Is no homework the answer to smarter kids?

There’s a no homework movement out there and your kids might be caught up in it.  According to this story on Parenting.com http://www.parenting.com/blogs/mom-congress/melissa-taylor/should-schools-abolish-homework  elelemntary schools and middle schools are dropping homework – instead asking kids to read instead.  In other less extreme cases, the some scholls have a no homework on vacation rule.  The policy of no homework is supposed to give kids more time to become better readers, and to do that, they need more time to read – not more time doing worksheets.

In many instances, this no homework policy has had no impact on test scores – they’ve held steady (note, this is not to say they’ve improved, but it just goes to show that the kids may be getting all the test prep they need in class.)

The no homework policy leaves more time, theoretically, for kids to have unstructured play time.  However, I wonder if it just leaves more time – which might be spent watching tv (I know I use ‘homework first’ as the incentive for tv time) or on structured sports – I heard that our rec lacrosse league (which is a spring sport) now has “optional” practices, year round, three days a week.

And while these are optional and a chance to for kids to get better at a s sport, I also suspect that any kid who doesn’t avail him or herself of these practices will find themselves at a disadvantage come the spring.  So would no homework be a good deal in this case, because it would let a kid play an organized sport all year round, all the time.  Seems to defeat the “unstructured” or “reading” time behind the no homework policy.

So what do you think – should there be a no homework policy for our kids?  Will this make them smarter?  What would you do to make sure this time didn’t get transferred over to more ‘activities’ or tv/video game time.  Would you make your kids read?  Play outside?  Would no homework mean you’d have a family dinner more often?

Let us know what you think below.

How to Better Understand Your Teen

Reality to Teen?  Do you ever feel that your teen is from another planet? They speak a language you don’t know. They have interests that you’ve never heard of and just don’t understand. It’s a common phenomenon. Teenagers are weird.

That being said, they’re your teenagers and there are steps you can take to get closer to them, to better understand them.

#1 Ask Questions and Listen

The first step to understanding your teen is to ask questions. Now there’s a strategy here. Many teens give yes/no answers when you ask them a question. The trick is to do it when they’re more likely to open up. Driving in the car seems to be a good time, assuming they don’t have their iPod blasting music in their little ears.

When you ask questions, make sure to listen to the answers – even if you don’t understand half of the words they’re using. It’s okay to ask for clarification. As you’re listening, take mental notes. They’ll come in handy in the next step.

#2 Google It!

If you have no idea what your child is talking about, Google it. Google the things they express interest in, the people, and even the language they use. The Urban Dictionary can be incredibly useful. For example, “Feels” – A wave of emotions that sometimes cannot be adequately explained. “Watching Back to the Future gives me all sorts of nostalgic feels.”

#3 Eavesdrop

Seriously, one of the best ways to better understand your teen is to listen in on their conversations. True, most of their conversations are via text message so listening in on those conversations is impossible. However, you can snag their cell phone from time to time and scan through the text messages.

If that feels too invasive, try to be around them when they’re with their friends. Attend events with them. Volunteer to drive them and their friends to events. And encourage them to invite their friends over.

#4 Get Involved

Start taking an active interest in your teen’s interests. For example, if they’re involved in the local drama club then volunteer to help out with the club. If they are active online and have their own YouTube channel, then by all means watch that channel but also watch the other YouTubers that your child follows.

#5 Relax

Each generation has their own trends, language, and interests. Guaranteed, when you were a teenager your parents thought you were from another planet as well. It’s the way of the world. It’s okay to not be able to completely relate with your teenager. In fact, it’s normal.

Do what you can to connect with them. Let them know that you’re interested in their lives and then relax. You don’t need to be a friend with your teenager, nor do you need to share the same interests. It’s enough to let them know that you care.

 

How Parents Can Help with the Emotional Challenges of Transitioning

School transitions can be pretty tough for kids – and as a mom you want to help ease them through it – but how?

Parents can help with the emotional challenges of transitioning, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to help. Here are some tips on how you can help your kids make those important transitions.

Preschool to Kindergarten

Here may be one of the first big transitions in your child’s life. The emotional challenges of this age involve separation anxiety and social readiness (or unreadiness). Here are some tips.

* Tour the school with your child over the summer before he or she begins kindergarten. Familiarizing her with the teacher, classrooms, playground, and overall layout of the school will help a lot.

* Understand her feelings, say experts. Parents may get impatient with separation anxiety and tears, but if you’re going to support your child, it’s a good idea to understand where she’s coming from. Talk about how she feels, and help her put words to the feelings (that can be hard at this age). This helps her identify the feelings which may make them less scary.

Grade School to Middle School

This can be a big one. It’s an emotional age at this point, so parents would do well to prepare themselves. Some of these tips may help.

* Understanding feelings is important at this age, too, but it’s not the same as going from preschool to grade school. Obviously, your child doesn’t need words to identify what he’s feeling. As a parent, you can help by recognizing the priority shift your child will have. His emotions are more focused on peers and the opposite sex than they were in grade school.

* Asking questions without judgment can help parents connect emotionally with their kids during transitional challenges. Try to find out what your child’s concerns, fears, and apprehensions are, as well as the things he is looking forward to and is excited about.

Middle School to High School

Kids start feeling independent and “grown up” about this time. Here are some tips on dealing with this transition.

* Help them solve their own problems. At this point, calling the school for every complaint may not help your child. The transition may be smoother if you can offer some problem solving skills and strategies to help your child help herself. This is an opportunity to help your child come up with a plan to help solve the issues at hand.

* Go to orientation if it’s offered. If it’s not, tour the school. Find teachers and advisors who can talk to your student about her fears and concerns, which will help alleviate some of those concerns. Many times, kids fear high school for reasons that really aren’t realistic.

High School to College

Sending your child off to college is a big step! How can parents help their increasingly-independent child with this transition? Here are some tips.

* Validate your child’s feelings about this big change. It may be tempting to blow off their problems – they don’t have “real problems” grown-ups may think – but remember your college-aged kids don’t have the life experience and frame of reference that you do. Being patient with their concerns can help make their transition smoother. Let them vent!

* Keep in touch with care packages and special gifts at key times (like final exams or his birthday). This helps support them more than you may know!

 

How to Plan Back to School Shopping

Finally, an attack plan for the best of us.  Don’t let back to school shopping get you down.  Planning is the best way to get the most for your time and money. And when it comes to back to school spending, the goal is often to do it as quickly and as cheaply as possible. While it may seem too soon to start thinking about back to school shopping, it is right around the corner. Planning now will save you later.

Take a Look at What You Usually Spend

Take a look at your bank and credit card statements for the past few years to assess how much you usually spend. This information will help you set a budget for your children this year. Remember that school materials and supplies should be included in the budget along with clothing.

Take a Look at Your Current Budget

It’s quite possible that your financial situation is different than it was last year. Take a look at your current budget. How much can you afford to spend on back to school shopping this year? You may be able to spend more or you may have to spend less.

Additionally, knowing how much you spent last year can help you make good budgeting decisions this year. For example, if you know you spent $300 last year and can only afford $200 this year, you may be able to shift a few things in your monthly budget to find that extra $100.

Make a List of What You Need

How much have your children grown? What clothing do they need and what do they want? Make a list of the items they need and start prioritizing. Ask your children to get involved in this process. They can try last year’s clothing on and let you know which items they want to keep and which items are no longer appropriate.

What Stores Will You Visit?

As it gets closer to that inevitable shopping day, consider taking your child to thrift stores. Many used clothing stores sell brand name items that are in ideal condition. If your children are brand conscious, they may enjoy being able to purchase more for their money while still looking cool.

Give Them Cash

One of the best ways to stick to your budget and your shopping plan is to hand the budgeted amount to each child. Children have a tendency to go overboard when they’re shopping. They find that one brand name sweatshirt and spend half of their budget on it. Then they cry a few weeks later when they’re forced to wear the same shirt over and over again. They make much smarter buying decisions when they get to hold the cash in their hand. They tend to want to get more for their money – it almost becomes a game for them.

Decide when to Go

Finally, set the date. You can save a lot of money if you go school shopping about a month after school starts. Items go on sale and children are able to buy what the cool kids are wearing at school at a much lower price. If they absolutely must have a new outfit for school, then buy one outfit for that first day and then commit to taking them shopping in a few weeks when things go on sale.

 

Making the Grade: Back to School Shopping with Your Grade School Child

Because you can never have too much back to school information, here’s another bit of advice when mapping out your march to victory….It’s that time of year! Your child needs school supplies and clothes. Where do you start? How do you pay for it all? Here are some tips for making the grade with your grade school kid this year.

Dressed for Success

Your grade school child may not have the picky tastes of a teenager, but he or she is going to need some new clothes this year. Go through last year’s clothing and find out what fits and what doesn’t. This includes shoes, socks, and underwear, too. Grade school kids can grow really fast! Here are some more ideas for clothes shopping with your grade school child.

* Plan your shopping trip for a day when you don’t have to rush, and when you don’t have anything planned the night before. Being rested and ready helps everyone’s mood, and so does being able to take your time.

* Call the school where your child will be attending and make sure there aren’t any changes to the dress code. If your child will be attending this school for the first time, then find out what the dress code is.

* Keeping it simple helps a lot. Depending on his (or her) age, he will be better able to dress himself as the year goes on. Having easy-to-fasten clothes can help a lot to facilitate this process. Tough buttons (or lots of buttons), lacings, belts, and small head-holes can make dressing a frustrating experience. Go for clothes with large head-holes, zippers, and easy (and few) buttons.

School Supplies

Moving on to school supplies – like the clothes, it’s a good idea to check with your school and teacher to find out what specifics might be required. Some teachers specify brands, colors, and so forth. Here are some other tips for shopping for school supplies with your grade school child.

* Go generic on writing items like pens and pencils. Getting fancy, unique writing implements only leads to competition in the classroom and the possibility that your child’s fancy pens will get stolen. Unless the teacher requires otherwise, go with standard #2 pencils.

Markers should be water-based, and crayons are usually needed in packs of 16. Consider a box to store and carry these small, easily-lost items.

* Erasers are always needed in grade school. A large, pink eraser like you had in school is a good purchase. Some erasers that fit on the ends of pencils are inexpensive additions, too.

* Your child’s school may not supply paper like they did in the old days. Find out from your teacher/school if you need to supply ruled (lined) paper, which will differ from teacher to teacher and grade to grade.

* Notebooks come in many forms. Your grade school child will probably need some spiral-bound ones as well as some binders. Think slim and trim so the notebooks fit in your child’s desk, no matter what type is required.

You also might want to purchase some dividers or pocket folders to help your child stay organized.

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