September 06, 2007
Teenagers: Part Twelve
The summer homework that Shaggy Hair Boy and Blonde Niece were given was not an unreasonable amount. Read the five assigned books, answer some questions, summarize and analyze the text, write a few essays. They've had the assignments since June, and we purchased the books sometime in July. They've had ALL SUMMER.
The two sixteen-year-olds read all kinds of other books during the summer. On camping vacations and car trips or during sweltering hot days at home, they are both the type to find a comfy spot and settle down with a book. But neither one touched their summer homework until Labor Day Weekend. It didn't make sense to me. Blonde Niece could read Hunter S. Thompson on ridiculously hot day, but not Nathaniel Hawthorne? They could read the newest Harry Potter book the weekend it came out, but the official summer books went untouched.
The assignments that seem reasonable when you've got two months to do them become a real challenge when you've only got a few days. Last weekend up at camp, the two cousins stayed up all night in the little cabin with the screen windows where we usually play cards, shivering while they read and took notes and complained to each other. When I offered Blonde Niece a blanket to wrap around her shoulders, she said, "The cold is the only thing keeping me awake."
I tried to help out at lunch time by introducing a discussion of The Scarlet Letter. Of course, the only thing I really remembered is that I absolutely hated the book when I read it in high school, but loved it when I read it in graduate school. I think sixteen is really too young to fully understand the emotional and psychological intensity of the book. Not surprising, the two teenagers did not find my thoughts at all helpful. My mother, who read the book more recently, was much more useful in her analysis of the characters.
By the end of the weekend, Shaggy Hair Boy was stumbling about in a sleep-deprived haze, his long, curly hair flowing over his shoulders and into his eyes. I had no sympathy for him. "You've had all summer to do this work," I said to him. "Why did you save it until now?"
He said nothing, just looked up blearily and then bent over his notebook again. I looked at Blonde Niece. "You love to read. Why didn't you just read these books sooner?"
She shook back her hair, "I don't like to be told what to read."
Blonde Niece using her AP History book as a pillow.
Posted by jo(e)