Friday, September 08, 2006

On late-night homework and other examples of flying by the seat of one’s pants

The onset of middle school has meant an end to an era in our home. It is the end of the era of “let’s see what our homework is” after dinner. Sadly enough, for some in this household, it is the era of “let’s see what our homework is” over breakfast. Gone is the studying for a “forgotten” quiz over the bowl of Life cereal (in this case I am NOT talking about cereal for dinner) and “doing a quick worksheet” while putting on shoes.

Our oldest daughter, quite good in English, has heretofore followed in her mother’s (pre-college) footsteps: flying by the seat of one’s academic pants. She does her best with a deadline. A test? Okay, we can study in the car on the way to school. A project due? No problem. We can get the stuff for it tonight after school.

Enter Honors English.

Any preconceived notions of “I’m good at English” have gone flying out the window. Her teacher sends home papers graded with red Sharpie: “Where’s your theme? 80.” No other notes or markings grace the page to lessen the blow.

Last night was the last hurrah of the old regime. At least I hope it is. Our seventh grader knew she had a book report due today, and had put some thoughts together on that earlier in the week. Sadly (for all of us), this week has been crazily busy. In addition to daily volleyball practice, she has been working on her campaign to serve as historian of her choir class (after an agonizing decision over whether or not to use “Air Heads” candies as campaign hand-outs. She decided against it.). She had a volleyball game last night until 8:00 p.m.

And most unfortunately, she did not realize a “project” was also to be turned in with the paper until after school, a poster with examples of character traits of a person in her book. Usually, she (being artsy) loves this kind of stuff, because most teachers go for content more than style, so she gets bonus points for using both.

But this teacher’s instructions read: “Bonus given for decoration.”

That was all she needed to become obsessed with details of poster-beauty for far longer than was reasonably necessary.

The poster looked great, but then she remembered she had to make some revisions to the paper. Around 10:30 last night she finally went to bed. She was exhausted, but I was determined not to get emotionally wrapped up in her crisis. I was there, but she was doing the work.

Reality is such a great teacher. She knew what I was going to say even before the lecture:

No more seat-of-the-pants-ed-ness.

Now if we can just figure out how to get her there?


Annie said...

Oh all of the things I have to look forward to...thanks for the heads up!!

I was showing hubby your post on True Love Waits and your hubby's date with your daughter...he said that is a great thing to do and now what he wants to do with our daughter when she turns 13.

lrlwreath said...

TAg you are it.

Susanne said...

Ya the no more procrastinating rule has now taken effect in our home. This has always been a struggle for my youngest but yesterday with any arguement she actually did some work ahead of time on something that is due next week! Dare I hope we're onto a new behavior pattern?

wendy said...

Seventh grade is exciting, over here, too! I just found your blog today, and it is so fun!

Michelle- This One's for the Girls said...

Let me know when you get there. :)

Shannon said...

RATS! I know those days aren't too far ahead of us. And if they have to stop flying by the seat of their pants, it probably means I have to too, huh?

Code Yellow Mom said...

I must say it's great for her to learn it now, in middle school - I didn't "get it" until about my sophomore year of college. :(

Get out the excel spreadsheet and all her class syllubi (however you make that word plural..) and outline the semester by small deadlines within big deadlines...that's the strategy I learned from a younger cousin - the student of the century in my book. Of course, then it's about actually following the master plan.

Flying by the seat of one's pants is so much more fun.

MicheleinNZ said...

You know, I don't know if I learned this lesson until I started working, after university. How I ever graduated from college is beyond me. But I certainly remember the stress it caused me in late high-school/college. I pray that your daughter is able to start mastering this skill now because she certainly won't regret it.

Christine said...

I remember when I learned this lesson too. It was a book report and project on The Diary of Anne Frank. My mom had the absolute nerve to go to bed! I was up till midnight, crying halfway through my work because I was so tired. This was in highschool and I never did it again. I never even pulled an all-nighter in college. Hopefully your daughter soaks up this lesson learned!

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Aw, poor girl. I'm sure she'll survive the adjustment, but as a dedicated last-minute-crammer myself, I know those lessons aren't always easy.

I'll be watching you closely for wisdom and advice in dealing with this. I'm feeling fairly inadequate lately since getting my son through his 2nd-grade homework is throwing us for a loop! I can't imagine middle school homework!