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I'm Beaming September 04, 2016 06:29

It was September 2012 when I first taught my granddaughter how to do her first night of homework scheduling. She is a strong willed child and my daughter thought I could deal with this task while she went to Back to School for the kindergarteners. Alex had just turned five, and as any proud grandparent would tell you, she is very bright.

Most people would think I was crazy doing a 5 day schedule with a five year old, but she took to it like a duck to water. I asked her to decide if she was going to do her homework before dinner or after. We discussed showering and when she would watch a little television. Her response, "I think I'll do it tomorrow." That was not an offered option. We discussed the ramifications if she overslept or if the work took longer than she'd predicted. She was told she would not get to go to gymnastics on Thursday if her homework wasn't done by Wednesday night.  That was enough for her to stick to doing work in the afternoon. 

Since dinner was a fixed time, she decided when she would shower, put out her clothes for the next day, do her homework, play, and watch television. 

Fast forward to September 2016. My daughter presented my granddaughter with five daily plan sheets for her to schedule her coming week. I asked her to share her thinking process with me as she completed each pay. I was blown away by this nine year old. I heard things like, "I have to be in bed by eight. I want to read a little, so I really need to get to bed by 7:30. I don't want to go to bed with wet hair, so I will need to shower before dinner which is 5 o'clock. I will have to shower at 4:30 to give my hair time to dry. I want to play a little Mine Craft, but I know I need time to come down from playing, so I think I'll do that right after I eat dinner at 5:45 until 6:30. I'll make my lunch at 6:30. Then I'll still have time to talk to mom and dad if they are available. If they aren't, I can read or play with my Legos. That means I'll need to do my homework before I shower. I guess I'll do my homework right when I get home. I'll put it at 3:45, so I have enough time to have a snack. I'm starved after school. That gives me 45 minutes to do homework and if I need more time, I just wont' play Mine Craft or read." 

I was amazed at her backwards planning. She started at the last thing she was going to do and planned the rest from there.

This was no accident. There there many failures since 2012. They, however, were viewed as learning opportunities. She did go to bed with an uncomfortable wet head, which she lived through but did not like. There were natural consequences such as incomplete assignments and forgotten lunches and backpacks. Though uncomfortable, she survived and is still motivated to avoid them to this day. 

It's much like traffic school for adults. We hate it, but it does motivate us to watch our driving closely for at least a little while afterwards. 


A New Year - A New Start August 23, 2016 20:32

When I see school supplies in the stores, I am instantaneously taken back to a very pivotal September. It was in 1982 when seeing the same supplies gave me a panic attack. On that day seeing pencil bags, pens, paper, folders, and new backpacks sent a message to me, “Your lazy carefree days of summer are over.” I knew the following days would be filled with carpools and the dreaded nights packed homework struggles. Being a teacher didn’t help my situation, because to my children, I was their mother, not the teacher. I really didn’t think I could bear another year of struggles. At the same time, I had a game changing event happen in my classroom. Susie, who wasn’t listening, told me it was okay if she didn’t listen in class because her mother would help her at home. I realized she had no reason to listen because she could rely on outside help. So I made a decision. I decided to stop parent involvement in homework for my students, and I removed myself from my daughter’s.

I began the year by informing my daughter that I was not going to be able to help her with her homework, because I had not idea how to do it. As a result, I asked her to be sure she could do every item on her homework before she left class. If she couldn’t, she was instructed to ask the teacher for help. Playing dumb was very powerful. Her first response was one of FEAR. She had several reasons that this new situation was not going to work: The teacher will get mad. There isn’t time to ask questions. I’ll get in trouble for asking a question. With a little role playing of how to ask for the help, my daughter hesitantly went off to school. I am a little sneaky, but I knew I would have to elicit the help of the teacher for this new approach to work. As my daughter left for school, I phoned the teacher and was fortunate enough to reach her. I shared my new approach and that my scared daughter was going to reluctantly talk to her about the type of help she would need this year. I also asked if she could help put my daughter’s unrealistic fears of getting in trouble for asking questions to rest. Her teacher was very responsive  and it set the stage of self-advocacy for my daughter. It also ended to our nightly stress from homework. I didn’t need to do much after that other than rehearse some ways my daughter could ask questions effectively. There were teachers who were less than open to her questions, but we role played dealing with them. To this day my daughter swears those role-playing sessions helped with her interactions with supervisors she encountered in her career. Try it. You’ll love it.

 

For more support on making the transition to No Help Homework, check out my Homework Solutions: A Teacher’s Guide and Homework Solutions: A Parent’s Guide.

 


Cell Phones For Children February 27, 2016 17:22 3 Comments

Sleep issues plague my students. Recently a student approached me for help with her sleep problems. It was clear that the culprit of her sleep deprivation was due to the endless group texts that continued binging until eleven o'clock at night. 

One would not be surprised if this comment was made by a middle schooler, but I am a third grade teacher. Apparently, this is a common problem amongst my eight year old students.

The first reaction of most is to past judgment on the parents for letting the children have a phone or ipad of their own in the first place. There is a belief held that parents should control its use. 

I love technology and all it has to offer, however I am aware of the negative impact of using these devices. A few come to mind: sleep deprivation, early onset of cataracts in thirty-somethings which usually don't appear until one is a senior citizen, computer vision syndrome, and social media/game addiction. 

Some pediatricians feel children should never be exposed to technology until they are forced to use it once they reach school age. Others believe children should not have a phone of their own until they are at least eleven. Those selling apps for children's use will tell you the technology will make children smarter and more competitive. Of course, their data is designed to sell a product. 

What do you think? Please weigh-in with you opinion in below.

 

 


The Value of Play is Highly Underrated October 13, 2015 06:54

"Ask any children what they do for fun. You will be amazed at what they consider play. One little girl stated she liked to play dress-up. When asked how she played, she responded, "I have this program, and I get to click on the dress I want the doll to wear." Author Unknown

This child is missing the experiences and the fine motor development children of the past benefitted from. She is missing the cutting out of dresses, folding the tabs, and then carefully placing the dress on the doll so that it wouldn't fall off. She is missing the experiences that paper dolls offers. She is using one finger. 

If she really played dress-up, she would gain strength in her abs as she dressed in over-sized pants. Putting one leg in a pant leg forces the other leg to engage muscles and strengthen the core. Weak cores translates into difficulty completing tasks and sustaining attention in class. 

Unstructured play that engages the entire body and all of the senses can help children grow cognitively in ways that no amounts of tutoring or computer programs can replace.  In the following excerpt from my new book, I tell a story of one of our field trips and offer some suggestions to help children improve their writing ability. 

We had a wonderful trip to Shipley Nature Center. When we arrived, a student was heard saying, What are we going to do for thirty minutes? Is there playground equipment? Did we bring balls?We replied by saying, You have nature to play with. See what games you can come up with.They quickly found trees to climb, sticks to use as building materials, as well ducks to follow and watch. Games of tag and running around the park also followed lunch. As we explored the habitat of the Tongva during our time at Shipley, we were doing more than sharing the history of a people who lived in this region; we were teaching the children how to observe their surroundings. With their enthusiasm for the rabbits, spider webs, lizards, and butterflies, we knew they would have plenty to write about when they returned.

 

We know parents want to help their children maximize their performance in class. If youd like to help you child become a better writer, forego extracurricular writing classes and try some of the following free programs:

 

  1. Ask your children to turn off their devices and look out the window.
  2. Play I Spycar games. This is a game that has children describe what they see outside and the other passengers guess what it is that was spied.
  3. Take your children to the park with nothing other than a lunch and a blanket. Engage all senses by sharing what you hear, see, smell, and feel. Touching leaves, the grass, and tree bark and then describing it is offering sensory experiences that will give children something to write about.  Lie on the blanket and look up at the sky and share what you see. This is great on cloudy days, but also good when there isnt a cloud in the sky. Ask your children to wonderabout what they see. i.e., I wonder why the bark on that tree looks like it is peeling?or I wonder what is living high in those branches?” Go for a walk and talk about what you see and ask them to share. Encourage them to look at the colors in leaves and grass. Sharing these experiences is front-loading childrens writing with beautiful images. Verbalizing observations later translates into excellent writing.
  4. Go to the beach and build a sand castle together. Discuss how the sand feels. Observe what happens when the water is poured onto dry sand over and over again. Take time to let your senses experience the trip. Have them stop and take a few minutes to observe what they smell, see, hear, and feel. The texture of dry and wet sand offers great opportunities to share how each feels and why there is a difference.

If we were to translate the dollar value of these experiences, it would be far more than what the extracurricular programs cost, and have a further reaching benefit for the children. When they learn how to observe their environment, they will begin to do it automatically.




 

Anecdote: Mr. Helliwell and Ms O went on a several trips together.. Mrs. H noticed that Ms. O  was moving so fast, she was missing a lot. So, she suggested Ms. O sit in one place, carve out a one square foot section in the sand and just observe it for ten minutes. What could one see in a 1 square foot of sand is amazing, but how many of us take the time to do that. Try it, you will be surprised. 

 

The value of unstructured play and free exploration is highly underrated."