Memoir, Parenting

My son, the writer

Avery's book project
My son is working on this book project for school. He wants to publish his story when it is done.

My 8-year-old is writing a book for a competition at his school. Yesterday, he brought his notebook to town with him so he could work on his project while we waited for my cracked windshield to be repaired. He likes to use waiting room time constructively and always brings something to read or work on.

At one point, my son stopped to ask me to list all the foods I cook for dinner that “he really really likes a lot” (I could only think of tacos.) You see, he is doing a life writing piece and couldn’t remember what we’d had for dinner on a particular day he was describing, but he could remember it was something he liked a lot.

Since I wasn’t much help, he finally said, “I’ll just use tacos,” and got on with it. He didn’t let himself get hung up on that insignificant detail but instead chose something that acted as a fair representation of the truth. This is an essential concept to keep in mind when writing nonfiction, which many readers consider to be completely “true.” Sometimes obsessing over getting a tiny detail just right is counterproductive. There comes a time when you need to just come up with a fair representation and get on with it. Continue reading “My son, the writer”


When homework makes the whole family cry, there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong.

one room schoolhouse
Here’s an OLD picture of my younger son and me visiting a one room schoolhouse located at Old World Wisconsin in Eagle, WI. Look how tiny we both were back then!

As my children have become entrenched in the American public school system over the years, I have become increasingly disillusioned with said system as a whole. I often wonder if American school children are being prepared to survive real life in the real world someday, or if they’re just guinea pigs for a failing experiment that some researcher has been paid too much grant money for to admit that it’s just not working out.

If my Facebook feed is any indication, I am not alone in wondering if my children might be better off if I were to pull them out of the public school system altogether.

Homework has always sucked, but I don’t remember it ever causing so much family strife when I was growing up as it does now. I don’t remember my parents ever crying because they couldn’t understand my homework well enough to be able to help me with it. I don’t remember my parents really helping me with my homework much at all.

Back then, my homework was MY homework. It wasn’t my parents’ homework. They were there for me if I had a question, but otherwise, I was expected to take responsibility for my own work. Even when I did ask the occasional question, my dad’s standard answer was, “I don’t know: let’s look it up.” He would then make me figure out which encyclopedia I needed (wow, am I old!), and then he would watch as I paged through the book looking for the topic I needed. How’s that for teaching me an important life skill that I would actually use someday? (Sans encyclopedia, of course!) Continue reading “When homework makes the whole family cry, there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong.”


Down with homework!

English: Homework
In my opinion, homework = housework. Schoolwork should be completed at school. | English: Homework (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My 7-year-old started second grade this year. Recently, he brought home his very first list of vocabulary words. The assignment – which is to be repeated every week with a new set of words for the remainder of the school year – was to write down each word with its definition. Which therefore meant looking up definitions for him to write down.

At first, I was tempted to use the app on my phone to look up each definition and have my son copy the words from there. Then it occurred to me that no child of mine will ever get away with not learning how to use a real-life, hard-copy dictionary. So, I pulled out my mammoth Webster’s New World College Dictionary, and we set to work.

Teaching a 7-year-old how to use a Dictionary is maybe not the easiest task in the world. In fact, like much of my son’s homework that ends up being my homework as well, it’s a little annoying. How can a teacher tell a second grader to write down definitions without first teaching him how to find those definitions? Continue reading “Down with homework!”