Last Updated April 7th, 2009

How Important is Homework?

Using StumbleUpon the other day, I came across an article on arguments against homework. The article’s a few years old, but schools still give so much homework I found it interesting.

In first grade, my daughter gets 4 nights of homework a week. She has a total of 3 pages of math plus 3 assignments to help her learn a spelling list of 9 words, plus 20 minutes of reading a night.

I have to admit, I like the 20 minutes of reading a night. So does she. We often go over on that one. She even reads on her own sometimes.

But I found it very interesting that there’s no evidence that homework in the early years has any benefit at all.

Just think about it. Kids spend about 7 hours at school, then have to do homework too. That’s a pretty tiring day for a kid. And very little time for play.

It’s not an easy thing for schools to admit that homework might not be worthwhile, especially when they’re under so much pressure to show great academic results. It’s a rather troubled system these days.

My own feelings on this topic are pretty mixed. There are some areas where my daughter definitely needs improvement, but the main one is penmanship. She’s a sloppy writer even for a first grader. Then again, I’m not that neat a writer either.

But I’m also starting to get this feeling that if I wanted to spend time helping my daughter learn, I may as well homeschool. It would take more of my day, but less of hers and let her be more of a kid. If that made for a better attitude toward learning, it would be worth it. Just now she feisty, to put it kindly, about a lot of topics, and work in class and at home can take her far longer than it should just because she’s bored.

The trouble comes from homework that is more or less busy work. In the lower grades it’s hard for teachers to assign anything else. It can be more effective, I gather, in high school.

At any rate, I’m thinking more teachers and school administrators need to read The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. So do parents. It’s worth questioning the worth of most homework assigned.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated February 26th, 2009

Some Days I Really Feel for Working Moms

I’ve always had a lot of sympathy for moms who have to or prefer to work outside the home. It’s not an easy thing, even if it’s your preference. And in Florida they might just be making it worse.

They’re looking at the possibility of a 4 day school week to save money, making the days longer so the kids would be in school the same number of hours.

Can I just say how miserable that sounds all the way around?

Miserable for the kids, who need free time to play every day. Being stuck for extra time 4 days a week in a classroom doesn’t strike me as a good plan for most ages. I don’t see it as being good for the kids academically, emotionally, socially or any other way.

And of course it’s miserable for the parents with kids young enough to still need daycare. That’s more time they’d be paying for, or a rougher time working their work schedule around the kids’ school schedule.

Given the tight finances of many families, that’s a very real concern. Not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to work at home, have a flexible schedule or otherwise be able to cope with these changes, no matter how much we love our children.

One can argue that this is a point in favor of homeschooling, but that’s not a viable solution for all families. And I don’t believe in the bit about only having kids if you can raise them entirely yourself. There’s no need to judge other parents so harshly.

There have been other times I’ve really wondered how working moms do it. Not out of contempt, but admiration for their determination.

When my son had his craniosynostosis surgery, and then helmet therapy, for example. I know I had it far, far easier than parents who worked outside the home. I can’t imagine how one would keep up with the many appointments I had to deal with – sometimes three in one week, all different days.

That’s not to say I don’t admire my fellow at home moms. I do. We cope with tight budgets, lots of criticisms from people who think we’re wasting our talents, and the daily challenges kids love to present. I think I’m lucky to be in that crowd, but I won’t judge those who don’t choose it for one reason or another. We’re all just doing our best for the most part.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 1st, 2009

Skill Building for the New Year

Happy New Year!

I’ve been thinking on things I can do to help my readers in this new year, and one thing that came to mind is skill building. So many families are dealing with money problems, or facing the possibility of money problems, that now is a great time to really focus on coping.

For some, it’s time to really get serious about a home business. For others, it might be more about building job skills.

For me, it’s researching some of the best and most affordable ways to build these skills, so I can share the solutions I find.

And so I am of course curious as to what skills you would like to build up this year. Just leave a comment below.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated September 8th, 2008

8 Ways to Brighten Your Child's School Day

Going back to school can be stressful for kids. They’ve had all summer to have fun, but now they have to focus on learning. A little pick me up can do wonders for their attitude toward school.

back to school

1. Start with a good breakfast.

There’s a reason why “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is such a cliche. It’s true. If your family consistently has trouble making time for breakfast in the morning, try getting up a bit earlier. It may be hard for both you and the kids to get used to, but it means you can get a decent breakfast into them. And maybe even feed yourself.

2. Pack a note to be read at school.

Another classic, but very worthwhile. My daughter’s first grade class actually has this somewhat formalized, with a “Write-to-Me Journal”. She writes to us each Friday, and we write back to her over the weekend, to be read at school. But of course notes at other times are also a good idea, such as the classic note in the lunch box.

3. Say “I love you” as they leave for school.

Younger kids love to hear this, of course. Older ones may play embarrassed or annoyed, but they need to hear it too. Say it, and don’t worry too much about their reaction.

4. Tell them you’re proud of them.

Another thing kids need to hear. I’ve read that it’s best to praise effort rather than to say things such as “You’re so smart.” You want to be sure that your praise is about something your child is doing well.

Also be sure to let them hear you praise them to others. It’s a little extra step that has a lot of meaning when done right. Once again, you don’t want to praise just anything, but when an action is worth mentioning to others, do so and sometimes let the kids overhear.

5. Take the time for family fun outside of school.

The school year is a busy time, but don’t let it get in the way of all the fun you can have as a family. Get out and enjoy yourselves. Play games. Relax.

6. Give the kids time to be kids.

There’s a lot of pressure to put children into a bunch of activities these days. While these can provide some benefits, too many simply lead to stressed out kids. Give them time to play on their own, no instructions from adults. Other than “No TV, no computer, no video games” perhaps. Get them outside.

Outdoor play has been shown to help with the symptoms of ADD, and the exercise is generally healthy anyhow. It doesn’t matter your age, you should all get outside to have fun daily anyhow. Playing outside helps kids to focus mentally.

7. Talk about what’s happening at school.

Go beyond “So how was your day?” and similar questions. Younger kids can be asked about what they enjoyed most about their day. Older kids may be more willing to talk about projects they’re working on. Figure out what topics will get your child talking to you about what’s happening in school. Keep this as a habit and be positive about things so they’re used to discussing things with you, even when there’s a problem.

8. Be supportive when they’re having problems at school.

Going to school has its hazards. Sometimes it will be problems with a classmate, other times it may be a topic that just isn’t sinking in very well. No matter what the problem is, be ready to help your child solve it.

Try not to solve too many problems for your kids, however. In many cases you’ll do better to discuss possible solutions your child can do on his or her own. On the other hand, some problems do require a parent’s touch, a meeting with the teacher or even the school principal. Be ready and willing to help.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated August 9th, 2008

Homeschooling in California Looking a Bit Better

I’m not the least bit surprised to be saying that the state appellate court in California has reversed the earlier decision requiring that parents be credentialed in order to homeschool. Given the fuss that created, with even the Governor disagreeing, I didn’t think the decision would hold.

I’m not a homeschool parent, and I probably never will be. I won’t say definitely because you never know, but it’s not something I want to do. But I do firmly believe in the right to do so.

Almost more interesting than the article were the comments, especially one from someone saying they were a Future School Teacher. New comments are added to the top of the list, and this was one of the first, so if you want to read it on the site go to the very last page of the comments and take a look:

I think home school should be taught by parents with a credentials because the education cirriclum is has changed since they have been in school.Also, what about those parents who want to home school thier child and didn’t make it pass middle school themselves? How is that suppose to ready their child to be a intellectual asset to society? I think they should be certified in order to teach thier child because educational standards have changed since they were in school and for their child to move foward to college they need the proper education and people interacting skills to move ahead.That’s just my opinion

Scary. Just plain scary. I really hope this future teacher is somewhere in elementary school, because his or her writing skills are simply dismal. Not someone I want to hear about teaching in any school anytime soon.

Sure, undereducated parents trying to teach can be a problem, but not near the one opponents like to claim, just as socialization isn’t the problem they like to claim it is. Most homeschool parents really are trying to do the best they can by their kids. An undereducated homeschooled child going into a public school is probably far more memorable to teachers than the well educated one. It’s a matter of which one takes the most effort from the teacher.

And so long as I’m talking about homeschooling, I thought I would share a resource I came across while using StumbleUpon. It’s a list of free homeschooling resources. Looked good to me, so I’m sharing it.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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