Thursday, November 6, 2008

Everyone's Encyclopedia

“Do we have sand?”

“Yes, it’s behind the green shed. It’s labeled ‘play sand.’”

“Where is the toilet cleaner?” Jacob continued.

“Why do you need that?” I wondered. Could it be that he had a sudden urge to clean?

“For the experiment.”

“What experiment? You must be on the wrong experiment.” Luckily I had read the experiment – and the rest of his Chemistry assignment – last night as I continue to relearn Chemistry. I knew he needed sand – plus salt and filter paper and beakers – but certainly not toilet cleaner.

“Oh. Maybe I turned to the wrong page.”

I’m relearning a lot more than just Chemistry. As I sit in my home office writing for my company’s website, I get a parade of family members through my office door. Today I decided to write down all the questions they asked me because it was getting comical. The door would remain closed only a few minutes before the next person would barge in with a question.

“I know this is sad,” Larissa introduced what she figured was a ‘dumb’ question, “but how do you subtract fractions, say 5/2 – 17/5?” She was doing review and she had, quite understandable, forgotten how to do this task. I had relearned it several years ago when Jacob was introduced to fractions in elementary school.

“They have to have the same denominator for you to subtract them. Do you know how to make both numbers have the same denominator – like 10 in this case? Multiply the top and bottom numbers by…”

“Oh, yeah…”

“Is China or the US bigger?” Jacob was now working on Spanish; this must have been one of the questions he had to answer in his workbook – in Spanish.

“China is bigger,” I said offhand. “Russia is the biggest country – Siberia is huge – then Canada, then China, then the US. That’s how I learned them. But let me check…”

I quickly Googled “countries by area.”

“Wait, what’s this? Disputed territories? China is bigger according to some lists, and the US according to others, depending on whether or not you count the disputed territories?”

“Never mind,” waved Jacob, probably wondering how he’d phrase such a complex answer in Spanish.

It was Alexandra’s turn. She came in, vocabulary book in hand. “In this sentence, does ‘allure’ make sense? A career in show business held a certain BLANK for Jodie Foster from a young age.”

“Yes, allure makes perfect sense there. It means attraction or appeal. Jodie Foster is an actress, by the way,” I called after Alexandra since our kids are not into TV or movies. But Alexandra was out the door as soon as she heard my initial “yes.”

Larissa was next, back with her math. The door had barely closed. “I have to place brackets around this math statement to make it true. Do I need two sets of brackets, or is one enough?”

“Let me see. Four minus one times three divided by… Definitely two sets of brackets.”

“Do you have any strong perfume?” This time it was my husband, and his queer request caught me off guard.

“Perfume? Whatever for? Oh, never mind, it’s in the bathroom medicine cabinet.”

“Mom.” It was Larissa again. “Last time you gave me exercise 5C; this time you gave me 5E. Why did you skip 5D?”

“Because with three of you to keep track of, I make mistakes! Do exercise 5D in the vocabulary book.”

OK, so not all the questions required encyclopedic knowledge. But I am regularly expected to spell words, give a definition without looking up a word, explain anything to do with science, help with math problems, recall facts from history, and take care of organizational matters – plus cook and clean, of course!

“Did you know that wigs had to be maintained – recurled and perfumed regularly?” This time it was Jacob telling me something that I hadn’t known. He was working on his history lesson.

“No, I didn’t know that.”

Perhaps someday he can take over being the encyclopedia.


Alison said...

I feel that way too. Does it ever drive you nuts that you get so many interruptions? Of course it's nice to feel needed, but I know that I do lots of stuff for my kids that they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves with just a little effort.
What a fun post to share - it's interesting to hear what someone else's kids are asking :-)

Faith said...

Yes, the interruptions do drive me crazy at times, but I can't let the kids see that because for each of them, their question is important and legitimate (they don't know where I keep sand, for example). It does drive me crazy, though, that they don't use the dictionary themselves and expect me to know the spelling and definition of every word they come across! I usually know the spelling, but I often point them to a dictionary, much to their disappointment.

Anonymous said...

Cute post! My oldest is starting high school next fall, and now I'm feeling that I need to study to prepare! (Or maybe I'll stick with google!) :)

The Koala Bear Writer said...

Very funny glimpse into homeschooling life. :) And here I hoped that by the time they got to that age, they`d be more independent and able to work on their own... I guess Mom is always needed!

Crimson Wife said...

Too funny! I can handle the simple ones, it's the oddball questions that make me wonder when I turned into a walking reference book ;-)

Faith said...

Pam, you'll never be completely prepared for the variety of questions. Google and the dictionary are the best bets for finding answers quickly.

Koala Bear Writer, Mom is always needed. Sometimes it's also easier to ask Mom than to look it up!

Crimson Wife, I guess it's an honor to be considered smart enough to answer all those questions, don't you think?

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)