Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Life Skills in the Modern Age

My boys are currently soaking up some kiddie R & R, enjoying a week-long Spring Break from school. (Because hey, the two surprise, bonus weeks off in February for snow-related...nonsense...weren't enough, ya know?) They have homework, but they also have the gift of plenty of time in which to complete it. Which is good, because the last experience I had with "attempting to help my child do his best work"...turned into quite a standoff...a Battle of Scholastic Wills, you might say.

It started innocently enough--I was doing something on my laptop in the spare room when Riley showed up with his notebook, to sprawl out on the guest bed and work. In the interest of keeping the audience up-to-the-minute with play-by-play commentary (for which he is well-known) he informed me that he needed to compose a paragraph. (I don't recall the topic...or which class it was for...but I was totally paying attention, I swear!) He appeared to be industriously scribbling away for a while...until he paused to ask me, "How do you spell 'possession'?" Rather than instantly providing him with the answer (and so promoting laziness...and dependence...and...probably a host of other damaging academic and personal habits) I first asked, "How do you think it's spelled?"

He sighed in a rather "Oh, here we go again, Mom's being difficult" fashion and said, "I don't know...p-o-s-s-e...t-i-o-n?" (Hmm...good try...and actually, that combination of letters DOES make the right sound...if only English weren't so...random and ridiculous. Sorry about that, kiddo...) So I tried another tack. "Okay, how do you spell just 'possess'?" But at the end of a long day, he had limited patience for my little reindeer games, and just wanted to move on, so he refused to take a stab. I was therefore left with no other recourse than to resort to the tack my own father would have taken (um...make that "did take" ...many, many times in my youth, in fact...) so I shrugged and said, "Fine, you have two choices: write it down several ways to see what seems right...or look it up."

Now, in my mind, of course, "look it up" triggers flashbacks to the 20-pound Webster's that dominated about half a shelf in my parents' downstairs bookcase when I was growing up. You had to haul that sucker out, drop it on the floor at your feet (because you couldn't get it much further, really) and start turning enormous chunks of pages to get to the one teeny tiny little word you needed. Good. Times. But in my determination to "teach my son a lesson" I had totally forgotten that we don't even own (or..."possess"...hahahaha!) a dictionary in book form these days. So what did the 21st-century student do? He picked up his phone from the bed next to him, opened up his messaging app, and began the process of using the keyboard to Swype the word he wanted. Once he got a few letters in, he simply flicked his glance downward--to where the auto-correct program helpfully gave him choices, based on what it guessed what he was trying to say--and selected the right one.

Then he gleefully told me how he'd solved the problem and added with a sly grin, "I texted it to you so you could see it." Oh. Good. Grief. I don't know if I should applaud your resourcefulness...or condemn your smart-aleck attitude. Sigh. A little of both, I think. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to run spell-check on this post, to catch and correct my typing errors...then perhaps I'll text Riley the results, just for fun...

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