Friday, September 26, 2014

Homework for Preschoolers

Dependable & Flexible
They say that children thrive when they have clear boundaries, a dependable yet flexible schedule, rules by which to live. As parents we all find our own ways of doing this for our children but I recently discovered the value of a "dependable yet flexible schedule" for me!

A Little Direction Goes a Long Way
In those hours between the end of dinner and bath time I was losing my mind. I wanted to just put my feet up and let the kids run free. But at the end of the day they are both too tired and too squirrelly to be left to their own devices. Or rather, the things they think to do are too messy, too crazy, and induce too much crying from them and too much redirection/discipline from me. So I redesigned our evenings and the results have been good in more ways than one.

Undirected Mayhem for All
Our evenings used to be like this:
  • 5ish - dinner
  • after dinner - undirected and unfocused mayhem for all
  • 7:30 - bedtime routine (bath, put on jammies, read, snuggle, sleep)
Rhythm & Routine
The evenings now go like this:
  • 5ish - dinner
  • after dinner - clean up dining room and kitchen
  • after clean up - outside play
  • 7PM - homework
  • 7:15 - bedtime routine (bath, put on jammies, read, snuggle, sleep)
Kinda Sorta Homework
You might be thinking "homework for preschoolers?!" Well, yes, kind of. And homework time is the single most drastic addition to our evening routine and the one that seems to have helped the most!

We all sit at the table together. The kids have their choice of fine motor work. For example, they can color, work in sticker books, sculpt with play dough, do puzzles, or string beads. If they had the mental power for Legos or other building then that would be OK but we have found that simpler work is better at this time of day.

They do end homework time at a logical place - when the picture is completely colored, the page is completely emptied of stickers that have been transplanted onto something else, or the string is filled up with beads. But it isn't so much about completing a project (and certainly not a worksheet). It is about coming together as a family (papa is not necessarily for dinner but he's always home for homework), and doing quiet creative work.

Building Good Habits for Now and Then
I have one more year before Mikey is in kindergarten. Some of his friends have already begun and I hear stories of battles over homework. When to sit a kindergartener down to do it? How much will they have to do? Will they have enough time to play and just be a kid? All of these are valid concerns and I am curious about next year and what homework will look like for us. I hope that having dedicated homework time already in our routine will help us make a smooth transition between self-directed homework and school-directed homework.

Most importantly, our new schedule helps me know what to do now. Having that routine helps me to not have to think when I am at my most tired and when I have my hands full cooking and cleaning. It helps my children know that I am only going to clean the dining room and kitchen (not all the other rooms), and they can usually figure out how long they will have to wait for my attention. It helps them know that they will have an opportunity to get their squiggly wiggles out after we eat and that we will all be together one more time before bedtime.

Anna's Sticker Work - Dolly Sticker Dress-up
Mikey's Sticker Work - Lego Ninjago

The Real Work of Being Home = Coming Together

We all depend on that coming-together before bedtime. Sometimes homework is very inventive, sometimes it is repetitive, but it always done in good company.

1 comment:

  1. Homework has been an interesting addition to our week. Luckily our kinder teacher gives us a month calendar of homework. My kinder does it all for the week on Saturday morning after breakfast. It takes about 30-45 mins to complete. But then it's done for the week . I surely don't want it done when she's tired from her long day at school. It's better for her when she's fresh then I know some of it is getting retained, versus NONE. If she brings reading home during the week, it is done immediately after quiet time (ie, after rest and before more play). This works for our family. Every family is different. I'm happy you have found a routine.