Friday, 13 August 2010

Back (or not back) to School

It's that time of year again, when notebooks full of empty pages bursting with endless possibilities crowd the aisles of department stores and supermarkets. When the summer has soothed our kids, sunburned, mosquito-bitten and well rested in ways only kids can truly know. When the paddle and glassy lake call louder than ever. It is the middle of August.

If you are free from the confines of school and office during the coming weeks, you may wish to take advantage of warm water and less crowds and do a little paddling and/or camping of your own. See here for some tips and tricks, recipes, etc. to help you on your way.

If school is your child's destiny, then you may find some lunch inspiration here.

For school supplies, you don't have to be (as) wasteful anymore. You can find recycled paper products at mainstream locations including Zellers and Staples, as well as pencils made from recycled wood, binders with recycled covers, recycled notebooks, and pencil crayons made from recycled wood. I can recommend the recycled pencils which don't break easily and sharpen well as we have been using them for a year now. Watch out for greenwashing too though! Be sure to check the amount of post-consumer content in recycled materials, which tells you how much has been reclaimed after use.

One more note to parents (and teacher too, who should definitely know this!): recent (and some not-so-recent) studies have shown that students do not benefit academically from homework and in some cases can burn out from "too much work, not enough play". Be especially wary of worksheets, numerous fill-the-blank activities and sheets of math problems (especially all of the same type). Once your child firmly grasps a concept and can complete a few problems, there is no benefit to be had from such repetition. Occasional finishing of project work would be fine, but this should be an exception rather than the rule.
If you find your child has homework each night, this should be a cause for concern, and should be taken up with the teacher immediately. Kids in primary grades (grades 1-3, or 5-8 years of age) and younger have no need for any homework at all. Learning and development at these ages especially needs to come from the child's own experiences in free play. There is much learning that comes from unstructured children's play and this is an essential part of child development.

If you would like to read more about this, including the actual studies, refer to Alfie Kohn's website.