Yesterday, I helped my son with homework for the first time. He’s in first grade. The two memorable parts of this milestone were (1) I had to explain to him what a VCR is since it was part of a word problem, and (2) when he was done, he said: “Well, that was boring.” At least he thought it was interesting that we used to rent video tapes and pay extra if we forgot to rewind them.

Then this morning I biked to school with my daughter (in 5th grade). We ended up talking about how staying safe on the road means you have to get good at guessing what others are thinking. Do they see me? Are they going to try to exit the parking lot before or after I pass?

I realized that homework is often about the same thing: guessing what the person who wrote the question was thinking. This is actually a really useful skill, but I’m afraid he’s going to get good enough at in a few weeks.

Why hasn’t homework changed as much as VCRs?