Ellwyn’s Blog

HOMEWORK

After a lengthy day of sitting at a desk and listening to their teacher’s instructions, your child comes home from school. They drop their heavy schoolbag bursting with books and announce, “I have so much homework!” Right then you know you’re in for a long evening of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

STOP-RIGHT-THERE!

I do not consider myself an expert on this topic, but students should not be bringing an exorbitant amount of work to do at home. I believe that homework is supposed to be a chance for children to practice and reinforce what they learned earlier in school that day. The next day, that homework is then supposed to provide a quick assessment for understanding, and an opportunity for the teacher to answer any questions the students may have encountered during the assignment, through a mini-lesson.

I’ve been through the ‘crazy nights’ of homework where the teacher assigned 20 math problems and my child didn’t know how to do one, let alone all 20. Two or three problems would have been sufficient practice. I’ve also helped my child complete assignments, a.k.a. busywork, that had nothing to do with what they were learning in school at the time. What a waste of time! I think some teachers and parents hold to the archaic belief, that an abundant amount of homework leads to better learning.

Although I assigned homework to my Kindergarten class, I questioned it’s validity. After being in school all day should a five-year old really have to sit down for more written work? There were times when I didn’t want to assign it, but school administration required it. Some parents would complain to the office when a teacher didn’t send work home for the night. When I assigned homework to my class, I did my best to keep it simple for them and differentiate the homework to the students’ ability levels. I wasn’t always able to accomplish this goal due to time constraints and resources. Also, preparing homework this way can be very difficult to plan and keep track of.

For example, if I had a student who had poor fine motor skills and couldn’t identify the letter of the week, I would give them a worksheet that required them to color the uppercase and lowercase letters different colors. Whereas another child, whose skill set was more advanced, would receive a worksheet that required more writing and initial sound practice. I tried to make the homework brief and meaningful.

Like the subject of education itself, homework can be a controversial topic. For further information on the topic please view the link below. It has a list of resources that are perfect for an informed discussion between teachers, parents, and administrators.

http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/rethinking-homework

The Kissing Hand by: Audrey Penn

The Kissing Hand is a popular back-to-school read aloud used by teachers every September. It is an endearing story that tells of a young raccoon named Chester Raccoon who is reluctant to leave his mother, because he is anxious about starting school for the first time. To ease his anxiety, Mrs. Raccoon tells him about a special secret that will help him should he begin to he miss her during the school day. The special secret is called the kissing hand.

The Kissing Hand demonstrates the strength each parent must show when their child achieves a milestone toward independence; the bitter sweetness of pride at their accomplishment and loss as you realize your child is growing up a little more each day. It also shows that while children grow and need us less and less, their love, like ours remains constant.

This is a wonderful story to share with your child and offers a great opportunity to start a discussion about any fears they may have about going to school. If you’d like to do a fun follow-up activity with your child, Pinterest has plethora of story-related ideas.

Other books by Audrey Penn:

$chool $upplie$  

Every September, supply list in hand, wallets open, parents and their children flock to the stores to purchase the items required by the new teacher. This is an expensive time of year, the items on those supply lists add up. I once overheard a child ask their parent, “Why does the teacher make us buy all of this stuff?” That’s a very good question, and lucky for anyone asking the same thing, I have a very good answer.

While families are dolling out money on notebooks, paper towels and hand sanitizer, teachers are doing the same thing. As a former public school teacher, I can tell you with confidence that teachers are out there right now buying pencils, markers, crayons, construction paper, and whatever else is needed to ensure your child succeeds in their lessons. This may come as a surprise to some, but not all public schools have the necessary supplies to make it through a successful school day. Tissues and toilet paper were a hot commodity at one school where I taught. I know it sounds absurd, but it is a sad truth.

My first year teaching Kindergarten, I was assigned to a classroom that furnished me with tables, chairs, lined paper, a disintegrating carpet, and leveled books for guided reading. I had to buy everything else: scissors, markers, crayons, pencils, containers for storage, the list goes on and on. I spent over $1000.00 dollars that school year on basic supplies and other educational items I needed to properly instruct my students.

All in all, school supplies are costly for everyone involved and ‘everyone’ is the key word in this situation. As parents and educators, we are all responsible for the education of our children; whether we like it or not, part of that education requires everyone chipping in for school supplies, toiletries, office supplies, snacks, field trips, fund raisers… Did I mention school supplies?

The Second Day of School

So, your child’s first day of Pre-k or Kindergarten came and went. Everything was perfect, you took your first day of school pictures, kissed your little one good-bye, and watched as they bravely walked into school with a big smile. At dismissal, the teacher told you your child had a wonderful first day and you felt relieved that you didn’t have to deal with the back to school blues.

But then…

Yes, I know, the second day of school arrived and with it came the water works and pleas to stay home. You feel confused and worried? You thought that your child liked school. They were so excited to go and when they came home they talked for hours about how exciting everything was. What happened in 24 hours to change their minds?

There is so much excitement on the first day of school that some children don’t have time to process everything right away. I think for these children the first day of school is like a field trip or a special visit to a new place. After a few days, they begin to realize that this “school thing” is real and that they have to go everyday, and guess what? They don’t want to go.

What are you going to do now?

Fortunately, I have a few suggestions to help with this dilemma.

*Understand that your child has been thrust into a brand new place, with new faces and new rules. We feel the same way when we start at a new job.

*If your child is having a hard time adjusting to a full school day, discuss a temporary 1/2 day option with the teacher and the school office. The school may not approve of this strategy, but it’s worthy of a conversation.  An alternative strategy may come up during this discussion.
*Give your child a family photograph to keep with them during the school day.
*Many children who arrive to school in tears are often fine once they get settled in their classroom.
*Develop a routine and stick to it. When children know what to expect they feel safe. When they feel safe, they learn. When they learn, they thrive.

I hope this helps ease the transition for those children and parents who need extra time getting used to a new school year. If you have additional strategies that you think would be helpful please comment.

A really good book to read with your child about the anxiety of going to school:

Family Event: Multi-Author Book Signing

Tomorrow at The Sand’s Outlets in Bethlehem there will be a multi-author book signing from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Come on out and support local authors from every genre. It’s family friendly and best of all you get to meet and greet the authors. This is one of the best ways to promote a love of literature with your child. The authors sign each copy and even pose for photographs. What a great back-to-school event to share with the teacher and the class. With a book purchase, you get a coupon booklet for discounts to the outlets and the Music Festival is there this weekend, too.

I’ll be there selling my middle-grade novel Chris Kringle’s Cops: The First Mission and promoting my picture book Kamyla Chung and the Creepy Crawlies due for release on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Bookshop on August 20, 2017.

You never know what you’ll find, so don’t miss out. I hope to see you there tomorrow!

More Bedtime Stories With Mo Willems

If you enjoyed reading Knuffle Bunny with your child then you must read the hilarious sequel Knuffle Bunny, Too. In this installment, the Knuffle Bunny drama continues as Trixie takes her one-of-a-kind bunny to Pre-Kindergarten and discovers that her bunny isn’t so unique. A classmate named Sonja has a bunny that looks almost the same as Trixie’s.

The two little girls develop an instant rivalry, arguing over the pronunciation of Knuffle Bunny, until the teacher takes both bunnies away and returns them to the girls at the end of the school day. Of course there is a problem that ensues with the bunnies, but I won’t spoil the ending. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.

After you’ve finished reading both books have a post-reading conversation about them with your child. Lay both books in front of you and discuss the elements that are the same and different about the books. For example, Trixie is on the front cover of both books, but in one she is a baby and in the other she’s a little older. Let your child explore the pages of each book and analyze what they see. You will be surprised at some of the insight they have.

Words Can Be Fun – Nutty Notes and other Silly Sentences

Wonderful Whimsical Words

Angel Kiss, Lemon Drop
Little Miss, Soda Pop
A spider spins a web of silk,
A cookie’s favorite friend is milk.

Rocking Horse, Fairy Dust
Magic Force, Pizza Crust
Babies, toddlers, girls and boys,
Santa’s elves make lots of toys.

Unicorn, Teddy Bear
Early Morn, Dragon’s Lair
A pirate’s chest is filled with gold,
A princess can be brave and bold.

Children Play, Bells Chime
Saturday, Bed Time
A ticking clock goes round and round,
A whisper is a soft, soft sound.

Corn Starch, Halloween
Month of March, King and Queen
Every baseball needs a bat,
A cowboy wears a big, round hat.

Carousel, Pocket Book
Wishing Well, Swedish Cook
Pigs say oink and cows say moo,
A crying ghost says boo-hoo.

Scrambled Eggs, Talking Lizards
Chicken Legs, Wacky Wizards
Lords and ladies liked to dance,
shorts are just really small pants.

Pot of Gold, Wheat and Rye
It’s Time To Say Good-Bye,
Before our rhyme is all done,
It’s your turn to make up one.
Have fun!