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Creating Christmas Memories

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If we fixate on making the “perfect” Christmas, we may trade stressful memories for joyful ones.

If we fixate on making the “perfect” Christmas, we may trade stressful memories for joyful ones.

You never really know what ends up being a fond Christmas memory.

When my girls were young, my husband relentlessly wore them down until they finally named the gifts we bought him. So one year, I told my kids we’d throw him off track by giving him a bum steer. I named a fake gift for them to answer when he predictably started to question them.

Kiley, who was only four at the time, must have tuned out the part when I was naming the fake gift.

Sure enough, as soon as my hubby discovered we’d been out shopping, he started grilling the girls.  For a few minutes, Kiley wouldn’t tell him anything.  But as he persisted, Kiley started to cave (as she was known to do).

On the last, “Come on, Kiley, you can just tell me,” she looked her daddy right in the eye.

“Okay,” and with total sincerity she said, “We’re giving you a bum steer.”

So if we find ourselves stressing over making that perfect Christmas, it’s good to know:  We may not even remember what we spent hours planning and preparing. Instead, it may be that little spontaneous “something” that still makes us smile years later.

When Parents Do Kids’ Homework

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Are parents really helping their kids when  they’re so involved with homework?
Are parents really helping their kids when
they’re so involved with homework?

Some parents sit right next to their children when it’s time to do homework, overseeing every detail of the assignment.  Others take it further.  If the child procrastinates and resists long enough, the parent actually ends up doing most or all of the work.

But why are parents so involved? Many say their kids aren’t able to complete the work without their help, and teachers don’t have time to give their children individual attention.

Yet there’s a downside to being so actively involved in homework. First, it takes the teacher out of the loop so she’s unable to make changes. When the assignment is turned in the next day, she doesn’t know that it took nearly three hours (with a lot of fighting) to complete, so she can’t modify future assignments to match the child’s needs.

Second, if kids count on their parents to explain everything when they’re at home, they won’t ask the teacher to clarify assignments or to re-teach concepts that are not yet understood.  In fact, such an arrangement actually discourages kids from taking initiative, being responsible, and working independently—even though such skills are highly valued in the workforce.

Still, parents won’t likely back off so long as they believe that other parents are helping their kids. They just don’t want to be judged as non-involved, uncaring parents.

I can understand that feeling. When my daughter was in fourth grade, there was an evening event where all the fourth graders displayed their brilliantly crafted pirate boats—and trust me, those ships definitely surpassed anything one would expect from 9-year-olds.  That is, all but one boat—our daughter’s.

I remember thinking how the other parents probably thought my husband and I were too busy to get involved. Yet I also remember what my daughter said.  Yes, she was embarrassed by her measly boat among all the impressive galleons. But she stated with confidence, “At least I made my boat by myself.”

What will it take to return homework to something that encourages and ensures independent learners?

Cell Phones in Schools

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If we think creatively, cell phones could be an enhancement, rather than a distraction, in the classroom.

If we think creatively, cell phones could be an enhancement, rather than a distraction, in the classroom.

Should cell phones be allowed at school? Opponents claim cell phones make it easier for kids to cheat, coordinates illicit activity, and become distracted in class.

What? None of that was happening when phones were attached to the wall or stayed on counters? Such arguments also infer that honest kids are suddenly pulled to the dark side as soon as cell phones are in their pocket.

Depending on the district, consequences for being caught with a cell phone at school range from confiscation to suspension. Such policy and punishment sends a definite message to kids. But is it the right one?

After all, kids see adults using their cell phones all the time. How many members of Congress were tweeting during President Obama’s State of the Union speech? And how many teachers at schools that ban student cell phones use their own during class. What message does that send to kids?

No one is advocating kids have indiscriminate use of cell phones at school. Teachers can clearly establish that cell phones are turned off during instruction time. One could add that such practice would help ensure kids were respectful patrons when they were also asked to turn off their phones in public.

But why make that the only solution? Since many of today’s phones are minicomputers, what about actually exploring the idea of using cell phones in the classroom?

If I were still teaching today, I’d throw this question out to my students: How could we use cell phones to enhance the learning in our classroom? Since kids are usually more savvy than adults when it comes to using new technology, I bet they’d come up with some creative, impressive responses.

Yet if there’s no interest in pursuing that line of thinking, one has to wonder: What’s really driving a ban of cell phones at school? Control over kids? Fear of new technology? Hope not, as neither are likely to result in the best learning environment for kids.

Should cell phones be allowed at school? Opponents claim cell phones make it easier for kids to cheat, coordinate illicit activity, and become distracted in class.

What? None of that was happening when phones were attached to the wall or stayed on counters? Such arguments also infer that honest kids are suddenly pulled to the dark side as soon as cell phones are in their pocket.

Depending on the district, consequences for being caught with a cell phone at school range from confiscation to suspension. Such policy and punishment sends a definite message to kids. But is it the right one?

After all, kids see adults using their cell phones all the time. How many members of Congress were tweeting during President Obama’s State of the Union speech? And how many teachers at schools that ban student cell phones use their own phones during class? What kind of message does that send to kids?

No one is advocating kids have indiscriminate use of cell phones at school. Teachers can clearly establish that cell phones are turned off during instruction time. One could add that such practice would help ensure kids were respectful patrons when they were also asked to turn off their phones in the public.

But why make that the only solution? Since many of today’s phones are minicomputers, what about actually exploring the idea of using cell phones in the classroom?

If I were still teaching today, I’d throw this question out to my students: How could we use cell phones to enhance the learning in our classroom? Since kids are usually more savvy than adults when it comes to using new technology, I bet they’d come up with some creative, impressive responses.

Yet if there’s no interest in pursuing that line of thinking, one has to wonder: What’s really driving a ban of cell phones at school? Control over kids? Fear of new technology? Hope not, as neither are likely to result in the best learning environment for kids.

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