Monday, January 23, 2012

Missing factor in homeschool equation

For all the ranting and raving I do over the lack of correct spelling and grammar, there is a much darker reality at play: I stink at all the other disciplines traditional to the education process.

True story: While acing my honors English classes in high school, I was sweating through Geometry and barely eking out Cs and Ds. My sister, Kate, who went on to earn a master’s degree in polymer chemistry, didn’t understand me at all. “Why is this so hard?” she’d ask, looking at an equation that I had brought to her. I wanted to say, “Oh yeah, Miss Concrete Thinker, let’s see who can write a sonnet quicker, shall we?” But of course I kept that thought unspoken because, let’s face it, I needed her help.

And now, I am the butt of jokes with my own family. My teenager will ask if I need a calculator when I’m doubling a recipe. My husband will hear me talking to myself “Let’s see … $35 plus $25 is $50” and say, “Tell me you’re joking.” Sadly, I’m not.

But our nine-year-old angel, Lily, has always been my buddy, seeing as I was still smarter than her in this arena.

Until now, that is.

Last week, I was working a puzzle at the dinner table while she worked on her fourth grade math homework. “Mom?” she asked as I searched for a border piece, “is six times nine 54?”

Maybe it was the exertion of working the puzzle, or the exhaustion from the lovely dinner I had just prepared, or maybe the creative side of my brain was overpowering the … other side (what IS that side called again?) but I COULD NOT remember my multiplication tables to know what the correct answer was.

So it happened. Just as before with our firstborn, I swallowed my pride and whispered, “It’s time to go find your dad.”

Another chapter closed.

Fast-forward to tonight. We were in the car running errands with Lily, and she was asking what would happen if the economy got so bad that we had to close schools. Craig and I assured her that we aren’t anywhere near that yet, and then I added, “Besides, would it be so bad being home with me all day as your teacher?”


It was dark out. Perhaps she had fallen asleep?

“Well….” She said, “at least I would learn English, since that’s the only thing Mom really knows.”

Excuse me? Yes, I used to be a high school English teacher and I have been writing for a living for 15 years now, but I know a thing or two about other stuff too.

Craig tossed me a bone by adding, “Well, she’s good at grammar and spelling too.”

Whodawa? That’s still English-related, mister. Tell her about all the other things I’m good at, I wanted to yell. Like … puzzles.

“Yeah,” Lily agreed, albeit reluctantly. “And I guess she could help me with math if she had a calculator right next to her.”

Seriously, go ahead and talk about me AS IF I’M NOT RIGHT HERE IN THE CAR, people!

I’m not taking it personally, however, because I know when honors English rolls around I will once again be the go-to parent.

But until then, I am grateful that my husband and Lily’s teacher are around, teaching my child what I am, allegedly, unable to do myself.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and struggles with basic math principles in Roseburg. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

1 comment:

  1. Eileen, There is a TRICK to remember the 9 x's
    1 x 9 = 09
    2 x 9 = 18
    3 x 9 = 27
    4 x 9 = 36
    5 x 9 = 45
    6 x 9 = 54
    7 x 9 = 63
    8 x 9 = 72
    9 x 9 = 81
    10 x 9 = 90

    each answer has two digits that add up to 9!

    See how one side of the answer column goes up from 0 to 9 1,2,3 etc., while the other side declines from 9 to 0

    What ever number you wish to multiply by nine (6) can be subtracted from 10 (4) and preceded with a number that totals 9 (5)- so 6 x 9 = 54


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