For those of you who get this in the mail, you can view this blog here.
My daughters came home this week with a sheet of paper announcing that they had a “family homework”. This family homework was to look up information on biodiversity and think of two questions and then answer them (a flawed technique I think, as kids will usually choose questions that are easily answered, but anyway.) They suggested we take a minimum of two hours do this.
Two hours. On a weeknight? The mind boggles. Of course, this had to happen on one of our busiest weeks, and of course, it was due tomorrow.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am very happy to look up stuff on biodiversity. I want my kids to think about the idea that everything is connected, that everything depends on something else. And to think about what happens when one species population starts to either get too big or too small and how that can impact the rest of the ecosystem. Like, um, us humans. So I was on board. I brought my laptop into the kitchen while I was preparing dinner and making granola and getting the lunches ready for the week. Having done a bit of preliminary research beforehand, my “lesson plan” was to get them to read a bit of information on biodiversity and then watch a movie that would explain it.
So first link- the Environment Canada website. So far so good. On the sidebar they have biodiversity facts, impact, loss of biodiversity, all that good stuff. Then I thought I would make sure they were understanding what it was all about. I asked questions. And right away, we were in school. It was weird. One daughter would raise her hand, and then the other, and all of a sudden, this exploration into an exciting topic became trying to guess at what the “teacher” (that would be me in this case) already knows.
How does that happen? Is it because it was already “school” because it was homework? Is it because I am a controlling freak that was expecting to have certain inquiries from them?
Probably the latter. This has been a theme in the last week, one that has become very clear: you can’t make kids learn. When you do, they will only be regurgitating whatever you fed them so that they can tell you what you want to hear so that you will finally leave them alone and they can actually go learn. Or play the DSi.
Anyways, I digress (kind of.) If you can’t make them learn though, console yourself with the thought that it is much easier to make them cry. Oh yeah, baby. Fascist mother rears her ugly head again. It has been awhile, but she’s back (cue scary music).
Now how did I make my daughters cry? Ahhh. Well, let’s continue with our lesson plan, shall we? After they read a little bit, I went to youtube to show them a video about the subject:
So far so good. Then we go back to the information and they sit in front of the computer screen “reading” about it a little more. They ask what an ecosystem is and we read more about it and I show them a nice little video of a coral reef as an example.
At this point, the dinner, is very slow to get in the oven, because they need me to help them navigate through the information. I am getting frazzled. I tell them it’s time to think about their questions. I lead them on a little, wanting them to think about what our impact on the planet is, but it isn’t happening. So I get the brilliant idea of showing them videos of the incredible damage the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico is doing. But, and here is where I go a little psychotic, wanting the effect of the oil spill to really effect my children, I can’t find enough horrible images of oil slick birds. And then I remember that oil spill twenty years ago, when I was just a bit older than my daughters: the Exxon Valdez. Remember that? And I find this video:
They are both looking horrified. There eyes go wider, there jaws are dropping faster then the ice caps, and all of a sudden my oldest bursts into tears.
On the plus side, I did get a question from her.
Daughter: Mom, why do we need oil?
Me: Well, people use it for cars, to heat their homes, etc.
Daughter: Why do we need cars? Why can’t we just go back to having horse and carriages?
Me: Well, it would be hard to go back, because we are used to having certain comforts and our technology is more advanced. But there are alternative sources of energy? What else do you think we could use?
Daughter (without hesitation): batteries.
Me: Um, well, no.
Then we talk about wind power, solar power, etc.
Now for the second daughter. By this time first D has her questions written down on the official blue sheets given to her for this project and has found the answers. She is done her assignment. Second D however, forgot her sheets at school, doesn’t have a pencil and is too lazy to think of a couple of questions.
I am getting frustrated. And the potatoes are still not in the oven.
I get snappy, the way I used to do when I actually had to sit through their homework with them.
Me: What are your questions? Come on, D think. I know you’re smarter than that.
Second D: I don’t know! (tears welling up in her eyes).
Two down. Monster mom strikes again.
We finally come up with two questions and dinner gets ready and its all okay. I think.
Do I feel bad? Honestly? Not really.