When Ana started Pre-K in Oklahoma, someone told me that Pre-K was the new kindergarten, kindergarten was the new first grade, and so on and so forth. Their assessment proved to be true, as the work Ana did in class and brought home always seemed to me to be above what I remember doing at that age.
Seeing as how this is true, I figured that first grade would be the new second grade. Only I didn’t figure in the whole dual language thing. What difference does it make? Well, if the homework load is indicative, first grade dual language is the new freshman year of college. For real!
Here is a typical night of homework for Ana…
We begin with AR books. She brings home two books almost every night, not because it’s required but because Ana loves bringing home books. She follows the directions and reads each book three times then answers questions I ask her to test how well she understood what she read so that she’ll be prepared for the online test in class. My help is all good and well now, but she’s told me that after Christmas the blue team (English speakers) have to start testing on Spanish books and the red team (Spanish speakers) have to start testing on English books. I know she can do it… but I’m pretty sure my help will be useless at that point.
Then, we move on to her take-home book, which she reads once through then completes a weekly project on. This week, she had to make a list of nouns from the book, which didn’t take as long as I thought it would… but it was confusing for me (yes, me!) as I tried to remember if pronouns should rightly be counted as nouns. Hmm. No matter, because Ana knew what she was doing and didn’t really need my help with this.
Next, we tackle math homework. Six worksheets a week, but we tend to get them done in one sitting to save time because EVERY night of the week we’re working on practice timed tests for addition tests she takes in class. We review her math work from school which is in Spanish, word problems and all. As she counts in Spanish and tells me the Spanish words for different mathematical terms, explaining IN SPANISH what she’s doing, I just sit there and look at her stupidly. It’s what I do best, y’all.
Then, we’re on to spelling, where she has to write sentences for each of her spelling words, complete two really advanced word building activities for the words, go online to do two more activities, and then do an online test. And that’s just for the English spelling words! I almost cried when I found the Spanish spelling words and realized I had no idea how to help her with the same activities on that end, only to have Ana point out to me where the instructions say (in English, no less) that the homework only needs to be done in the student’s native language. Whew! (Yeah, they mercifully save the second language spelling/dictation for the classroom, likely feeling charitable towards the poor students with monolingual mommies who can’t even read the instructions in their OWN language. Ahem.) Still, though, she brings home her Spanish spelling/writing, and I try to figure out what needs to be corrected and am amazed at how very little needs to be corrected because she’s gotten it right. She’s gotten it all right! Even the upside down punctuation marks at the beginning of some of the sentences! (See? That’s where four semesters of Spanish at UH will get you! Without any clue as to what those things are called and why you use them! Go, Coogs!)
And that? Is what homework looks like for our first grader. I told Wes that I didn’t remember having this much homework until I went to college. I’m so excited that she’s working so hard and that there’s SO MUCH that she can learn… but I’m worn out from helping! Or not helping, as the case is with the Spanish portions.
Oh, and meanwhile, while Ana is going through all of this homework, our kindergarten Emmy is dancing around the house, working with sight word and alphabet flash cards, singing songs in a shockingly good Spanish accent and correcting her sister as she counts. “No, Ana, that’s dieciseis!” (I attribute Emma’s language progression not to classroom instruction but instead to her playground romances with various Spanish-speaking classmates. Which works, too, I guess.)
All that said, I’m so glad that our girls are being challenged and that I don’t have to sit around and wonder if they’re bored in school or not living up to their potential. The only thing I find myself worrying about is how ill-equipped I am to help them.
But you know what? I don’t think they need my help as much as I wished they did. And maybe that’s what I should take away from all of this. That I’m not in control of everything… and that it’s GOOD that I’m not in control of everything.
Thankful tonight, after three hours of homework, that we’re ALL still learning a thing or two…