Tag Archives: Parent

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

Negotiating Learning: how do you get to Carnegie Hall part three


Emma’s parents are clearly in charge but they give her opportunities to make her own decisions.  They love to introduce her to new things: lambs, flying above her daddy’s head, swings, carrots, croissants and sandy beaches.  They are careful to keep the first contact with a new experience brief and pleasant. Should Emma show real signs of distress, they distract her with something else and remove the new experience.  They do, however, give her time to figure out what she thinks.  A first grimace does not mean distaste or fear.

Emma approaches most new things with enthusiastic caution.  At first contact, her face remains solemn as she assesses the taste or the experience.  Her expression upon her first taste of potato was comical. She remained serious as she ate most of it but she wasn’t unhappy.

Soon after first contact with a new experience, Emma usually starts to smile.  The potato didn’t rate a smile but it wasn’t rejected, either.  When Emma becomes comfortable with new activities, she often chuckles, sometimes in anticipation.

The local playground is designed for young children.  It has tough rubber flooring, many gentle angles and slopes, steps that are wide and go quite high, different kinds of slides and different challenges for the climbers including big nets.  There are lots of physical challenges but some for the imagination as well.  The gate opens into a large grassy field that is also toddler friendly.  Emma visits it nearly every day and here she has a lot of freedom to determine her own agenda.  For the most part, her parents follow her, reserving the right to exercise a veto.  The veto is seldom employed because usually they can negotiate a solution as they did with the swing.

Emma knew she wasn’t ready to swing solo but she does like the feeling of independence of being on the swing by herself. She isn’t ready to get on the swing and she doesn’t try but she is happy to sit on the swing with Mum’s help.  She gets to feel what it is like to be on a big-girl swing with the independence of holding on and balancing.  On the other hand, she is not anxious about falling, as she trusts her mum.

When she does fall in the course of her experiments, Emma rarely cries.  She looks up with surprise and the parent in charge usually calmly comments “That was a good bump, wasn’t it?” or “You didn’t see that coming, did you?” and they laugh together.  If a bump causes tears, then Emma gets picked up and comforted while her parent casually inspects the bump to see if needs more treatment than a kiss.  Eventually, Emma wiggles to get down and goes back to what she was doing.

Letting Emma fall is part of her education in consequences; taking risks can result in a delightful new experience or a bump.  She has to assess where the dividing line is.  Since her parents don’t intervene unless she is likely to get really hurt, she gets lots of practice in making that assessment.

So Emma often pushes herself to learn new things, but her parents also expose her to new experiences.  They support her ventures. They don’t fuss over a bit of dirt or a skinned knee.  Emma and her clothes are washable.  Emma’s scrapes and bruises heal quickly and are forgotten quickly. Usually Emma is the one who determines the pace at which she learns to do things, although, like most parents, hers can’t resist the temptation to occasionally coax her into trying something.  Who hasn’t tried to persuade a baby to take a step?

Wisely, her parents also teach her how to do things important for her own safety, such as getting down from a perch. Theirs is an approach of “if you are going to climb, you need to know how to get down safely.”  Her parents taught her to turn around and get down feet first.  When she first started climbing, they would have physically put her in the position to climb down.  Later, she heard a lot of

Turn around, Emma.  That’s it.  Now get down.”

Later comments were:

That’s not safe, please move… Thank you”

Or

Remember what happened last time you did that?”

Climbing, with the exception of climbing on cabinets and the computer desk, is not discouraged.  Her parents have always spotted Emma’s early climbs, even if she wasn’t aware of it.  However, potentially dangerous antics such as crossing the bouncing bridge require a parent holding her hand.  Since her parents don’t restrict most adventures, she accedes more readily to having her hand held.  Emma practices her balance on the bridge, but safely.

Today Emma climbs steps, kitchen chairs and other furniture with the same confidence as she walks.  While her eyes glint with mischief when she is admonished not to do something dangerous, she understands perfectly both the request and that she might get hurt doing it.  She might continue once or twice to tease her parent, but she is usually obedient. In this family, the toddler’s growth is a pragmatic and joyous negotiation between her and her parents.

The negotiation between Emma and her parents and their willingness to let her take some risks have brought her to the point where she wants to climb on the baby gym.  The task requires concentration, strength, balance, some risk-taking and confidence; she has enough of each.

Currently, the estimate of what goes into Emma’s growth would be roughly 40% nature, 60% environment or what we used to call nurture. Emma was unusually active even before she was born.  How would she have developed if her parents had not been active themselves?  Would they have responded to her need for physical activity or would she have become a little less active – or would they have met in the middle?

You often hear parents comment that their child sleeps better if they have a walk in the afternoon – or they need some quiet time after their bath and before bed to settle down to sleep.  Most parents are pretty good at figuring out what their babies need.  Most parents figure it out without thinking too much about it, too, and manage to negotiate something that works both for them and their child.  When you think about it, this isn’t really a surprise.  Parent and child is the oldest human relationship and they have been working it out for a long time.

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? Part One


How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice, Practice, Practice … goes the old joke.

We think of violinists and pianists, but every toddler is performing the same miracle of intensity and practice right under our noses. We are accustomed to it and fooled by the small laughing faces smeared with sweet potato and any dirt they can find. Let’s follow Emma to her ta da! moment at eighteen months and then we’ll explore the neurology behind it, her negotiations with her parents and the implications for teachers and parents.

This is Emma playing under her wooden baby gym. She is ignoring the toys as she works on turning over. In one short year things will change dramatically.

At eighteen months old, Emma is active for her age and persistent in teaching herself things she wants to learn. Emma is fortunate in her parents.

They are not only active themselves, but her mother is a former competitive athlete and her father loves to cycle and hike. He once cycled across four provinces, including British Columbia. Her parents don’t discourage her from most of her experiments in action so she keeps busy and keeps them busy.

You will notice that in the picture above, Emma has her leg up on what is the bottom step of a climbing structure. The toe in the left side of the picture is her mother’s. In the next picture (on another day), you can see Emma as she reaches the top of these steps. She has made it clear to her parents that she does not need help so an unseen hand, ready to grab an arm, a shirt or the back of her overalls hovers discretely behind.

There are all sorts of activities at the top of the steps but what she wanted was the bridge in the pictures below. As you can see, Emma is having great fun charging across this bridge made with wooden slats and her mother is having only slightly less fun trying to keep up. She wouldn’t have held her mother’s hand but for her mother’s insistence.

Emma sometimes decides that she wants to learn how to do something and then persists until she learns it to her satisfaction. It isn’t always obvious to anyone except her why she wants to learn something.The goosestep she appears to be doing in this picture is not that at all. She is not throwing her leg forward but executing a sidekick every few walking steps. It was quite deliberate and unusually well executed for a toddler. What made her decide to do it puzzled observers. Why she was doing it was a puzzle but that she was doing it must have both strengthened the muscles in her leg and hip and maintained if not increased the flexibility that allowed Emma to swing her leg up on the step in the second photo. I have no expertise in toddler fitness so I am speculating here, based on having raised three children of my own.

It is characteristic of her parents’ style that they are unobtrusive but present to stop any major falls. Otherwise Emma is allowed to experiment with pretty well anything she thinks she can do. Emma’s first ideas about how to get down from the sofa were not good ones. Only the pillows on the floor and her mother’s firm grip of her leg stopped it from being a painful experiment.

Emma experiments with going up the slide. Her parents made a point of teaching her how to get down from places where she has climbed up. The photo below shows how they have taught Emma to turn around so she can lower her feet first.

Sometimes Emma climbs where her parents don’t want her to go. They deal with this much the same way they deal with headfirst descents: they make it clear to Emma that climbing on the computer desk is not acceptable and they remove her. But first, of course, a photograph is in order! By contrast, the couch is an acceptable climbing spot so long as she doesn’t get on the back because that is too high.

Emma likes to try new things and her parents encourage her. Swings are a good example of how her parents introduce and encourage her in trying new things. First there was the baby swing with Dad in front pushing the swing. Emma could see her dad and they shared a smile of delight. Next she sat on her daddy’s lap while he went back and forth on the grown up swing. Later when she went again to the playground, shewanted to sit on the swing by herself. Her mother put her on, made sure she understood she had to keep her hands firmly wrapped around the chains and gently pushed from behind.

It was possible that Emma might fall but highly unlikely. Her mother was right there and Emma is a sturdy child with a good sense of balance.

These months of practicing climbing and balance, building strength and derring-do have led to this moment caught on a parent’s camera. The baby who lay under the baby gym, just a short year ago, trying to turn over, is now climbing on it.

How did she get there?

Next Post:  Emma’ s Brain.

NATURE AND NURTURE