Eating your pie and having it too

My eldest son started college this month. To be honest, his interest in pursuing post-secondary education came to us as a complete surprise. You see, from the very beginning he was never the studious sort. Looking back in my journal, I found this piece of work that I wrote as he was completing his first grade.


It has been a long year, wrought with joy, frustration, and everything in between. My son is creative and excels in art, crafts, and music. As I write this I am watching him do his homework. Getting him just to do his homework has been the major frustration this year, and I am concerned that we are only at the beginning, and have another eleven years of this to go.

Overall, my boy is fantastic. The elder of the two, he can be quite personable when he’s not lost in his own imaginary world. He has a spectacular memory, and can remember whole scenes from movies he watches and stories he reads. He learned everything there is to know about dinosaurs from the Prehistoric Park series, and several books. The school librarian doesn’t have to lead him to the dinosaurs section anymore; he’s worn a path in the carpet and has the route down pat. Homework has been our major obstacle and we’ve spent the last year developing strategies to help him get it done faster.

Before I continue, I first must own up to the fact that I always have had a problem with my kid being assigned any homework at all at this point in his school life. I mean, he’s in GRADE ONE. In grade one I was stealing crayons and shaking pop cans to watch them spray. Meanwhile, my treasured son is forced to write five “Sight Words” sentences and complete two pages of “Minute Math”. What has this world become?

At any rate, focus and time management are important traits that help a person to get ahead in life. So, if our boy can nip this issue in the bud, and learn time management at an early age, then he’ll already be further ahead.

But… “Sight Words” and “Minute Math” are low on my son’s priority list. I hear a lot of pencil chatter and think, “Oh wow! How productive he is!” When I check on his work 30 minutes later, I see doodles, broken lead, and the word “horse” still waiting to be used in a sentence.

“Son,” I say. “That’s only the first word! When were you thinking of writing the rest of the sentence?”

“Oh. I was thinking of all the other stuff I’d rather do instead.” This would prove to be the most frequently heard sentence in many of our conversations.

At this rate, he will still be writing “I want to ride a horse.” by the time I turn 50. We need to get him cracking right away. I’m a problem solver, by golly! All we need is a plan! I left my son at the dining room table while I went to craft the solution.

After an hour, I returned with a circle that I had cut into 6 pie-shaped slices. I told him that each of these slices was worth 5 minutes. I would time him as he worked, and fill in one piece of pie for every 5 minutes of work. The goal was for him to finish writing his sentences before we compiled a whole pie. Come on! At the end of the year, a first grader should be able to write 5 common-word sentences in 30 minutes, wouldn’t you think?

But then again, this was my kid we’re talking about. If he’s anything like his old man, he’s stubborn. Sure enough, he continued daydreaming when he should have been writing. Meanwhile, I started daydreaming when I should have been watching the clock. Did 5 minutes pass? Did we complete a whole pie? I don’t know! I DON’T KNOW!

“Son,” I finally resigned. “Let’s stop this for now. I really feel like eating some pie.”

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