Friday, July 27, 2012

Avoiding Homework Hassles

It's time to get ready to go back to school. In addition to new clothes and school supplies, many parents spend considerable time thinking about how to make the new school year better. One area most families can improve is the hassle of homework.

The point of homework is to reinforce what is taught during the school day. Having to remember instructions after returning home and being responsible enough to turn in the assignment are also good life skills.

Why is homework such a problem? Some children don't want to stop playing long enough to begin, others quit before completion, and an entirely different group don't turn in what they do.

The solution starts with planning. Getting the information from school, finding a time and place, and discovering the right system to turn work in all need consideration.

How will your child remember the information and get it home? Most school use some sort of a planner or notebook system. Encourage your student to write down assignments, then check the notebook when they get home. Compare what comes to you with what the teacher posts on his or her website for accuracy.

Now select a time. One young man told me he couldn't do homework right after school because he "had" to play. Didn't believe him until his mother said she sent him down the street to play as soon as he got off the bus so she could make dinner in peace. Some children need to de-stress right after school, so a later time is better. Others need to get right on it so they can get finished before bedtime. The most important thing is to be consistent.

Where to do it? Pick a quiet location that is comfortable with no distractions. That means no electronics or playing siblings. If you can, keep this area just for homework.

Now, to begin. Visit with your child to see if he or she wants to tackle the hard stuff first or warm up the brain with something quick and easy. Either system works if the child will do it. You may just want to get out one assignment at a time so your child isn't overwhelmed. 

Don't just walk away at this point. You will have to do a little trial and error to determine how much monitoring your child requires. Some need constant prompting, while others only need occasional checking. 

Armed with your plan, you're ready for a successful school year!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

No Thinking in Texas?

Apparently the Republican Party of Texas has recently added a new plank to their platform:

"We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority. "

The party platform stated that the ability to think critically undermines parental authority and endangers student beliefs. Poppycock. When children are taught how to think, they can have appropriate discussions with their parents about family rules and morals. Higher level thinking skills are required to turn knowledge into action. It's required in the fields of higher math and science. 

If education is the way we prepare children for the future, then we are doing them a disservice if we don't teach them how to think. Creating a citizenry who cannot use their intellectual skills also puts all our future in danger. 

So, let's get all those educators to stop teaching kids to think! They don't need the ability to solve new problems, find innovative solutions to world problems, or make informed decisions! The crises  of world hunger and global warming will need creative solutions if we are to survive. 

This whole thing confuses me. What were they  thinking? Maybe the party leaders are adding this termite-infested plank because they don't want others to do what they can't. Critical thinking appears to be out of their grasp. After all, they endorse corporal punishment....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Review - "Middle School Magic: The Kindling" by Braden Bell

"Connor Dell didn't mean to set anyone's gym shorts on fire." This is the first line of "Middle School Magic: The Kindling" by Braden Bell. This book should come with a warning label. Seriously. Once you pick it up, you won't get anything else done. You'll be pulled into a new world that is a perfect blend of fantasy and reality. You won't want to stop reading until the final page. 

Braden's completely believable middle school students suddenly find that they have unusual powers. The friends are then drawn into a world of danger and magic. They learn about their new abilities as they must simultaneously deal with a stalker no one else can see and warriors from an unseen realm.

 This fast-moving tale is interspersed with humor middle-schoolers will appreciate, but adults will find this an enjoyable read, also. The images of a memorable scene that takes place in the "It's a Small World" ride will long be with me...

It's hard to find good books that will interest children in middle school, especially boys. Discovering one that is a "clean read" without objectionable material is even more difficult. This is a title that kids of both genders will want to enjoy without worrying their parents.

You can take a look at trailers for this book here, read sample chapters here and order your autographed copy here.

You can read more about this title at, and check out the author's blog (his Middle School Mondays have great advise for parenting) at