Posted tagged ‘homework’

“I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.”

August 31, 2017

Today is a delight. The humidity is still among the missing. The morning was even a bit chilly. I wished I had a sweatshirt on when I was outside waiting for Gracie. It rained all Tuesday night into Wednesday early afternoon but then the sun came out and the rest of the day was lovely. I hung around the house yesterday and finally did the laundry. It has made it upstairs only as far as this floor, but I still feel accomplished.

The kids around here go back to school next week, the day after Labor Day. It was also when I went back to school. I complained every year because that is the responsibility of kids the world over, but I didn’t really care. By the end of the summer I had run out of things to do. I was bored though I would never have admitted it.

On the weekend before going back to school, I checked out all my school supplies again and again. I sharpened my pencils and loaded and unloaded my school bag. I used to carry it with the strap across my chest, and I’d check out the look in the mirror.

I got to wear a new outfit on the first day of school, the only day of no uniforms. My mother would lay out our outfits on our beds. New clothes and new shoes were special.

On the schoolyard, I’d see my school friends for the first time since the summer had begun. When the bell rang, a hand bell rung by a nun, we’d go into the building but not in lines. Those would start the next day after we had found our classrooms and classmates. There were two classes of every grade, each with 40 or more students. One class got a nun while the other class didn’t. The nuns by their very natures kept us quiet and attentive. We didn’t dare do otherwise. The not nun teachers were just as strict. We all knew the being attentive position. It was sitting at our desks with our hands folded on top of it.

After the first few days, school became routine. We were back in uniform. Bells ruled our lives. We entered and left the school in lines. We did homework. It was a long way until June.

“Whoever snatched my formerly reliable, sharp short-term memory: I’d like it back now, please.”

January 24, 2017

Last night it poured. I fell asleep to the pounding on my roof and to the tremendous wind. It truly howled. This morning I woke to another dark, rainy day. It will be warm. Right now it is 49˚. The low will be 40˚. Winter has gone on hiatus for a few days.

When I was a kid, I did my homework at the kitchen table every day. I remember memorizing the times tables, spelling words and the Baltimore Catechism. “Who made you?” “God made me.” Questions and their answers from that catechism are still lingering, unused and unneeded, in my memory drawers, but the times tables and spelling words are part of my every day. Sometimes I had to do written homework, often worksheets. Mostly they were arithmetic lessons. The one I remember the most was a sheet to practice using coins. I had to add or subtract nickles, dimes or quarters.

I was never good at numbers. I used to hide my fingers under my desk so I could count. The nuns kept sharp eyes for finger counters so I had to be sly. The spelling words were easy. Every week I had to learn 20 new words for a test on Friday. I think I always got a 100, not a boast but evidence of a good memory. If I spelled the words out loud a few times, I learned them. My memory always saved me. That’s not so true anymore. As I get older, pulling answers from memory drawers gets more and more difficult because I can’t find them, but I have learned to compensate. I use my mother’s technique of going through the alphabet a letter at a time hoping one will jog my memory. I also use mnemonics. The funny thing is that often out of nowhere the answer jumps unexpectedly into my head long after I had searched for it. I hate not finding it, but I get comfort knowing the answers are still there.

“Do you realize if it weren’t for Edison we’d be watching TV by candlelight?”

November 9, 2015

Today is a lovely fall day. It isn’t all that warm because of the cool breeze, but the sun is bright and sharp. My heat came on during the early morning so the house was comfortable when I came downstairs. It was my morning to sit and chat with my neighbor to help improve her English. She gets stuck on have or has. Usually she uses have for everything. She turns played and similar words into two syllables. We worked on that as well. She gives me the Portuguese word for what we’re talking about and helps me with the pronunciation. I guess that makes it a joint effort.

After Wednesday my dance card is empty. It is getting on to the time of the year when I tend to hibernate. I’ll see a movie now and then and play games with my friends on Sunday, but that’s about it, and I’m fine with that.

When I was a kid, my winters were about the same as now. We went to the Saturday Matinee a couple of times a month, but the rest of the week was pretty quiet. It got dark only a few hours after we’d get home from school, but most days we just stayed in the house as it was too cold to play outside. We’d watch television and we’d do our homework. Most afternoons we did both at once. I remember watching Superman and even back then I wondered how Lois and Jimmy didn’t recognize Clark. I guessed the glasses were a better disguise than we imagined.

Supper was usually around six. Most nights my father made it home in time. In my memory drawers I see him walking in the door wearing his overcoat and his fedora. He’d put them in the closet then change out of his suit. He always wore a suit to work. Supper was eaten around the kitchen table, but there was never enough room for all of us unless the table got pulled out and another seat was added at the end. I think that’s when my mother started eating at the counter as we never did pull out the table except for holidays. Much later, in a different house, the dining room table was big enough so the whole family and more could sit together and eat; however, we mostly did that only on holidays because by then we were scattered and it was only during the holidays we’d all together. My mother always joined us at the table.

“It is indeed a mistake to confuse children with angels”

May 16, 2014

The day is a beauty, a sit on the deck in the sun and smile sort of day. My deck still looks like winter so it is time to break out spring, to uncover furniture, hang candles, plant window boxes and free the flamingo and the gnome from their winter quarters.

Even when I worked I changed from my school clothes to my play clothes. It was always the first thing I did when I got home. When I was young, my mother reminded me, but that wasn’t really necessary. It was part of the afternoon routine: get home, drop books on the table, put the lunch box in the kitchen and go upstairs to change. This time of year we had lots of light for playing after school, and we had lots of pent-up energy from sitting down most of the day. We usually played until close to dinner time. Homework was done right after dinner at the kitchen table. There was never much of it when I was young. Usually it was finish a work page or learn spelling words for the next day’s test. There were always ten words. The work pages were usually arithmetic, a few problems in division or multiplication. When I was done, I could watch television until it was time for bed. When I think of it now, I realize every day was the same but no day seemed the same. I never thought of yesterday or tomorrow. I was totally involved in today. I was a kid and that’s what we did.

The only thing I remember about my eighth grade graduation was it was in church. The school had no gym or auditorium. We took a class picture with the pastor of the parish and we were in our fancy clothes. There were over ninety of us which meant 45+ students in each of the two eighth grades. I remember the rows of desks. My favorite seat was by the window because of the bookshelves flush against my desk. I used to stash my radio there, put the earphone in one ear, hide it with my hand and listen to music. Once I got caught, but the nun only asked if I could hear well enough. I figured she thought I was a bit deaf. I also used to hide candy there. Fireballs were a favorite. I never got caught. My heart was broken when the nun changed all our seats trying to break up the talkers, and I ended up front. I had to be good. I was too close to the nun’s desk. I did manage, though, to break a rule or two. On really nice days, I hid my brown bag and went out as if I were going home to lunch, and I sometimes came back late but never got in trouble. Other times I’d leave early with some lame excuse like going to the library, and I always got away with it. I was a favorite and I took full advantage.

“My homework was not stolen by a one-armed man”

October 23, 2011

The nights are chilly, afghan chilly, animals right beside me chilly. I can barely move in bed as they are huddled beside me, and it isn’t even winter yet. The house was around 65° when I woke up this morning which meant a sweatshirt and warm slippers. The sandals have been put way back in the closet.

The day started out sunny but has since become cloudy and dark and is supposed to stay this way. It’s 56°, tolerable but sad. It means no open windows and wearing socks and shoes. I hate that it gets dark so early in the afternoon now. That mole feeling which comes with winter is getting stronger.

When we were kids, early darkness this time of year left little time to play outside after school. Besides, it was too cold for the usual games except for an occasional bike ride. The walk to and from school and recess were about the only physical activities we had until snow and ice gave us more options. I don’t remember minding having to stay inside as we had plenty of games, and I had my books to keep me company. Late in the afternoon the TV went on, and we’d sit on the carpet close to the set and watch our favorite programs on the flickering black and white screen. Only my mother calling us to dinner pulled us away.

I was the one who always did her homework right away. I’d sit at the kitchen table with my papers and do mostly English, religion, spelling or math. We almost never brought home books except for our catechism, which we had bought. I think the nuns were afraid we’d lose the other books and money was hard to come by to replace lost or damaged books. Most times we brought home worksheets with math problems, spellings lists or fill in the blanks with the right pronoun, country or whatever else was asked for. For some reason the coin sheet jumps out of my memory drawer, and I remember black and white pictures of coins. For homework we had to add or subtract them from the total number of coins. Religion homework was always memorize something. Where is God? God is everywhere was on the first page of one of my catechisms. My favorite picture was of the three milk bottles. One was white for sinless, one was half white and half black for venial sins and the last was all black for mortal sins. I wonder what they do now. You can’t see through cartons.

“Sex education may be a good idea in the schools, but I don’t believe the kids should be given homework.”

September 17, 2010

The sky opened and the rain fell, all night into this morning, and I drifted off to sleep listening to the sounds of the rain. The storm was quixotic. The drops sometimes pelted the roof then they’d fall gently, in almost a whisper. Today is quiet, the way it is after a storm; only the birds break the stillness.

It was one of those guess the day mornings. I could have sworn it was Saturday, but a quick review of the last few days brought me back to Friday. I had no plans for the day, whatever it was. The house is clean, the larder filled, and I have some books from the library. I think my world is just about perfect.

Most times we didn’t get homework on Fridays. I guess it was the nuns practicing charity. Every other day of the week, though, found me at the kitchen table in the afternoons right after school. I liked to do my homework right away so the rest of the day could be mine. I never moaned about getting homework. Somehow I understood it to be my lot in life, and it never took much time when I was in elementary school to do a few arithmetic problems or learn some new spelling words. I was quick and out the door in no time.

At the end of the year when I was in the third grade, I got three ribbons for excellence: one for spelling, another for religion and a third for English. I still have them upstairs in a scrapbook. The ribbons were homemade by the nuns, and each had a pin on the back so I could proudly wear them. They were the first prizes I ever received, and I wanted to save them forever. I’m still working on that.