Archive for September, 2011

Did You Get Your Homework Done?

September 29th, 2011

Did you get your homework done? That’s a question heard in many homes as parents and kids settle in for the evening. Part of the anxiety for kids at the beginning of each school year is adjusting to homework expectations. There can be a big difference from year to year in terms of quantity and difficulty.

Research shows that effective homework assignments do more than supplement the classroom lesson. They also teach children to be independent learners. Homework gives children experience in following directions, making judgments, raising additional questions for study, and developing responsibility and self-discipline.

Okay, that all sounds positive. But as a parent the question becomes how involved do you get in helping with homework. Following are my thoughts on the “what and how.”

  • Give praise for things your child does well in school. Look at the pictures, ask how the spelling test went, read the essay. Know what is being studied.
  • Discuss school with your child, both positive and negative. When there is a problem at school it is hard for most children to figure out what they can do to deal with it. They need your help.
  • Meet with teachers – face-to-face, phone, electronically. Have a conversation at the beginning of the school year about homework expectations.  
  • Have a special place for homework where there aren’t distractions. Select a place that you can easily monitor. If the homework is done on the computer, check to be sure your child is doing homework and not chatting with Facebook friends or playing games.
  • Set clear rules about when homework is to be done. Evenings can be hectic with supper, music and dance lessons, sports practices and games, church activities, etc. Sit down as a family and decide where homework fits in.
  • Give consequences if homework is not done. Most children will not change habits unless there is a consequence for poor behavior or not following the rules.
  • Stay calm when there is a school problem. Your child’s teacher will have information about what aspects of his work are creating a problem. Then you can work towards a solution.

Your child is going to be in school for many years. Even though she may not have lots of homework right now, you are setting the stage for how this part of her school experience will go. If you can help her develop good study habits now, the payoff will be substantial in the years ahead.

What specific things are you doing to help your child be successful in school?

Donna Donald

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Still trying to convince him preschool is FUN!!!!!

September 22nd, 2011


Preschool. End of September. We are all comfortable and happy when we start off to preschool right? The transition is now complete.

Umm not really. There is still fussing over shoes, whining over show-n-tell and dragging feet at the car door. You think to yourself, “Am I the only parent still struggling to get my child comfortable with starting preschool?” or “Why does everyone else’s child bound happily in the front door while I have to carry mine in?”

Guess what? You are not alone! Every child transitions or has a comfort level for beginnings, at a different rate. In fact, it is likely that by the time your child gets comfortable, there may still be others that haven’t completed the process. Children adjust to new situations (like starting preschool) based on their own individual temperament. And, if you really think about it, you may even recognize some of your own uncomfortable apprehensions in the face of your child (they got their temperament from you!). 

As we think about trying to help our children through new situations it is most important to continually think about how it seems from their point of view. They have never been to preschool before, and each DAY is literally a NEW day to them. Yes, they may have been there for 2-3 weeks already but now it’s colder, they have more things to pack in their back pack, more items to remember, the building looks different when it is surrounded by brown & not green, their friends may be louder as they have become comfortable, it’s ALWAYS a NEW DAY. And with newness comes apprehension and uncomfortable feelings. Real feelings we can’t ignore.

Each time we remember to appreciate or acknowledge the apprehension our child feels,  instead of becoming frustrated by it we are able to show our child that we ‘understand’. We may not be able to help our child alleviate the apprehension to newness but we can ‘acknowledge it’ and try to ‘understand’. Those two things alone may help increase your child’s comfort level.

What are some ways that you have shown appreciation for or acknowledged your child’s apprehension? What happened when you did? What are some techniques that you have done to help your child feel more comfortable in uncertain situations? Share your ideas with us!

Lori Hayungs

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Keeping It Real

September 15th, 2011

Project based learning sounds like an educator’s way of keeping it real. At least that’s what I heard in the podcast. I liked how the guys talked about getting the learning out of the textbooks and into reality. Lori shared a great example of project based learning at her house. I want to go the other direction and talk about examples from the school perspective. 

I recently chatted with Dorene McCart who is the Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Wayne Community School in Corydon, Iowa. Dorene does an outstanding job of giving her students opportunities to show to a larger audience, than just herself, what they can do. Students in the foods classes keep the kitchens humming year round. They prepare food for: volleyball tournament, National Honor Society induction, community play, community programs, prom, etc. They go through the planning process, make decisions, write out market orders, prepare the food, and serve. And talk about keeping it real – the students plan meals for a family of 4 for a week and are able to figure the cost per serving.

My favorite example from Dorene’s long list has to do with used clothing. A woman who moved to the community from New York City was amazed at the clothes available through the used clothing center. She approached Dorene about how the students could help in spreading the word about this resource. The students first studied the elements of design. Then they went to the center and chose 10 outfits with accessories. Students invited their mothers and grandmothers to a specially prepared lunch and presented a style show in their economical, but fashionable clothing.

There you have project based learning in a nutshell. A person saw a problem or issue. A product evolved into a project which was integrated into what the community already had – an underused clothing center, a classroom of eager students, and an innovative teacher. This is keeping it real. This is keeping it connected to the street.

What’s going on at your school that fits the concept of project based learning?

Donna Donald


Project Marco

September 8th, 2011

This month’s podcast is all about engaging our children’s minds – creating opportunities for children to get involved in what they are learning with all parts of their body and mind. We have project based learning all around us – inside our home and outside our home. The podcast was an opportunity for me to learn something new. As I listened I enjoyed recalling a time with my own children where we unknowingly used project based learning!

Enter Marco. I have 3 girls. We like bugs. And spiders. We found Marco in a warehouse and created a lovely terrarium for Marco to live in. Marco was a large Wolf Spider. Marco seemed happy with us. We spent hours together researching what Marco ate and drank, what other Marco’s may look like, just researching everything we could about Wolf Spiders.

Within days Marco created an ‘egg sac’. We pondered renaming Marco, Martha, but decided that in the spider world Marco could have an egg sac. We also “hypothesized” when that egg sac would open and how fast I would need to get that terrarium OUTSIDE when it did. We were so engrossed in our project that we even took Marco on a weekend trip to grandpa and grandma’s house.

Luckily we did because the egg sac opened that weekend and hundreds of the cutest little spiders scampered out of the egg sac while the terrarium was perched on the back steps (whew!). We spent several moments watching them scurry & race about. Then one of the girls remembered something we discovered during our research. Once the egg sac opens the adult spider dies. Sure enough there was Marco snuggled in the leaves at the bottom of the terrarium, lifeless. Our project was complete. Or was it? Our Marco project was over 5 years ago, and it still creates lively conversations and sharing of memories. It continues to be a hands-on experience my children can relate to as they learn about scientific theory and life cycles in school.

What are some ‘projects’ that your family has done? How has your families involvement in those projects shaped your child’s learning (or even yours!)?

Lori Hayungs

education, positive parenting , , , ,

Avoid the Morning Rush

September 1st, 2011

What’s it like at your house on weekday mornings? Do both the parents and kids leave calm and relaxed, ready for the day? Or, is it a hectic scene with frazzled nerves, lost items, and late departures?

As a parent you can help your child learn how to prepare for a happier morning – or if like me you’re not a morning person at least a morning without rushing. And while you are helping your child learn some skills that will serve her well, perhaps you are also changing some of your own habits.

Start by going to bed earlier. It may take a while for your body to adjust but eventually you will be able to get up at an earlier time and feel alert.  Plan on at least 1-1/2 hours for morning preparation. That way there is time to get dressed, have breakfast, and leave the house on schedule.

Precious time can be lost looking for things so involve the family in creating a storage place near the door for all the important “stuff.” Have a hanger and basket for each family member. This becomes the place for keys, school papers, backpacks, purses, letters, etc. Then in the morning it is a quick stop on the way out the door.

Getting kids dressed in the morning has caused more than a few tears and arguments. Head this one off by choosing clothes the night before. Make it part of the bedtime routine. Have your child pick out his clothes for the next day (including underwear and shoes) and lay them out. This works for parents too. I’m always amazed that when I don’t’ do this, I can spend an extra 10 minutes in the morning finding something to wear.

Encourage everyone to help with the morning tasks. Adults and kids can prepare their own lunches if that is needed. Have one of the kids set the breakfast table the night before so that job is already done. Then sit down for 15 minutes and have breakfast. Your family will ready for the day. You might be surprised how good you will feel when you arrive at work, on time, and relaxed knowing the rest of the family is also off to a good start.

What do you do at your home to get the day off to a good start? Do you have any tips to share to help avoid the morning rush?

Donna Donald

positive parenting

Episode 7: Project-based Learning

September 1st, 2011

Get kids engaged in project based learning, and they’ll learn more by creating solutions to real-world problems. Learn how in this month’s Science of Parenting podcast.

ISU Extension materials

Help Children Discover Answers with Project-based Learning (PM 3002D)

Related Resources

More from Science of Parenting

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