True Homework: Building a Home Life
Many people are astounded when I tell them I didn't give homework to my elementary students. There are many reasons I didn't give homework, but the main one is fairly simple. The reason for coming to school is to work and to learn. If students are doing what they are supposed to do in school, which is to work and to learn, and if my job is to create an environment where children ''yearn to learn,'' does assigning homework help me meet my objectives in the classroom? Does homework help the children become better learners?
The time that children spend at home should be spent in activities that strengthen family relationships. As adults, most of us would resent being sent home with an hour or two of work, day after day, after we had put in a full day on the job. Why do we think our children will feel differently?
I share parents' concerns of children not using their time wisely if there is not homework to keep the children busy. Here are some suggestions that can help direct a child's activity during home hours while nurturing that ''yearn to learn'' and building family bonds.
- Encourage your child to write weekly to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and out-of-town friends.
- Keep a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle as an ongoing project. I used to keep ten loaners in my classroom closet.
- Do crosswords puzzles. Friends of mine do the crossword puzzle in the New York Times each week as a family. It usually takes all week, but every time someone walks past the puzzle on the kitchen counter, they try to add a word.
- Play board games as a family. Some recommendations are checkers, chess, Outburst Junior, Pictionary Junior, Scrabble, Jeopardy and Rays of Light. Ask friends for recommendations.
- Develop a family hobby. My brother-in-law's family collects antique toys. A friend works with her daughter on dollhouse miniatures. Find something that interests you and encourage your child to help. You will be developing a lifelong bond. That's important homework.
- Encourage your children to help with meal preparation and clean up. Fix dinner as a family instead of ''taking turns'' or leaving one person to do all the work.
- Designate one evening a week as ''Family Night,'' and do something as a family. Taking a walk, skating, biking, playing tennis, making craft items or watching videos are fun Family Night activities.
- Monitor television viewing, and watch as a family. Plan what television shows or videos will be watched during the week. I kept a small lending video library at school with books that complemented the subject such as National Geographic Specials (The Titanic), Sarah, Plain and Tall or The Secret Garden, for example. Watching a video can stir a child's interest in a subject, and a handy book will help the child explore his or her curiosity.
- Read books out loud. A chapter a night is fun, and everyone can take turns reading a chapter. Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook is a good resource.
The work of the child at home is to build a home life. These activities can help bring families together while still satisfying and strengthening the child's ''yearn to learn''.
Next week: Is My Child Working at Grade Level?
Kids Talk™ is a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Mrs. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.
She has over 25 years experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is also Creative Director for a video-based reading series for children ages three to six, The Shining Light Reading Series. Contact her via e-mail at email@example.com.
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