do you have 3rd period?”
“Oh, I have Honor.”
“No, just Honor.”
“Oh, right, I hear the teacher’s amazing.”
Generosity. Self-Control. Respect. Perseverance. Humor. Spelling for the Texting Generation. Common Sense.
I’ve started planning the curriculum.
Johan has two hours to get his homework done, do his chores, eat dinner, and enjoy some time spent talking to the family who loves him and wants to hear about his day. Knowing homework takes an hour, chores take 15 minutes, dinner usually a half hour, and that his parents love him very much, how much time should Johan budget for Snapchat? No, Johan, not two hours.
Your mom’s had a long day of… laundry? Looking at your baby pictures? Working? Coming up with stuff to bug you about? (Who knows what moms do all day, am I right?) Anyway, she looks more tired than usual. She is holding a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket and a frozen bag of peas. Is it a good idea to say, “Is that what we’re having for dinner?” No, Johan, it is not.
You use the last of the paper in your shared printer. Do you a) alert somebody b) pretend you did not notice and hurry away c) walk the 10 feet to the storage closet, get a fresh ream of paper, and fill the tray? You fill the dang tray, Johan.
Here, let me give you the answers for the next ten questions.
Hold the door.
Give him his money back.
Don’t say anything to her.
Tell him, but in the kindest way possible.
Put gas in the tank.
Write a thank you note.
Manage your expectations.
Take out the garbage.
Invite her to go with you.
Leave the 20% tip.
And don’t forget about the advanced course everybody should aspire to – Reasonableness with Oneself.
It’s been the longest week ever. Your kid, Johan has been a real handful. You haven’t been to the gym, and it feels like forever since you’ve practiced a Shuttle Run. Everybody else makes it to the gym; why can’t you? Everybody else has it together. Why don’t you? Everybody else knows what they’re doing with their life, why don’t you?
Correct Answer: Nobody has it together all of the time, and don’t worry about what those other people are doing. You got a chicken and a vegetable on the table this week, and kept your cool with Johan, and that’s pretty good. Take a nap, watch some TV, and just like, make yourself a really good to-do list for next week. It’s reasonable to assume that next week, is totally your week.
Thanks for reading. If you’re not too busy trying to figure out new math, follow me on Instagram, @colleenweems