Friday, January 09, 2009

Prepare for take-off

Mom! I hate division!

I stopped in the middle of setting down the dogs’ dinners, stainless steel bowls suspended mid-stream, and turned toward the dining room table. My 8-year-old daughter was hunched over her math paper, scowling.

“You’re not doing division already!”

She looked up at me, indignant. “Yes I am! Come see!”

I walked over to the table, dog bowls still in hand, with two deerhounds following me in half-panicked confusion -- faces upturned in anticipation, licking their chops. Looking down at K’s paper, I saw the telltale signs of calculating remainders.

“Wow. You really are doing division. Where did you learn to do that?”

She rolled her eyes in mock disgust. At least, I think it was mock. You never know. “In school, Mom. You know; that place I disappear for hours every day while you’re at work?”

Continuing to stare at her paper, I noticed she’d made a subtraction error in the third line.

“So I suppose this means you can multiply, as well.”

This time the disgust was real. “Tsk. Mom! Of course I can multiply! We have been doing multiplication since Halloween!”

The dogs began to whimper at my sides; Max bumped his head into the small of my back, shifting from foot to foot. I walked back to set down their food bowls and returned to K’s paper.

We worked our way through division homework. In the course of helping her, I discovered she can also calculate squares. As I looked over more of her homework, I saw that she had also been writing earth science definitions and had graduated to words like “discovery” and “appreciate” in her spelling homework. When did she learn all this stuff? I mean, I guess as some level, I knew she was learning to multiply. I check her homework several times a week. But I am certain we were calculating 4 + 2, just last week.

As parents, there are times when we are taken aback by the staggering growth rates our children exhibit. I think most of us experience it the first time they outgrow an outfit before we’ve had a chance to remove the tags from the store. When they begin to speak and develop vocabulary in earnest, we are amazed at the number of words they learn, just by taking in the world around them.

Third Grade appears to be fertile ground for this sort of exponential growth. I notice that K and her friends have developed increasingly sophisticated play routines (thank GOD, they haven’t started playing ostracizing games with each other yet). K is developing a keen fondness for puns and plays on words. She’s reading Harry Potter. She can make a batch of Hamburger Helper and brownies without my assistance. And now this sudden leap in the volume and variety of school work she brings home. I find myself wondering if children have always grown up this fast, or if the demands of our society have made them precocious.

My mother assures me, as only a mother can, that I was MUCH smarter and quicker to learn than K is, not to mention a better cook. ;) Perhaps. But I am still in awe, watching the development of this mind and body and wondering what I did before I became a parent.

The next ten years are going to be a lot of fun.


Anonymous said...

Just wait until she starts saying "I KNOW-uh! I'm not STUPID!"


Sue said...

Hmmm...I think it only gets better and better...most days

bhd said...


Ellie Creek Ellis said...

i know as a jh teacher, the kids' curriculum is MUCH further advanced then when i was their age...

Mike Carter said...

They are such wonders at that age. And then they turn into teenagers, and all that wonder is shot to hell!