Monday, April 25, 2011

Pennies for Problems

Sunday mornings you can always find us in one of two places. 

One is church. 

But before church, we head out for breakfast.  Every weekend.  With math flash cards always in my bag.  Because my husband is all about not allowing our schools to be the sole educator of our children. 

I'll be honest with you.  It used to annoy me. 

Instead of having a nice conversation over breakfast out at a restaurant, he drills the kids on math facts.  Instead of talking or debating about - well, I don't know...gas prices or the stock market or how many icee mochas I've consumed this week...he flips cards in the kids' faces and leaves me sitting at the other end of our 6-person-two-round-tables-pushed-together seating arranged space in the restaurant ~ quietly observing.  And he pays them money.  A nickel for a card...sometimes just a penny.  He'll pay more or less for story problems (usually involving, "Mom goes to the Bread Co and orders an icee mocha that costs $5....)  The kids eat it up.  I've observed for most of the year now.  And I've grown to love it, too. 

Recently, we took Pookie's friend with us during our weekly trip because she had spent the night and was going to church with us after breakfast.  Hubby asked her to do math problems for pennies, and she agreed.  Only it wasn't very easy for her.  In fact, I could tell it was quite difficult.  And my heart broke.

The next day, I made arrangements with the principal and Pookie's teacher to come to school to drill kids on their multiplication facts.  I pay them a nickel for every card.  Real money that I keep for them in ziploc baggies with their names on the front.  After they earn a dollar, they trade me the cash for a toy from my bag of treasures (that I scored from the dollar store).  I take groups of 3-5 kids and they sit around me in a semi-circle and answer 3x4 and 6x8.  And they eat it up.  

I love the smiles on their faces and how the whole class (even Pookie) raises its hand in that "me!  me!  pick me!" way that kids rise up out of their chairs while leaning over their desks on their right arm, willing their left hand to be fat in front of your face so it's like they're still sort of sitting yet they are pleeeeeaading in that pleeeeeeeeeaase pick me way that kids do when they want to be picked.  To go do Pennies for Problems with Mrs. Karin.  Because learning is fun.  And pennies and nickels are insanely motivating.

It does make me sad.  That so many parents expect the schools to be the sole educator of their kids.  That I didn't see this as a need and volunteer earlier in the year.  That I didn't think I had time to tutor.  That the kids reeeeeeeeaally are struggling in some cases to do even 1x7...and the school year is almost over.  And that it doesn't seem like it's enough - to go in every day for 15 minutes each day.  And to stay late every day because they really, really do want to do it.  And I don't want to stop them.

Instead of being sad, though, I'm trying to figure out what to do from here.  I've realized that there is a need.  I'm also realizing that I can help.  Even when no one is asking.  Because odds are likely no one is going to ask.  But that doesn't mean they didn't need the help or that I couldn't be the one to offer it.  What about you?  Do you volunteer?  Do you feel like you should be doing something or even something more?  Maybe you have ideas for my Pennies for Problems dilemma?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below! 

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