Friday, May 31, 2013

Planning Dash's 8th Birthday: a Scavenger hunt?

For Dash's eighth birthday party, we're doing our usual backyard party with barbecue and moonbounce, but this year Dash asked for a scavenger hunt. I can't remember getting involved with scavenger hunts when I was younger outside of organized events at camp with kids I barely knew. I know there is a subculture of people who are passionate about it, geocaching items worldwide for others to find. 

While I can't imagine parents being okay with their 8 year olds wandering the neighborhood, looking for random stuff, would they be okay with going down to the creek to do a nature scavenger hunt? Here is a suggested list for a nature hunt, from

1.  2 different types of grass
2.  Leaves from 3 different trees
3.  Large rock
4.  Moss
5.  3 different colored smooth stones
6.  Berry
7.  Pinecone
8.  Something plastic (explain how it doesn't belong in nature)
9.  Water reed
10. Animal tracks (draw them on paper after you find them)
11. Nut or acorn
12. Flower
13. Something red
14. Feather
16. Seeds
17. Wood
18. Stick
19. Something that fell out of a tree
20. Something that begins with the first letter of the birthday child's name

We could potentially do this in our back yard, but the creek is just across the street and I would go them, if parents agreed. Of course, I'll need to check with Dash to find out what he had in mind!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Too much homework and trying to be the squeaky wheel.

My family is feeling overwhelmed by the incredible amount of work being sent home with the kids, particularly my 10-year-old, by their elementary school teachers. I'm stressed out and I know my kids are too — my family isn't the only one affected, either. Read this psychologist's article about homework and elementary-school-aged children to see what the experts think about over-assigning work. In the spirit of being the squeaky wheel and letting the administration know how I feel, I just sent this letter to my daughter's school principal and vice principal.

"Dear Principal and VP,
Rosie, a fourth grader in Mrs. M's class came home with 11 separate homework assignments last night. I spent 3 hours working with her to get them done before 9 p.m. at which point she was exhausted and crying, then worked on unfinished work for another 45 minutes this morning before SACC. She was not able to complete all the assignments (listed below) — this was easily 5 hours of work. What are the real expectations here?
After the bus drops her off from school at 4:15, she has 1 hour to work on her homework before dinner; dinner is about 45 minutes, then most days (except Tuesdays and Fridays) she has a one-hour out-of-the-home activity. She gets back around 7:15, then I go through her work with her from that point until bedtime at 8 p.m. I'm allotting approximately 1.5 hours for homework in her day, but this schedule as is doesn't allow for any playtime after school with friends or daily chores. If the homework extends beyond 1.5 hours, she misses sleep, or it may cut into her activities. Is this appropriate at 10 years old? I don't agree and neither does her pediatrician.

Rosie was ordered by her pediatrician to get at least 60 minutes of "sweaty activity" in each day due to being overweight, and this is not possible for her if she is spending all of her time after school completing work or missing recess to complete assignments. For example, last week, I was emailed by Mrs. M that Rosie had not completed an assignment, and that she was being kept in at recess (which might be her only source of activity on a given day) to finish the work. I appreciate that the issue was brought to my attention, but I am not okay with Rosie missing recess time.
I'm not meaning at all to demonize any of the 4th grade teachers, just to bring awareness that the collective weight of the workload sent home with my daughter is not appropriate. I've spoken with other parents at WWES who agree that the amount of work their children is given has forced them to go on "lockdown" during the week, where children are not allowed playdates, activities (for parents either!!), or stress-relieving television/games during the week just so they can keep afloat with the homework. Where does the creative play, socialization, and alone time that is so important to children this age fit in?
I can't balance it all and I'm asking for your help.

Thank you,

Here is the assignments list:

  1. Read for 20 minutes (daily, ongoing)
  2. Study for Caesar's English quiz
  3. Finish 5 illustrations in word study notebook (leftover classwork)
  4. Complete practice math sheet (new assignment)
  5. Study for quiz on customary lengths
  6. Go over and correct answers on geometry test (requiring parental sign-off)
  7. Study for physics force and motion test
  8. Study for Race 2 quiz
  9. Go over and correct answers on Race 1 quiz (requiring parental sign-off)
  10. Continue working on VA Heroes project, writing details for accomplishments (ongoing, large project with written, visual and oral components, due 5/10)
  11. Practice cello for 15-30 minutes. (daily, ongoing)

Had we attempted to complete the work for each of these assignments, it would have been over 5 hours of work. As it was last night, we didn't get to 2, 6, 8, or 11. Those will have to wait till tonight!

Beside Rosie's workload, I had to cancel two planned adult activities that required my participation last night so I could help her. Monkey did all the cooking and kitchen cleanup so I could devote my time to her. I'm sure Dash could feel the tension! 
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