Pot of Sweet Peas

Homework Personalities

When my eldest son, Papi became a 2nd grader, it was my first introduction into the world of being a parent of a kid who now had homework. I don’t know when it happened exactly but somewhere around the time that I had two school aged children with homework, I actually became as sick of homework as my boys were. Between their work load and the need for me to be the “homework police”, monitoring the assignments and ensuring their completion, there was a time when I felt like homework became a bigger burden on me than it was helpful for them and furthermore, it started to become more stressful than anything, which was not the experience that I wanted for any of us.

One evening, last year while helping the boys do homework, I found myself losing my last bit of patience. Instead of working, the boys were talking to each other, losing all kinds of focus. No one could find a pencil although I purchased over 150 pencils at the beginning of the school year. And my youngest son kept shifting in his chair because he just “couldn’t get comfortable”. All the while, I was preparing dinner, watching the time slowly move into the hour that baths were suppose to begin and it looked like no one was close to finishing homework because they just couldn’t get it together.

That night I became angry with my children which manifested into me turning into the HULK, banging on the table and yelling “GET IT TOGETHER! HOMEWORK TIME IS SERIOUS TIME!” and a few additional threats to cease all fun activities in the home for the next 2 months.

This resulted in my then 5 year old, crying and not being able to focus anyway. I then became angry with every teacher who ever assigned homework, including myself in my classroom days. “Don’t teachers know that parents can’t spend ALL NIGHT dealing with homework? What is wrong with them!!” Of course, I know that this was not rationale thinking but I had to be angry at someone at that moment. I can’t remember how that night even ended or if homework even got completed but I know that that evening was pivotal for me.
Since that night, I had to figure out a way to take some of the stress off the homework process for everyone’s sake.
Though in theory it seemed like a good idea to have both of the boys at the dining room table, close to me in the kitchen while they worked, it was not conducive for them to be next to one another. So the first plan of action was to separate them. Each child in his own space of choice to work. Then I had to accept the fact that my youngest son was uncomfortable in the chairs and did not work best sitting with his butt in the chair, feet on the floor, facing forward , which I thought was key to creating a studious little intellect. When I took out the time to listen to what he needed, I realized that it worked better for him to lay belly down in the middle of a room with his books and papers lying beside him. He just thinks better that way and still does 4 years later. Now, figuring out exactly what my oldest son needed to work best was not a challenge for me as much as accepting what he needed was. I grew up learning that your work space should be quiet so that you could focus and tune out distractions, which is why to this very day, I can’t stay focused if any noise enters my work space. So when my son asked to play music while doing homework, I couldn’t fathom how he was going to also concentrate so I fought the idea for awhile. But he kept insisting “Mom, I can’t think while its this quiet!”, he’d say. I just couldn’t wrap my head around that. But finally one day, I did and let him work with his music of choice. And surprisingly he was able to remain seated and quiet for the whole hour plus that he worked on his homework.
Now I am not saying that all of these homework changes made homework time a breeze in my household, but coupling these “newfound” practices with a pre-homework snack and at least an hour to unwind before beginning homework definitely makes for a less tense home during the week.
My lesson in all of this: Sometimes your children’s methods of doing things are not your own nor are their methods how you envision things being able to work out, but sometimes for the sake of learning something new and making life a bit easier, parents should listen to what their children are asking for. They might just know what they need for themselves.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: What are/were some of your best homework time practices in your household?

Batteries Not Included

Batteries Not Included

The months of March, April and May are very busy for me in my professional life. As a Prekindergarten Director, during this time, parents begin touring my school to potentially enroll their children. Every year I look forward to meeting new families and seeing the faces of little 3 year olds who will blossom and transform into big boys and girls in a matter of ten months. But there is one thing that I never ever look forward to although it happens every year for the past 5 years, at least. And when it happens, cause it always does, I have to smile through it and never let on to show how I’m really feeling. It never fails that a parent or two comes in and says,

“I hope the children in your school don’t just play all day. My 3 year old is so smart. He can read, he knows how to count to 100 and he knows how to do everything on my iPad. In fact he knows how to work this device better than I do”.

Then I have to sit through a five minute demonstration as their child sits there tapping on the screen, unlocking hidden levels and sliding shapes they can barely pronounce from one side to another. And while I am staring with a painted smile across my face, totally unimpressed, in my heart I am hoping that this parent picks my school so that I can allow this child to have a different kind of learning experience. One that does not involve batteries or a charger.

As I begin my tour of each classroom one of the first things I like to point out to my device-toting parents is the sand table. As I stand there giving my spiel on the benefits of a sand table, what I really want to say if it wouldn’t come off so offensive is how I have noticed that parents have forgotten the value of play that engages all the senses. Sure, your child can touch a device and control items with one finger but have we forgotten how beneficial it is to experience different textures with a whole hand? How important it is to taste something (even if it is sand) , just to experience it and come to the conclusion that maybe sand should not be eaten.

These are concrete experiences that can not be created from a device and because of the lack of exposure, children are becoming sensory deprived and a sensory seeking.

But I don’t say all that because some parents are not ready to hear that, so we just continue on with the tour.

On my next stop of touring the classroom, I like to show parents the huge block areas that I have in my classrooms. This is the area that usually impresses them the most when I explain to them that children learn mathematics and science in this area when they build, measure, calculate and problem solve. Parents’ ears perk up when they hear all of the academics that can come out of this area. But if I had more time during my tour, I would explain to these parents how block building is much more beneficial than meets the eye. Allowing children to build with blocks teaches them something that rarely comes from playing on a mobile device 24-7. It teaches patience, trial and error, and coping with frustration. When a child plays on a device, with a click of a button or a flick of the wrist, things just begin to happen the way they are suppose to happen. There is instant gratification. All is well with the world. But in a world of blocks, structures fall over, big blocks don’t balance well on small blocks and sometimes the structure that was imagined doesn’t quite pan out the way it was expected to. How frustrating is that, especially when you are 3 years old?! But it’s just the right amount of frustration to get the child to realize that the world is not about instant gratification and things don’t just happen when a button is pressed and that when things don’t work out, we should try something different. That’s what I would say to these parents, if there was more time on my tour.
After I show this parent the rest of my site from the dramatic play areas to the paint easels, I then walk back to my office and use this time for any questions that they may have before we go our separate ways. They usually ask 1 or 2 more questions and then say goodbye, but not before telling their child over and over again to look up to “say good bye to Mrs. Serene”. Usually that child is too busy to pull himself away from the device to acknowledge me. He can’t even take a second to make eye contact. But I’m not offended. I just smile and nod all the while telling myself, “No eye contact. Just another downfall in the life of 3 year old with a mobile device”.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: What do you think about children and mobile-devices? What age should children start using these devices?