Household Word: Whose Homework?
Somewhere there must be parents who donít get involved in their kidsí homework assignments. They donít run out for poster board at 11 p.m. or spend their evenings swabbing used tea bags on maps of the Silk Route. Somewhere there is a mother who has never glued cotton balls onto a diorama and a dad who has never inserted adjectives into an essay. Thereís probably even a kid somewhere whose notebook is always organized and who has never left his backpack on the playground in the rain. The parents of those kids have never had to pen a note like this one I recently wrote to my sonís fourth-grade teacher.

Dear Ms. Crumb:

Iím sorry that Lewis was unable to complete last nightís homework assignment. He left his backpack in the school playground and forgot about it until after dinner. By that time it was dark. So before we could go look for the backpack, we had to find a flashlight. None of ours had batteries, so I swiped some slightly used ones from the remote control car that Lewis got for Christmas. We drove to the playground and it was a good thing we had that flashlight Ė the rain made it hard to see.

Still, we found Lewisí backpack floating in a puddle under the swings. Fortunately, when we got home, we were able to pop the backpack into the dryer and peel apart most of the contents of his notebook.

Unfortunately, the assignment sheet you passed out in class wasnít in the wad of soggy papers. Lewis agreed to call a classmate for the assignment. We spent nearly 15 minutes looking for the class phone list (it was taped on the fridge) and then dialed several classmates before we reached Emily, who had already completed the project. She had the assignment sheet and was able to read it over the phone. She offered to fax it as well, but Iíve never figured out how to work our fax machine.

Emily said that the project had to be done on the 12-inch-by-18-inch sheet of paper that you had distributed in class. Lewisí 12-inch-by-18-inch paper was at the bottom of his backpack. It was damp, crumpled and had purple stains on it from a juice box that had leaked out of his lunch sack. So we went to the drugstore to buy a new sheet of paper. Because I wanted him to learn from this experience, I decided to deduct the cost of the paper from his $1-a-week allowance. The drugstore carried 11-inch-by-17-inch paper but they didnít have 12-inch-by-18-inch paper. They did have 18-inch-by-24-inch poster board, which I figured we could cut to the proper dimensions. It cost $1.29. Lewis is now in hock through next Tuesday.

When we got home, Lewis went upstairs to get the scissors and a ruler. While he was upstairs, I cleared the laundry and the Christmas decorations off of the dining room table so that there would be room to lay the poster board out flat. Then I went upstairs to get Lewis. I found him sprawled on his bed, sound asleep. He was still wearing his muddy boots. He hadnít found scissors or a ruler. It was 10:36 p.m. when I used the edge of a cereal box to draw a straight line on the poster board. I checked and rechecked the measurements before I sliced it with a razor blade. I think I ended up with a piece of paper that is almost 12 inches by 18 inches. Iím sure youíll agree that itís close enough for the fourth grade. Iíve enclosed this piece of poster board, which represents a full nightís work, and hope that Lewis will receive at least partial credit for trying to complete the assignment under such challenging conditions.

Carol Band

When Lewis came home from school the next afternoon, I practically pounced on him: ďWhat did Ms. Crumb say about your assignment? Is she going to give you extra time to do it? Did she make you stay in at recess? Was the paper the right size? What did she say

Lewis looked at me and sighed. ďShe said that itís not due until next week.Ē

This is all Emilyís fault.