Parent Like a Pirate: Helping with Homework

Parenting an 11-year-old is hard enough. Add homework, tears, and the feeling like no one understands, and you have one stressed out dad who needed to give his daughter 100 percent.

Want to hear it? Here it goes.

Balancing Act

I wasn't thrilled when my wife told me that our daughter got a zero on a math quiz. It wasn't the zero. It was that she didn't say anything or do anything about it, which is why my wife was mad.

My daughter already got the lecture from her mother, so it wasn't necessary to hear it from me. I did the next best thing – a bunch of burgers went on the grill.

Happy for hamburgers, I asked my daughter to show me the quiz. It was on checkbook balancing. I was so excited because I can still remember learning these skills in 6th grade.

Then came the tears.

What's the Purpose?

The error was immediately obvious. She didn't understand the anatomy of a check. She confused the check number as an amount and wrote it in the wrong cell of the transaction register.

I asked her how the teacher taught the lesson. She said, "All she did was talk, and then we practiced it."


I was immediately inspired and my inner PIRATE started to crawl around. She didn't know why any of this mattered, nor was it clear about how it related to other methods of payment.

The pieces were all there, just waiting for her to make the connections. All she needed was a little help from a PIRATE.

The Lawnmower Man

That's when I came up with a lesson idea centered on two plot themes: (1) I'm old school and always use a transaction register, even though my wife does online banking; (2) The Lawnmower Man always asks for odd amounts, like $23.64, so it's just easier to write a check.

I took out the credit card, debit card, cash, and checkbook and went through the payment possibilities while telling jokes. The jokes were easy because I could use the character traits I strategically chose to make exaggerations. The jokes weren't great, but the tears turned to giggles.

Then, I went through the anatomy of the check because I wasn't going to be in town and needed to teach it to mom who usually did it online. This cushioned the "don't talk to me, dad" issue that we sometimes experience.

The giggles continued, so I kept going.

In dramatic fashion, I tore off the fake transaction register that her teacher provided. Her jaw dropped, I told her not to worry because she was going to use a real register, which was swiftly fetched from my pocket like a microeconomic ninja.

Did It Work?

She balanced the checkbook and we ate desert.

This was the most successful homework help session of all time. I was so inspired by Dave Burgess and his Teach Like a Pirate approach that I had to share.

Sometimes it's frustrating being a parent and an educator. Tonight, it rocked!