I was reading one of the blogs that I follow this morning, “Homework is stupid and Ms. A is mean“. This wonderful mom is seeking better education for her children and is starting at the right time, preschool. This started me thinking about my youngest daughter who is in the 5th grade and my granddaughters who have started school.
This seems to be the focus of education, but studies have proven that as soon as all the information crammed into our children’s heads is disgorged onto the test most of it is forgotten. With this concept, homework is a waste of our children’s time, especially after sitting in a classroom for 6+ hours. Why spend so much time on something you will not remember next week?
I did a whole lot of research when my children were young and discovered that children learn best through play and exploration of the world around them. Not only that, they remember what they learn because it is associated with a real life experience. I have played learning games with my children and grandchildren since they were born.
Math and Science
Peek-a-boo is game that we naturally play with our little ones and is actually the beginning of math and science. Peek-a-boo becomes hide-n-seek which becomes problem solving and logic. The “If/Then” thought process becomes a natural part of their life. Curiosity is encouraged and exploration becomes natural.
Food Is Math
Using marshmallows, M&M’s, Skittles and vegetables for cooking and eating is a great way to teach children counting and basic math skills. How many M&M’s are in the cup? How many are brown? Red? Yellow? How many marshmallows can you fit in your mouth? What size do we need to cut the vegetables for the recipe?
Cooking is one of the best way to teach math. It teaches children how to follow directions to get the desired result. It also improves math skills. Fractions are often a difficult thing for children to learn. Cooking gives visual evidence of what a fraction is. When multiplying a recipe, it also gives the child the visual of adding and multiplying those fractions. When they are done, they get to eat their assignment.
These have several learning goals. They teach children that language has a cadence and rhythm. Children who learn these have a better command of language. They are also an opportunity to talk about the stories behind the rhymes. So much history is hiding in these verses that the opportunities are endless. Did you know that Ring Around the Rosies talks about the plague? Do you know why the Little Old Woman spanked her children before bed? Did you know that Old King Cole was a real person? These are a great way to introduce your child to history.
I have read to my children since before they were born. Of course I was reading out loud to other children at the same time. Reading increases a child’s vocabulary and opens their imaginations. New words are looked up and context and usage are discussed. Adventures, science, history, travel and ideas are freely available through reading. Over the years I have collected books. Lots and lots and lots and lots of books. Currently my youngest daughter’s favorite book is a comprehensive, illustrated, 5 pound anatomy book. She also has her own mini-library in her bedroom. Reading is a family activity in our home.
Games Make Spelling Fun
Alphabet magnets on the refrigerator allowed me to play spelling games with my children while I did dishes and worked in the kitchen. What are the letters names? What do they say? How many “at” words can you find? As they get older Scrabble, Boggle and Quiddler are great games to play as a family. My dad used to play Boggle with us every Sunday after church. We knew he was magic because we would come up with some the most outlandish words and then they appeared in the dictionary. It wasn’t until I was grown that I learned he would read the dictionary and encyclopedia during his lunch hour. Can you define “fuggy”? How about “effluvial”?
This is a requirement in our home, though not always in the form assigned by the school. I have been known as the Homework Nazi, but that is just part of being Mom. I do, however, make it as relaxed and enjoyable as I possibly can. Homework is done together at the kitchen table, but with snacks and conversation about what they are learning. While my older children sat together and did homework as a group, my youngest daughter is an only child. My dad and I are her homework buddies. My dad helps her with her math and I help her with her language. When children are left to do their homework alone, it becomes a punishment. When it is a family activity, it can be a great learning tool for the whole family.
The education of our children is one of the most important things we can do. The love of learning is the best gift we can give our children as we prepare them to become a responsible member of society. As long as we (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles) are actively involved in our children’s education we can see to it that they don’t get stuck in the rote. Learning is fun. Enjoy the world through the eyes of your children, you will learn as much as they do.