Two weeks into preschool, and Littleboy 1 is still keen on doing his homework. I can't complain. I, however, am struggling slightly.
One problem is his timing. He wants to do the homework either as soon as we walk in the door after school, or while I am trying to make his sandwiches for his lunchbox in the mornings. In other words, just at the point when there are a million and one other things to be done. Meanwhile, Littleboy 2 is understandably frustrated at all the attention his brother gets while doing it. So he sits with us at the dining room table and demands help with his drawings at the same time. Trying to explain to a four year old that he's supposed to colour the little 'a's red and the big 'A's yellow while simultaneously drawing a penguin for an insistent two year old is definitely a multi-tasking step too far for me.
Then there's the cultural issue. As a Brit parent, it's sometimes a little hard to work out what's going on in the homework book. It doesn't help that Littleboy 1 is remarkably uncommunicative about what's happened that day at school. (Example: for the past two days, he has barked like a dog whenever asked a direct question about school, with a look of wide-eyed innocence.)
This week he had been asked to 'draw a picture of 'Christopher Columbus and his three ships'. I presume they must have been discussing this at school, in relation to Columbus Day next week (another one of the frequent 'public' holidays here that are followed by the schools, yet not by The Doctor's work, leaving me with another whole day to find entertaining things to do. Grr.).
Littleboy 1 asked me, not unreasonably, to help him draw this picture. Now, never having been educated in American history I have very little knowledge of Christopher Columbus other than a vague memory that he sailed from Genoa. I don't think I even knew he had three ships.
"What does Christopher Columbus look like, then?' I ask Littleboy 1.
He considers, head cocked. "Fat," he finally decides. "With a big hat."
We proceeded by drawing a stick figure with a very large belly, as I wondered if he really had been shown a picture like that at school, or whether we were insulting America's revered founder by portraying him as obese...
Another piece of homework asked him to name 'three things you should do if your clothes catch on fire' and then 'draw a picture'. Now, as Littleboy 1 had come home wearing a paper fireman's hat, I thought it reasonable to assume that they had been learning about this at nursery. But when I asked him, he looked completely blank.
I racked my brains - three things? Jumping into a bathful of water? Dialling 911? Praying your clothes aren't cheap flammable ones from Primark?
I ask The Doctor when he gets home - surely he, a trained medic, would know.
He doesn't. So, we Google it.
It came up immediately, on websites everywhere- 'Stop, Drop and Roll'. Stop running, because the air will fan the flames. Drop to the floor, so the fire doesn't burn your face. And roll to put the flames out.
Now, neither of us have ever heard of this mantra (although it seems like an eminently sensible thing to learn). But clearly this must be something that all Americans are brought up with, a bit like the Green Cross Code. History has not yet related whether Littleboy 1 had in fact been taught this at school, (when asked, not a spark of recognition crossed his face) or whether we as the parents were just Supposed to Know.
It's hard, being a stranger in a strange land....