Exam week is upon us, which only means one thing: much sorrow and weeping.
At the start of the year, I made Truett and Kirsten a deal – for the entire duration of the school term, they would only need to fulfil their basic academic requirements. As long as they paid attention in class, finished their homework, and learnt their spelling + 听写, any remaining free time were theirs to do as they wished. They could go to the playground, go for a swim, read a book, listen to music, create art.
2 weeks before their exams, we would embark on an exam boot camp where all of their free time would belong to me. On top of all their assignments/homework, they would have to complete assessment books and practice exam papers. It would be two weeks of getting whipped into shape before their final exams.
They were like “Ok! We get to relax for the whole year and only work hard for 2 weeks, sounds like a pretty good deal.” And all was well for the year (sort of).
Then two weeks before their exams came around and on day 1 of Mom’s Brutal Exam Boot Camp, I presented them with lovely presents made up of practice exam papers + a stack of assessment books from Popular. I don’t think I ever saw anyone so sad to receive such thoughtful gifts.
Here’s what I learnt from these past two weeks of suffering.
1. I’m so thankful I don’t homeschool.
There is no universe in which I would be able to impart academic knowledge to my offspring without turning permanently into Deranged Mom. I die a little inside every time I have to explain fractions to the kids.
“But 4/7 cannot minus 2/9, mom…”
“Yes it can. Remember what we just learnt about common denominators? What do we do if they’re not the same?”
“Ummmm just minus from the top?”
“What?? No. What minus from the top??? You can’t just make up your own rules in Math. Urgh, just breathe. To subtract fractions, the denominator has to be the same. How do we find a common denominator? We literally just did a similar question 10 minutes ago.”
“I think I need a snack. My brain needs energy.”
“No. No snacks. There will be no snacks until you’re done. During your exam, can you stop and ask the teacher for snacks? The answer is no.”
“But this is not the real thing and I’m like starving. How about just one glass of chocolate milk?”
“You’re not starving, we just had lunch. The sooner you finish this, the sooner you can have snacks. Just focus, how do we get a common denominator?”
“Uhhh…add them together?”
“Guys, I’m getting ulcers from this. I’ll go through this again and I need you to wake up your idea. Okay let’s take it from the top. First, you take both denominators and look at their multiples…”
Clock wipe two hours later, my blood pressure is approaching 240/120 and I’m silently mourning the two hours of my life that I will never get back.
2. Problem sums are the story of my life
Every question is a variation of this: Amy has 20 candies. She gave 6 to John and 13 to Mary. They both gave her back half of what she gave them. Amy was like “Hey, you guys only gave me back half, it’s not fair. You need to give me back what I gave you” so John was like “But last week I gave you 8 candies and you didn’t give me back any” and Mary was like “Sorry I ate all already, I got no more,” and they spent the next 10 minutes going on and on about who ate more candies. How many candies did they have altogether?
Zero. The answer is zero candies because mom was sick and tired of listening to this nonsense so she took all the candies and ate them herself.
As it is, I have to deal with this in real life all day, every day and now I have to figure out who owes whom how many candies in a math paper. People with candies need to get it together and stop fighting over how many candies they have in the hand or a bush or in someone else’s mouth.
3. Hard work is hard but totally worth it
After 3 years of dealing with exams, I think the most important lesson I’m getting from this is that what I really want to see from the kids is genuine effort and a dedication to excellence. It’s rewarding to see the kids get good grades but there’s also a certain rush in watching them enjoy (okay maybe a little too much, let’s go with tolerate and occasionally delight in) the pursuit of learning.
I think they’re starting to get it too. In spite of all the bargaining and stalling techniques and general sense of sadness at having to work hard, they know that resistance is futile and it’s far easier for everyone involved if they just buckled down and did it. As I sent them off to school this morning, I told them that I was really proud of how hard they’ve worked and regardless of the results, I’d always be proud of them.
*Although if they end up doing poorly, it will be exam boot camp for everyone for the whole year instead of two weeks yayyyy!!
For now, I’m just glad this terrible ordeal is coming to an end.