Hitting the Homework Doldrums


English: Homework

English: Homework (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have posted before on the subject of homework but it is always good to have a different perspective.  Below is a post from FlyLady on the topic. In Ontario, homework may be marked, it is not supposed to be part of a child’s mark.  In teacher lingo, any assessment of homework is formative assessment, not summative assessment.  The purpose is to reinforce what is taught at school, usually in the way of practice.  However, that is not the case everywhere:

From FlyLady.net 
Homework Problems and Solutions

Homework is one of the biggest issues that parents and teachers work on together – and it’s one of the things that kids hate most about school.  One of our

educational myths is that all children need to do homework every night.  Research tells us that for elementary school children, homework has little or no effect on academic achievement.  A head start on establishing good study habits is probably the most positive outcome from elementary homework – that, and an opportunity for parents to keep track of their child’s progress in the curriculum.  Homework in middle school has a moderate effect on achievement, but it’s really during high school that homework becomes an important factor for academic progress.

Parents are often concerned about the amount of time their children spend on homework – either too much or too little.  Many school systems have a “rule of thumb” about the appropriate amount of homework: ten minutes per grade level is the most common.  So your first grader should have 10 minutes of homework, your fifth grader should have 50 minutes of homework, and so forth.  By the time students are in high school, a general expectation is 1 to 2 hours of homework

Homework

Homework (Photo credit: TJCoffey)

every evening.

Another policy issue is the effect of homework on the final grade.  Many students get poor grades because they don’t do homework and get zeroes in the grade book.  In my school system, the homework policy recommends that homework be no more than 15% of the grade in elementary and middle school, and no more than 20% in high school.

We all know that homework can make evenings a living hell. When children have piles of homework every night in elementary and middle school, it’s often because they aren’t finishing their work at school.  In other words, they’re doing a day’s worth of work, plus homework, every evening.  I’d cry too!  Your child may be really struggling with the school work, or he may need to develop organized study habits.  In any case, if homework seems excessive or if your child gets upset every night, it’s time to take four steps:

Homework

Homework (Photo credit: Hades2k)

-Find out if your school or school system has an official homework policy, and read it.

-Schedule a parent/teacher conference.

-Establish a homework routine

-Work out an incentive system for homework completion.

The first step is to find out if there is an official homework policy.  In my school system, it’s under School Board Policies on the system website.  If you can’t find it, ask the teacher.  If there isn’t one, you have an excellent project to suggest to the principal, the superintendent, or a school board member.  The homework policy gives you an idea of how much time your child should be spending on homework and how it affects grades.

The second step is to schedule a parent/teacher conference.  Teachers want children to complete assignments and learn the material, but they also want children and families to have time at home to relax.  Your goal at the conference is to find out two things:

-How much time the teacher expects homework to take every night.

-What’s going on in class that’s causing the problem if your child’s homework load is greater than it should be.

Then it’s your turn to tell the teacher how much time your child’s homework is actually taking, and share any observations you have about your child’s work or work habits.  If your child is forgetting to bring home assignments and books, ask about setting up a check-out system at the end of each day.  If your child is fooling around all day and not completing work, suggest a home/school behavior plan.  If your child is struggling with the work, ask about academic interventions and progress-monitoring.  Write down the plan, and schedule a follow-up conference.  Be clear about what the teacher will do and what you will do.  Involve student support staff (school psychologist, guidance counselor, school nurse) as necessary.

Teachers can also offer accommodations to help your child complete homework.  This is very common for children with special needs.  Here are some ideas to discuss:

-Agree to the amount of time the child will work at home. The teacher will then accept the work that was completed and give a grade based on what the child actually finished.

-Reduce the homework load.  For example, having a reduced spelling list or only doing the odd math problems.

-Do the assignments a little differently.  For example, write one word answers instead of complete sentences for social studies questions.  Dictate longer answers to a parent, or use a computer for writing.  Allow a parent to read the assignment to the child, or take turns reading.

The third and fourth steps are to establish a homework routine and an incentive system.  Some children can get homework done pretty much independently, and it isn’t an issue.  Others, though, drag their families through three and four hours of crying and screaming every night.  Life is too short for that!  The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has an excellent homework survival guide for parents on their website.  Go towww.nasponline.org, select the Families tab, find the Back to School section, and select Homework: A Guide for Parents.  Peg Dawson, a school psychologist from New Hampshire, has a lot of suggestions about setting up routines and reward systems.  I’ll briefly summarize her points:

Homework

Homework (Photo credit: MarkGuitarPhoto)

-Set up a routine for where and when homework will be done.  Choose a place, and set up a homework center with supplies and a calendar for due dates. Remember that some children do best in a quiet spot away from the family, but others need to be near Mom or Dad for help and supervision.  Do homework at the same time every day.  Some children do best if they get it finished up as soon as they get home from school, but others need to play or

Homework

Homework (Photo credit: Sharon Drummond)

relax first.

-Help your children set a homework schedule every day.  Sit down with them for a minute or two and review their assignments, make sure they have all the necessary materials, set time limits for each assignment, decide in what order to do the assignments, and schedule in a break or two.

-Set up a system of rewards for homework completion.  Some children do fine if they just have something good to look forward to when homework is finished, like a favorite TV show.  Others need something a little fancier, like earning points towards a bigger reward.

Computers are often used to complete homework ...

Computers are often used to complete homework assignments. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

-Write a homework contract that states expectations and rewards.

Different children need different homework routines.  Children need to be part of the discussion and planning for their own homework routine, because you are teaching them to be responsible for their own learning.  The big decisions are: Where will homework be done, when will homework be done, what are the rewards for completing homework appropriately, and what are theconsequences for failing to complete homework appropriately?

It’s your job as a parent to provide the setting and structure your children need to

English: Don't waste your time and do your hom...

English: Don’t waste your time and do your homework! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

complete homework.  It’s also important to provide the supplies and organizational tools your children need.  Supplies include paper, pencils, markers, ruler, calculator, and glue stick.  A timer helps many kids keep on track.  The most important organizational tool is a calendar.  At the beginning of the year, write down school holidays and the dates report cards come out.  As the year progresses, keep track of field trips, picture day, conferences, science fair, SAT dates, and due dates for assignments – especially long-term ones.

Homework, guerrilla style

Homework, guerrilla style (Photo credit: jbloodgood)

Some children are motivated and rewarded by grades.  Others need external rewards and consequences.  Adults like to talk about what “should” motivate kids, but the truth is that grades aren’t important to everyone.  Start where your child is when it comes to rewards and consequences!  Some children are motivated to do homework by the promise of TV or computer time after it’s finished.  Others need the opportunity to earn points towards a bigger reward.  Some children need immediate rewards.  Others like to work toward a bigger weekly reward.  Here’s a sample homework contract for a sixth grader named Dana:

Homework Contract

Dana agrees to: Bring her assignment sheet home every night.

A homework diary of a Japanese elementary scho...

A homework diary of a Japanese elementary school student. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bring home the books she needs for the assignments.

Fill out a homework schedule as soon as she gets home.

Follow the homework schedule.

Work at the kitchen table while Mom gets dinner.

Ask for help when she needs it.

Place completed homework in her backpack.

Mom agrees to: Help Dana fill out the homework schedule every day.

Keep the homework center stocked with supplies.

Help Dana when she asks for help.

Let Dana be responsible for her own homework.

Motivators:       If Dana completes homework appropriately all week, she can

-skip all chores on Friday

-sleep in Saturday morning

-earn points towards a guitar

-one point for each completed assignment

-one point = 25 cents

Homework

Homework (Photo credit: shareski)

Consequence:  No TV or cell phone on any night Dana doesn’t finish homework in a reasonable amount of time and with a good attitude.

If you have a child who is struggling with homework, pick just one of these four steps to get started.  Look up the homework policy online, or touch base with the teacher.  Set up a homework center, or get a calendar and write down assignments.  Just get started, and add steps as you can.  In the end, you’ll have a

Homework Review

Homework Review (Photo credit: Rice and D)

solution to the homework problem.

Our very own education specialist Alice Wellborn is now a regular contributor at FlyLady.net and we are thrilled to share her wise words with all of you. Alice is a school psychologist and the author of the amazingly helpful book No More Parents Left Behind. Get the book at: No More Parents Left Behind

You can follow Alice on Facebook here

Canadian Dialect and Class


We tend to think of Canada as a classless society, one without the divisions created by dialect, as is the case in Britain.  It isn’t true. Our class system is subtler, but where there is discrimination against foreigners, there will be a belief that to speak with another accent or a foreign accent is to be lower class.  This attitude may be changing in Canada, at least to the extent that accented speech which is clear to the native and accurate in grammar is less likely to mark the speaker as a member of the lower class.

Vocabulary - Words Are Important

Vocabulary – Words Are Important (Photo credit: Dr Noah Lott)

What does mark people as lower class is the dropping of ‘g’s, ‘r’s and ‘t’s as well as the over use of contractions such as would’ve and could’ve instead of would have and could have.  Poor vocabulary and grammar is also a marker.  Most people are not conscious of these things happening in someone’s speech, but people do sense that the person lacks something.  

Is this a problem?  It is because someone who sounds lower class is less likely to be given credit for the real value of his or her abilities or education.  This is especially a problem for a student who arrives in Canada early enough to acquire a native like accent but too late to acquire the necessary vocabulary or grammar to match a native speaker with a good education.  It is also a problem for students whose environment is rich with the markers of less prestigious speech.  If those students deliberately use more prestigious speech patterns, they may isolate themselves among their peers and families.  They may need to become bilingual, aware of which form is most acceptable in different environments.

Grammar police

Grammar police (Photo credit: the_munificent_sasquatch)

As teachers it means that we need to teach students to speak with a more prestigious dialect.  This is not difficult, as it does not require teaching different structures or accents.  All we need to do is insist on those three letters being pronounced and that students use the full forms of phrases such as “would have” instead of contractions.  Encouraging students to use the more formal words instead of vocabulary such as “wanna”,  “info” or “quote” when they mean quotation is also important and not always easy for a teacher to model.  The advantage is that students’ spelling may improve as a result of the emphasis on “correct” speech.  I can’t tell you how many times I have marked otherwise excellent work marred by the use of  “could of” or “should of”.

Teachers are already expected to teach speech, grammar, vocabulary, spelling and; awareness that weaknesses in these area will be a disadvantage to their students’ prestige in the community makes teaching good English habits even more compelling.  It does mean that teachers need to be conscious of themselves as models and monitor themselves for pronunciation.

Give your students a chance to thrive in Canada; teach them to speak as educated people.

3D thought experiment to understand the construction of the brain.


Thought Experiment Three: Vat.

(Photo credit: Sinead Fenton)

I find trying to create a 3D image of the brain in my head a tad difficult.  The diagrams in books are still two-dimensional however skilled the artist.  Pictures of cross sections don’t seem to help me.  The mathematically talented can probably visualise it, but I need something more.

This works for me as a thought experiment:  blow up a balloon and partly fill it with pale pink jelly whipped with milk or cream.  The jelly should

A Twisted Family Tradition ~ The Lime Jello Brain

A Twisted Family Tradition ~ The Lime Jello Brain (Photo credit: hurleygurley)

English: A cranberry jello salad made in a rin...

English: A cranberry jello salad made in a ring mold. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

be a little short on gelatine so it cannot hold much shape unsupported.  Take a large blob of chocolate on a stick.  How large?  It should be about 2/3 of the

Mousse au chocolat (sur fond transparent)

Mousse au chocolat (sur fond transparent) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

volume of the jelly;  err on the side of being more.   Chocolate mousse would be better for authenticity but less practical.  Ideally the chocolate should be grey, but this grey chocolate is unattractive.

It’s our thought experiment, so chocolate mousse is fine.  Cut a few holes in the blob, then insert it into the balloon and finish filling the balloon with the pink jelly.  Some of the pink

English: Drawings of the cerebral cortex.

English: Drawings of the cerebral cortex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

jelly will fill the holes in the chocolate.

Now coat the balloon in chocolate.  Again, chocolate mouse would be closer to the right texture but impractical. Your choice.  Mould papier-mâché around the balloon and allow to set.

Human cerebral cortex, Brain MRI, Coronal slic...

Human cerebral cortex, Brain MRI, Coronal slices of a hemisphere with gray/white (yellow) and pial (red) surfaces overlaid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine that you can dissolve the balloon, just leaving the jelly, chocolate and papier-mâché.  The papier-mâché is the skull; the thin coating of chocolate is the cerebral cortex and made up of grey matter, neurons. Notice how the wrinkling in the picture below increases considerably the area of the cerebral cortex and therefore the volume as well.   The pale pink jelly is the white matter, largely made up of myelinated axons. The chunk of chocolate in

the middle is the cerebellum, cerebellar and cerebrum, mainly made up of grey matter, except where the jelly fills the holes.  The stick is the part of the spine that uses grey matter.  Of course, the dried papier-mâché is the skull.

brains!

brains! (Photo credit: cloois)

It all looks delicious, what a shame about  the papier-mâché skull.  You could try to carefully cut away the skull, pick up the brain and put it on the plate.  Oops, the brain collapses under its own weight.  I hope the plate was right beside the skull, ready to catch the brain.

Rainbow-Jello-Cut-2004-Jul-30

Rainbow-Jello-Cut-2004-Jul-30 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This thought experiment helped me understand why brains often bruise on the opposite side from where the head was struck.  I also realised how white matter can be effective as a transmitter of messages as it seems to be everywhere that the grey matter isn’t.

If you are interested in making a brain dessert, there are brain moulds around or use a ring-shaped jelly mould, fill in the hole with chocolate mousse and gently cover with almost set jelly.  Cover the whole thing with chocolate mousse and la voilà, an educational treat!

A Salute to the Nurses at CHEO, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario


Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario

The little girl next door was in hospital.  For forty-eight hours we were very worried about her; then all that remained was for her to stay in hospital for an additional nine days while an antibiotic was delivered intravenously.  For the first few days, family and friends took turns being at her bedside 24 hours a day.  Once she was on the

Cholera Strikes Dessalines, Haiti

Cholera Strikes Dessalines, Haiti (Photo credit: United Nations Photo)

mend, they no longer needed to stay all night or all day, but visited frequently enough that she never feels abandoned.

As I spent time with her at the hospital, it came home again to me that 90% of recovery is letting the body do its thing.  Once the doctors have consulted,

Portrait of Miss Georgina Pope, head nurse of ...

Portrait of Miss Georgina Pope, head nurse of First Canadian Contingent during the Boer war. Possibly in her nurse’s uniform from Bellevue Hospital, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

examined the results of tests, made a diagnosis, prescribed a treatment and followed up, the rest is up to the nurses and the child’s body.

The nurses come in to check on the IV, add medications, observe the monitors but most importantly, they pay attention to the child.  They talk to her and listen to her.  They explain what is happening.  I have watched them patiently listen to morphine–fuddled child try to explain what she is worried about.  They look for ways to comfort a child in pain.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a warm facecloth washing a hand temporarily free of the IV.  They coax a child to use a hand that is still sore.  They brush her

Hospital

Hospital (Photo credit: José Goulão)

teeth if she doesn’t feel she can cope.  They carry the train of IV pole and trailing lines so the child can use the toilet.  They persuade children to drink and eat.  These are all ways of allowing the body to get on with its share of healing.

English: Nurses on the Army Hospital Ship Reli...

English: Nurses on the Army Hospital Ship Relief in 1898 while serving off of Cuba, US Navy Historical Center Photograph NH 92846 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day our patient asked someone “are you a nurse or a doctor?”  The nurse told her that you could tell the difference by how much time the person spent with her.  The doctors usually didn’t stay long or come more than once a day; patients saw more of the nurses, especially their own nurse.  Our patient thought a bit and added, “the nurses talk to me.  The cleaners are here a lot but they don’t talk to me.”  The nurse smiled at the astute observation, “yes, they don’t want to disturb you if you are resting and they have a lot of work to do cleaning the ward”.

Good nursing is a major factor in healing; it’s as true today as it was two

English: Navy nurses attending to a patient, 1...

English: Navy nurses attending to a patient, 1960s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

hundred years ago.  So let’s salute nurses everywhere, their professionalism, their knowledge and their compassion.  They comfort the patients and their families and are often the first to observe subtle changes in their condition.  Especially let us salute the nurses at children’s hospitals and especially at CHEO.  For nearly 35 years I have watched them care for children in my family and now the neighbours’ children.  Thank you.

English: First District Nurses in Melbourne

English: First District Nurses in Melbourne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been a long time since I last posted – too long!


IMG_5504I  have been busy because I have decided to write a book on education.  My subject is research-based education and does it exist?  Here in Ontario we are big on research based or brain based education.  I am always a bit dubious about this as there are at least three things that need considering in implementing education based on research.

The first is the reliability of the research For readers like me who don’t always remember the difference between those two important pillars of good science, reliability and validity, I will explain.

Reliability refers to whether an experiment can be done more than once and by other researchers and still get the same result.  If your dog eats a tablespoon of peanut butter and then lies down and rolls over twice, can you get the same effect the next day when you feed him peanut butter?  If you can, can your friend in the next city get her dog of a different age to lie down and roll over twice after he has eaten a tablespoon of peanut butter?  Will it work with different breeds or only black dogs weighing more than 60 lb.?   The more often replications of the experiment end up with the same result, the more likely it is to be reliable.

The second pillar of research is validity.  This is not as simple a concept to explain.  Validity requires that the thesis and experiment make sense i.e. they are designed using both logic and fact.  The conclusions must be interpreted logically, too.  As the saying goes: “data is not the plural of anecdote.”

One mistake we often make is confusing correlation and causation: a classic example is the woman who believed that it was the sign “deer crossing” that caused deer to cross at that particular spot on the road.  She thought this was very dangerous as she had hit a deer three times just after passing the spot.  Her solution was to move the crossing.

The mistake this woman made was to mistake the correlation of a deer crossing sign and the deer crossing the road with the sign causing the deer to cross the road.   Some careful thinking about the nature of deer and their abilities would have brought the realisation that deer can’t read or follow traffic rules.  The deer’s preference for crossing the road at that point was the reason the sign was posted, not the other way around.

We can laugh at this person’s logic, but how often do we see similar thinking in

World Health Organization building from the So...

World Health Organization building from the South-East, Geneva (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

our lives.  Think of your friend who won’t get her child vaccinated because she believes that vaccinations kill children.  The World Health Organization (WHO)

clearly outlines the faulty logic as it applies to the DPT i.e. Diphtheria, pertussis (whooping-cough) and polio:

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTP) Vaccine And Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

One myth that won’t seem to go away is that DTP vaccine causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This belief came about because a moderate proportion of children who die of SIDS have recently been vaccinated with DTP; on the surface, this seems to point toward a causal connection. This logic is faulty however; you might as well say that eating bread causes car crashes, since most drivers who crash their cars could probably be shown to have eaten bread within the past 24 hours.

If you consider that most SIDS deaths occur during the age range when three shots of DTP are given, you would expect DTP shots to precede a fair number of SIDS deaths simply by chance. In fact, when a number of well-controlled studies were conducted during the 1980s, the investigators found, nearly unanimously, that the number of SIDS deaths temporally associated with DTP vaccination was within the range expected to occur by chance. In other words, the SIDS deaths would have occurred even if no vaccinations had been given.

In fact, in several of the studies, children who had recently received a DTP shot were less likely to get SIDS. The Institute of Medicine reported that “all controlled studies that have compared immunized versus non-immunized children have found either no association . . . or a decreased risk . . . of SIDS among immunized children” and concluded that “the evidence does not indicate a causal relation between [DTP] vaccine and SIDS.”

Looking at risk alone is not enough however – you must always look at both risks and benefits. Even one serious adverse effect in a million doses of vaccine cannot be justified if there is no benefit from the vaccination. If there were no vaccines, there would be many more cases of disease, and along with them, more serious side effects and more deaths. For example, according to an analysis of the benefit and risk of DTP immunization, if there was no immunization program in the United States, pertussis cases could increase 71-fold and deaths due to pertussis could increase four-fold. Comparing the risk from disease with the risk from the vaccines can give us an idea of the benefits we get from vaccinating our children.

A plot of SIDS rate from 1988 to 2006

A plot of SIDS rate from 1988 to 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For more information on vaccines and childhood illnesses go to Global Vaccine Safety:

Six common misconceptions about immunization.  This is a much more serious case of correlation = causation than the Deer Lady’s confusion.

The sample used should be a reasonable size and reflect the population in question.  How many samples, people, classrooms or animals are needed can’t be defined theoretically, but scientists and most sensible people should know when the sample is not enough.   For example if one wants to know the death rate from measles, the best sample would be all the reported cases of measles in an area or all the confirmed cases of measles.  The latter would be better, unless one can safely assume that doctors are generally accurate in diagnosing measles and therefore their reports won’t skew the data.

One of the cruellest results of poor research is the myth that the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine causes autism .  The research was published in 1988 and retracted by the eminent medical journal, Lancet in 2012.  Not only was the research retracted but the author was also reprimanded by Britain’s General Medical Council and stripped of the right to practice medicine in Britain.

The doctor used only 12 children for his research, taking the blood samples from children at his son’s birthday party.  There were other flaws in his work; for more information see the sites below.

After his results were published in 1988, some British parents refused to get their children immunized with the MMR vaccine and the incidence of all three diseases increased.  Measles is highly contagious and can lead to more serious illnesses or death.  For example: one in twenty will develop pneumonia (a common cause of death from measles) and one in a thousand will develop encephalitis, putting them at risk for convulsions, deafness, mental retardation or death.  By 2008 there were enough measles cases in Britain to declare it an epidemic.  See web sites in the bibliography below for a discussion of MMR vaccination from at least two opposing perspectives.

Even when research is well done, there are two more pits for the unwary: drawing conclusions and applying the results correctly. If your dog rolls over repeatedly after eating peanut butter, is it to please you in order to get more peanut butter or does peanut butter put his belly in such agony that he needs to roll over more than once to relieve it?  One might argue that the dog’s motivation doesn’t matter; the important thing is that the dog rolls over.  It does, however, make a difference to dogs and to dog lovers.  They care whether pain or delight is causing the new tricks.  This is another case where the researcher will have to explore the connection between the incidents in order to do good science.

Research intent on testing the results of other studies is not glamorous and doesn’t get the headlines (or the grants, sometimes) but it is as important as the initial work.  In fact, without it, we would have more drugs with disastrous side effects, more collapsing structures and poorer educational systems.

The third thing that needs considering, besides reliability and validity and the conclusions draw by the researcher, is the interpretation of research by the layman – or woman.  It is easy to misunderstand research if we don’t read the work or summaries without a critical eye.  I find myself increasingly wondering who did the original research, how valid and reliable it was, if the researcher had a bias towards the results and what other research has been done. Education needs good research to inform good teaching practices and teachers need to know how to read the research, question it and implement what has been learned.

I have not covered everything you need to know about scientific methods and the methods of science.  My intention here is to draw attention to the layman’s need to understand scientific thinking and reflect critically on research before applying it in the field.  For a more thorough analysis, go to:  The Scientific Method vs. Real Science at http://www.av8n.com/physics/scientific-methods.htm.  It does require some thoughtful reading but it is worth the effort.

So, I am writing a book about the relationship between education and what we really know about the brain and relevant psychology.  I am still in the research stage.  Instead of doing my own original research, I am reviewing other peoples’ studies to understand the results and their relevance to education.

My blog will probably have a different flavour, as it is likely to reflect my thoughts and discoveries as I learn.  I hope you enjoy accompanying me on this journey.

Bibliography

Donna, The Deer Lady

http://www.webpronews.com/donna-the-deer-lady-learns-what-deer-crossing-signs-are-for-2012-10

The MMR Vaccine Discussion.

Autism-vaccine study retracted Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | 10:08 PM ET CBC News  http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2010/02/02/autism-mmr-lancet-wakefield.html

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism/index.html

http://www.infection-research.de/infectious_diseases/measles/

http://www.vaccinationnews.com/why-do-pediatricians-deny-obvious

http://www.vaccinationnews.com/measles-united-kingdom-wakefield-factor

http://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/initiative/detection/immunization_misconceptions/en/

 

Scientific Method:

http://www.av8n.com/physics/scientific-methods.htm.

Summertime and the Camps are Expensive: How to Keep our Kids Thinking and Learning on a Dime …


Kids playing in a lake at a church camp

Kids playing in a lake at a church camp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We bemoan the summer holidays as a time when students forget everything they learned in school and then need to spend September reviewing.  Research, and I can’t remember which and with the summer haze in my brain am too lazy to look up, suggests that middle class children don’t lose too much through the long summer holidays.  These kids go to camp, visit relatives, take classes and generally keep their brains ticking over.  If they aren’t precisely reviewing what they have already learned, they are at least adding to it.

Who is really hurt by the long summer holidays?

On the other hand, kids with lower socio-economic status do lose out.  Their parents are likely to both be working and are hard pressed to find care for their children, much less something stimulating.  If a parent is at home, then money to do anything extra is unavailable.  When these kids return to school, they are behind the eight ball.  They have not just forgotten over the long holidays, but they have not had any enrichment to enhance what they have already learned.  What to do?

The thing is that if you are reading this, you may be poor but you are unlikely to be lower SES.  Graduate, medical and law students may have very low incomes, the economic part of the SES, but their social status is high.  Even people who have gone off the grid or simply work the streets to help the homeless may have a minimal income but high status socially.  Even on a low income it is possible to afford a computer, second-hand or refurbished – or access one at the local library.

On the other hand, drug dealers may be rolling in dough but low in social status, although that may depend on the society they are mixing with.  They may have a computer, even a high end one with all the bells and whistles, but I doubt they are reading my blog or this post.

It is those folks who have minimal incomes and minimal status who are less likely to be able to provide camps and classes and stimulating activities for their kids.  It isn’t impossible but it is difficult.  I’m going to offer advice here, but how many people who need it, will read it?

Free Camps, Lessons and Stimulating Activities:

The best place to find a free summer camp is at a church.  They aren’t sleepover camps, they are usually half days and some do push their religion.  However, your children will learn something about Christianity, which will be an enormous aid as they study English literature.  It will also give them some insights into Judaism, Islam and even Mormonism.

My daughter went to one themed on Paul.  One day we were chatting about Paul as I walked her home from camp.  I confessed that I was not a fan of Paul as he was a bit of a misogynist.  After I explained that a misogynist was someone who didn’t like women, my daughter was quiet for a bit.  Then she pointed out that no one except Christ was perfect.  Perhaps misogyny was Paul’s flaw.  After all he did have other wise things to say.  My jaw dropped.  As I said, it is an opportunity to learn a bit and stimulate some thought.

Scouts and guides are another place for almost free camping and lessons.  One of my sons got a lot out of scouts including a couple of long camping trips.  He learned the usual skills and benefitted from the guidance of adults who weren’t parents or teachers.

Some camps will trade a child’s camping fees for a parent’s skills.  It won’t work with every camp, but it is worth trying with alternative or church over night camps.  If you can cook, do office work or general maintenance, ask.  Ask your local Y about groups that help send kids to camps or have programs for families to go to camp.

Learning New Skills

Can’t afford lessons?  Canvas other families in the same situations.  Maybe among you there are a few experts such as knitters, musicians (singers or drummers are ideal), dancers, artists (they don’t have to be famous or sell their work), woodworkers or bakers.  Arrange to have lessons for the children in your group of families.  Your kids will learn a new skill and learn to appreciate another adult.  You will get to know some other children well.

Seeing and Stimulation

            On the street where you live

Learning and stimulation are often right at your feet or your children’s feet.  Get in the habit of going for walks with your kids.  Teach them how to walk safely

Wabush Manhole Cover IV

Wabush Manhole Cover IV (Photo credit: ManHole.ca)

in their neighbourhood.  Go at their pace. They will get you seeing things you haven’t really looked at before.  The obvious things are construction sites and big trucks.  It’s always amazing how many workers don’t mind taking a couple of minutes to explain what they are doing.  My kids found manholes fascinating, too.  They were a great place to practice reading.  I also learned a bit of local history when I realised that the same foundry that made the manhole covers, made stoves in our area.

Those walks are also good exercise and an opportunity for you to continue street-proofing your children. Point out street signs, landmarks, public building and telephones. Get them to tell you how to get home.  Children who have wandered their neighbourhoods on their own by the age of ten will have a better directional sense and more confidence.  People who walk with confidence are less likely to be victimized.

            It’s a walk in the park

Having fun!

Having fun! (Photo credit: ucumari)

Of course, parks are a great place in the summer.  You take your kids to play on the playground or splash pads or swim but as a by-the-way you can get them in the habit of observing the life around them.  Try going to different parks and point out different plants and trees, birds and animals.  You don’t have

Observing

Observing (Photo credit: Adalberto Gonzaga)

to know what they are.  Keep a sketchpad or camera tucked in your bag to record what they see and make notes. Jot down their observations or if they are old enough, give them their own note pad and encourage them to keep

their own notes.  Show them how to just write down the minimum number of words necessary to remind them. When you get home, you can look them up or take another trip to the library.

            Go shopping, but leave your wallet at home

Shopping streets can be full of information.  Why do stores have big windows?  Which way do doors open?  Why?  Which colours do they see most in

a child

a child (Photo credit: sogni_hal)

store windows?  Which store windows are the prettiest?  Most dramatic?  Most interesting?  Why are there people sitting on the sidewalk asking for money?  Depending on your city, the street and the person, your child might want to talk to them.  It’s an opportunity to learn that people are people no matter how they live.

If you visit a small store when it is quiet, you could talk to the proprietor about what it is like to run a business, where his wares come from and why he decided to open a store.  You could get your children to keep track of the different kind of stores on different streets.

            Museums

Museums are most wonderful when they are free.  If they are free in your town, pop in with the kids for only half an hour at a time.  Even if they aren’t free,

Young hands

Young hands (Photo credit: jepoirrier)

there is usually one day a week when they are, so that is the day to drop by.  Do a little research; sometimes there are tiny museums that are free.  Sometimes there are amazing little stores that are almost as good as museum, but first you must carefully train your children to look only with their eyes.

The best museum for kids is a science and technology museum.  Get them pushing the museum’s buttons instead of yours.  If you don’t have a zoo, the next best is an art gallery but pick the exhibit carefully.  Children enjoy bright energetic abstracts or meticulously realistic art to start with.  Let them ask the questions and make the comments before you get helpful.  You can borrow books about art from your library if you

Russell Coates Art Gallery Bournemouth

Russell Coates Art Gallery Bournemouth (Photo credit: Martin Beek)

don’t have the answers. When they get home they might want to try the kind of art they have seen.

An Exhibition

Your children might want to go around their home to pick out art and oddments worthy of display.  They can create cards explaining what each thing is and why it is so special.  Perhaps your network of teaching and learning families could add a demonstration of the skills the kids have learned over the summer.  Of course, that will call for an exhibition to which they can invite their friends, family and neighbours.

I am going to do it ALL

You aren’t going to do all of these things.  Just writing about it exhausts me.  It is a frame of mind that says there is a world of learning and fellowship and fun and excitement out there free if I open my eyes and my mind and my heart that is important.  I don’t have to be rich or educated to give my child a summer she will enjoy and will keep her mind ticking over.  I can send her back to school ready to continue learning.  It just takes some thought, imagination and planning on my part.  And maybe a little help from my friends.

Parenting

Parenting (Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov)

Summer’s Here and So are Posts for Parents


Latino Children Play Swing

Latino Children Play Swing (Photo credit: epSos.de)

School is over and you are scratching your head over summer plans, not the big ones such as vacations (Aunt Lucie’s cottage again!) or camps if you can afford it: Camp Tappawallit for one week, two or three?  No, it’s the nitty-gritty, the hot summer evenings, the long weekends of only two days, the weeks of amusing small ones if you can afford to or must stay home with them.

If you are home with your kids,

you are Home With Your Kids

Here are some suggestions gleaned from my long hot summers as a teacher and parent and from other parents.  First, if you are home with the kids, remember that is your primary goal.  Sure there are jobs to be done but restrict them to cool mornings when your kids are happy to amuse themselves.  I also expected my kids to do a few chores, starting with keeping their rooms tidy.

Summer was my time for sorting through each child’s clothes, making a note of what was going to be needed in the fall, what could be passed on and placing the worn out clothes directly in the rag bag.  Sometimes it was tedious.  If we got through it in one session, I was pleased; if the child got cranky, I marked the bags, tidied what we hadn’t sorted and waited for another day to finish up.

It was also a time to sort out closets and clean rooms thoroughly but unless truly inspired I rarely went past lunch.  It just wasn’t fair to the kids.

Put aside at least half of each day to be with the kids

Afternoons were for a cold glass of water, a book, a chaise lounge and the shade of the tree in the back yard.  The kids came and went, asking permission for

Beautiful shady tree with "Candle-nut&quo...

Beautiful shady tree with “Candle-nut” fruits. The fruits of this plant were used as candles by early settlers. Native to NE QLD Australia and to New Guinea. old name: Aleurites moluccana v. rockinghamensis Location: rainforest reserve in Chapel Hill, Brisbane, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

various things, climbing the tree, going off with their friends and inviting friends around.  I checked hats and sunblock and fluids and where they were going and with whom but it felt relaxed because I wasn’t trying to do anything else.  I often didn’t read more than a couple of pages.

Sometimes if dinner was organised, we would walk (or cycle) along the bicycle path to meet their dad.  This was a treat, as they loved to surprise him and tell him about their day.

Be good to yourself and your family

Remember, if you try to look after your kids and have an immaculate house, writes the Great Canadian Novel, or run a successful home-based business, you will also be seriously irritated with your kids and very frustrated.  Taking care of the kids comes first. If anything else gets done it’s a bonus. Things do get done but never nearly as often as you would like. Just keep reminding yourself that you are there for your children.

We don’t all have the luxury of one parent staying at home for the summer

Isn’t that the truth!  It takes a bit of planning but picking up the kids after work and taking them straight to the nearest park, splash-pad, pool or beach for a picnic supper is a welcome treat on the hotter days.

Making picnicking on a whim easier

When you dry towels and bathing suits, pop them in a bag with sunblock, hats

English: Kids at shore

Kids at shore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and whatever necessities you need and keep it in the hall closet.  Make sure you have enough for the whole family so you can just grab the bag when the water

English: A frisbee made by Wham-O.

A frisbee made by Wham-O. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

calls.  Use a distinctive bag and the same bag each time so the kids can find it to toss in the Frisbee or toy they think is needed.

Keep a box or basket or cooler handy with whatever cutlery, cups and china you use for a picnic.  Save large plastic jars with good screw-on lids to put any drippy food in.  Pack cloth napkins or tea towels for mopping up sticky fingers and chins.

Then all you need to add is food. If the food has been frozen or well chilled and you plan to eat within the hour, you probably won’t need ice.  If you think you might need ice, consider using those chill packs intended for sprains and bruises: less mess and effective for short trips.

Checklists help

Create generic checklists for the food container and the one in the hall.  For the food container you might list:

4 Cups

4 forks

4 spoons

4 knives

4 plates

main course

vegetables

rice/potato/bread

afters (dessert)

drinks

water

thermos of tea

2 tea towels

As you can see it covers most of what you would take for your picnic and some of it can be done as soon as you have done the dishes from the last picnic.  Some of it will help with your planning.  You are less likely to leave something important behind even if you are tired and frazzled.

A tone mapped HDR image of a picnic setup on t...

A tone mapped HDR image of a picnic setup on the grass. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suggestions for food for an easy picnic supper:

Bake a lot of chicken legs, then freeze them in bags in amounts your family is likely to eat.  If you have a couple extra, freeze them separately so you can add them for guests.  You can take these out in the morning and put them in the cooler or fridge.

A lot of food for a very hungry family!

Or make peanut butter and banana sandwiches

Or check out lentil or bean or quinoa salads on the Internet.  Some of them are a meal in themselves.  It would be easier to make these the night before and if you double the recipe, it will cover two meals.

Or pick up a small ham and carve it on the spot

Carrot and celery sticks are favourites and easy to prepare a day or two in advance.

Forget about potato salad and take some good bread and butter

For dessert bring a selection of fruit and maybe a cookie for each person.  I love to bring whatever delicious berry is in season.  They usually disappear fast and if they don’t, well all the more for the adults’ lunches.

Bottles with ice and water are great but you can also cut juice in half with soda water for a fizzy drink that is nutritious.

Surprisingly good:

Turnip sticks

                        Cucumber sticks or slices

                        Lettuce leaves eaten as finger food (especially dark  green or red)

                        Plain yogurt sprinkled with brown sugar

                        Cut up fresh fruit with plain yogurt

                        Yogurt and juice beaten together.  Add milk if it is too thick

                        Pickled herring

Between the fun of the water and the good simple food, all of you will sleep better, no matter how hot it is.

When you get home, do yourself a favour and clean out the food containers thoroughly.  Even if it is late, at least get the china, containers and cutlery into a tub of soapy water or a dishwasher and wipe out the cooler or basket.  You do not want to face stinky, smelly picnic things next time you want to picnic on a whim.

Family picnicing in the shade on a hot summer ...

Family picnicing in the shade on a hot summer day at Bonython Park on the banks of River Torrens, Adelaide, South Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next Time:  Summertime: can you make if fun AND educational cheaply?