Skip to content

Homework and Your Sanity

Happy New Year! I try to take some quiet time to reflect at intervals throughout the year and wanted to share a couple of thoughts as the students are working at home this week, and as I have been parenting at home over the break myself!

I think about how I spend my 168 hours in a week. I reevaluated my priorities and want to spend my time doing and with whom. I start fresh any habits I’d like to try for 28 days (since I don’t believe that year-long goals generally succeed, but a month-long habit might).

I make a plan on where I want to be, what I want to do in the upcoming year(s) and try to plan ahead of time today to give myself a little bit of time to start the baby steps toward that. It may look like packing exercise clothes and extra running shoes in the morning to see if I can take a 15 minute wog (walk/jog). It may look like going to bed a little earlier and waking up a little earlier to have a some quiet alone time in the morning. It also involves sharing my thoughts and ideas with my husband and asking him if he has any goals or thoughts about the upcoming months.

As a parent, I have some goals for my own child. There are things I want to teach and do with him, but I find that if I don’t plan this, the few hours I have with him after work often get taken up with dishes, grocery shopping or laundry. This time last year, we potty trained him over the Christmas break. He has changed so much since then, is taking everything in, and is enjoying everything like Santa, parades, birthdays, Halloween, the zoo, the Big Kaboom, the beach, the McWane Center, and hiking for the first time in his few years so far. He converses more and acts like a little boy instead of a toddler. He tries to repeat EVERYTHING he hears, even if he doesn’t know what we’re talking about in our grown-up conversations. Unfortunately, he’s just stopped taking naps now too!

So, when I have him home on school breaks, I tend to try to do more fun things and more learning activities that will some day help him in school. Here’s what’s working for me.

I’ve found that planning preserves my sanity as a parent.

Here are some developmentally-appropriate expectations I’ve been starting with my preschool son and would also recommend for school-age kids who have extended time at home. These could become routines that would help structure learning activities, save your sanity and make learning more fun.

One of the things that bring the magic into teaching is the relationship children have with the adults in their life. The importance of reading a book at night with a parent before bed is an invaluable routine that cannot be overstated. The same joy of reading is also introduced in classrooms where kids get some quiet time to read, just them and the magical world of the book they picked. They get to make memories and develop relationships sharing a book with a friend. They develop social skills in the process. The same can be done when students free-write. They learn to articulate their thoughts, and they have the space and freedom to be creative. These little things build a foundation of success for their future.

Maya Angelou Quote: “At the end of the day people won't remember what you  said

As parents, we don’t mean to, but we put a lot of pressure on our kids, and it’s not always bad. However, when we let our children alone with a book (even if they can’t read the words yet), they are exploring, learning, enjoying, and making memories.

Quiet Reading Time” Home Routine

So, in the place of a naptime now with my son, we have a “quiet reading time” in his room after lunch everyday at home (when he used to take a nap). I start the oven kitchen timer, and he can come out of his room when it goes off.

Start small. The first timer I set for my child was for 5 minutes. The next time, he tried it for 5 more minutes. The next day, we tried 10, 15, 20 minutes. Within a week, we had worked our way up to 30 minutes. Sometimes, he’d get a piece of candy for staying in his room and not coming out. I make sure he’s had some freedom of choice in picking out his top favorite books that we keep in a bin in his room, and he has all his blankets and stuffed animals to cuddle with while he “reads.” He loves it now, thankfully.

Within 2 weeks, he could stay in his room “reading” for an hour. My son is 3. He can’t read words yet, but he likes to look at and talk about pictures. He started exploring books as soon as he could recogize pictures, look at them, and flip the pages by himself (about 18 months or so). He does need occasional reminders or potty breaks in that time.

Now, mommy gets a few quiet moments (although I’m always listening to the monitor), and he gets used to the routine of reading and learning to entertain himself.

In the classroom, we do the same thing to build this reading stamina at the beginning of the year. Students start with 5 minutes of undistracted silent reading time. For second-graders, our expectation is for them to read without getting up to talk to anyone (or the teacher), without moving from their seat (because they already have several books that they choose on their level and interesting to them). If they get off task, we just start over with 5 minutes. Over time, their stamina can be built up by adding minutes of focused, independent reading time. I vividly remember one year when my students had up to 30 minutes undistracted independent stamina.

A few more at-home learning activity optional “homework” recommendations:

  • Establish the silent reading time routine everyday, perhaps right before bed, or as soon as you get home.
  • Establish a silent independent writing time (see previous blog post about the benefits of writing and journaling).
  • Take advantage of the learning opportunities presented when you and your family are out having fun. For example, our family hikes a lot. When we go hiking, we look at maps, we point out mile markers on our hike, we can talk about road signs, what they mean, study different types of Alabama wildlife and be aware of what the ducks in the pond can and cannot eat, what types of snakes are common where we hike in the southeast, and doing math by adding up how far we’ve traveled, and how much farther we have to go.
  • Let your child experiment with different household objects. For instance, one things my son does is help me rinse the dishes before I put them in the dish washer. He has a lot of fun stirring and pouring with different types of cups and containers, as well as experimenting with different types of soaps and bubbles. This Oak Mountain High School coach has a fun YouTube Channel that includes what he does on the football field and at home with his school-age kids.
  • Have your child help you with cooking and chores (if you don’t already). My son helps pick up all his toys every day before he gets to do something he wants to do. He helps (or watches) me clean the bathrooms, cook, measure, count and soak beans and dry pasta noodles.
  • Have your child count objects of small household items they collect. I have a lot of little blocks in my house, and he has to help me count them up to 20 before he gets to do something he wants to do. A second-grader should be able to group objects in groups of at least ten, and organize them in groups of 100. By the end of second grade, a child can use these small objects to group and skip-count up to 1,000.
  • I order learning toys and handwriting books and (preschool) workbooks that we spend about 15-20 minutes working on at the table when we are home from school. It wouldn’t hurt to get some lined paper with the dotted line in between or a cursive writing book off Amazon.

While it may take making some time to plan ahead, it is worth it because your child is a sponge still. They’re taking everything in, whether we plan for it or not. Sometimes, it simply means pointing out and discussing the things you’re already doing at home. That conversation is a learning moment in and of itself. Don’t worry about the times you’ve missed. Say you’re sorry when you get frustrated. Ask your child to forgive you. (Those simple sentences go a long way with teaching your child how to cope with social situations as they grow and encounter them at school and in society.) Take breaks before anyone (you or your child) gets frustrated. You can always come back to it again later (nothing is worth the tears from frustration)! Just start up the conversation today. Kids want to talk and share, and they learn and listen to more than we realize. Just start somewhere and you won’t regret it!

Published inUncategorized

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.