A few weeks into spelling tests and I was tired of dancing, though at least it burned off the calories from the fruit-snack math.
Even worse: Big Guy was a little bored with the homework boogie, too. I needed a new trick.
I remembered that he loved the puzzles that came home once in a while last year, and I wondered how hard it would be to create a find-a-word each week. Then I realized I'd have to do four, because he'd quickly memorize the word locations if we did the same puzzle every day.
And I realized I just don't have the patience to line up letters in a word-processing program four days a week, 16 times a month, who knows how many times a year.
I Googled around and found the site that's my salvation: armoredpenguin.com, where you can build custom word search puzzles that are as easy or as simple as you want them to be. You can save your puzzles and access ones that other users have made public. You can add a picture in the background and change the fonts and colors.
The first one I did — with diagonal words going forward and backward — was way too complex. I've limited them to vertical and horizontal words now, which is much better suited to Big Guy's skill level.
He comes home, grabs the puzzle from the printer and goes to work. I don't think he even realizes that he's studying in the process.
Sometimes it's hard for a mom so nerdy she used to spend summers plagiarizing reports from World Book Encyclopedia to relate to people who don't want to study.
Then again, I wasn't assigning myself reports until third grade or so. Back when I was in first grade, we'd barely made it through "see Mike run" by the end of the year. We weren't expected to be reading on our own at this point in the calendar.
It's not that we're asking kids today to do more than they're mentally capable of. But we are severely trying their patience, not to mention their fannies, in our rush to make sure they're ready for the bubble tests by second grade.
Given all that, I'll take puzzles over flash cards any day.
Debra Legg is a writer and mother of two boys, Big Guy and Little Guy. Read more of their adventures in chaos at debralegg.com.
(c) 2009, Debra Legg
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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