Back when Joe was in second grade, I was appalled when he brought home an entire packet of information regarding a 5-10 minute oral report he was expected to give. He was required to pick a topic, select three to five library books for research, read them, create a 5-part outline, come up with three questions to ask the audience, write note cards to prompt him through the speech, and bring in two visual aids to support his topic. I remember staring at the packet of info and thinking his teacher was crazy to expect 8 and 9 year old kids to do this on their own. That’s when it hit me. This is not a solo project. This is a project where the parents get to “help” (imagine my air quotes on that one) the child prepare for the oral presentation. In other words, this was a pile of parental busy work. (Trust me. I called it a pile of something else at the time.) It was an even greater pile of work for me because Joe, just starting to catch up in school after his ADHD diagnosis, needed more assistance than his classmates to complete even simple assignments. This oral report was asking a lot of him and, therefore, of me. Ultimately, he came through it all like a champ. I was so proud I blogged about it.
Well, a couple weeks ago that project packet reared its ugly head again when my now 2nd-grade Luke dropped it on our dining table. Crap. It’s baaaaaaaack. Luke told me he had already chosen his topic…dolphins. I was pleased that he had at least picked a subject I would enjoy learning about. Luke is a highly ingenious boy, so he started mentally working out the details of his report before I even was aware it had been assigned. He immediately told me he would like to find some files of dolphin sounds that we could download and bring in to play for his classmates to support his report. I loved the idea. He told me he was also going to create a Lego dolphin to show his classmates. That’s when I knew this oral report experience with Luke was going to be infinitely less work for me than it was when I helped Joe.
Except for the outline. The damn outline. I’m sorry, but there are adults who can’t take research and turn it into a coherent outline. The whole idea that 2nd grade kids can do it is ludicrous. The teacher was kind enough to create a page with five headings, each with three subheadings. At least the Roman numeral part was done for us poor parents who haven’t had to do an outline since junior high school (which, by the way, is the age when kids should first be learning about outlines). Luke and I read four books about dolphins this week to prepare me for this outline task. I sat down last night and formulated the five headings. It took me about 10 minutes to get the exact wording I wanted. Then today I planned to whip through the supporting information for each part. I pulled out the research books and combed them for logical subheadings. I rearranged the outline, changed headings, and reworded things over and over again. Finally, after about 30 minutes worth of staring at it, I put my head on the table because it was making me exhausted.
“Mom, what are you doing?” Luke inquired.
“This second grade outline is taxing my brain,” I replied. “I need a nap.”
“Aren’t you a writer?” Luke asked, implying that this should be no big deal for me.
“Isn’t this your outline?” I snapped back.
With that, we called it a truce. I got back to work until I at last had what I thought would work for a logical oral presentation about dolphins. I had him recopy my brilliant work onto the required form, signed off on it, and told him to put it in his backpack. Then, I took two Advil with a glass of wine and patted myself on the back for a job well done.
It really is a wonder that this outline took me this much time. I’m so infinitely great at second grade work I just keep going back to repeat it because it’s such fun.