Sunday, October 19, 2008

Books for Children


One of the best gifts you can give your children is the love of reading. Children who begin to read at an early age tend to carry a love of reading straight through to adulthood. Children who love to read often do better in school. Textbooks may not be as much fun to read, but it will be easier for a child who loves to read to get through their assignments. The best way to get your child started is to buy books for children at an early age.

You can begin buying books for children earlier than you might think. There are picture books that children can handle as young as six months old. They may not even understand what it is, but it will give them a positive association with books. Many of these books for children are soft, have bright, stimulating colors, and can be chewed on safely.

As your children age, the books for children you buy will begin to involve words as well as pictures. One of my daughter’s first books was a picture book of other babies. Children are often fascinated with other children their own age. The book had very few words, but it helped her to understand that words tell a story, and the pictures in the books go with the story. When children reach age three or four, you can purchase more complicated books for children. They can have longer storylines, and they should encourage your child to ask questions. Rhyming stories are great, because they engage your child’s mind in learning and understanding patterns and sounds.

You can find books for children just about anywhere you buy books. Many bookstores have special sections just for books for children, and they often have extras like a play area and have Story Time. Obviously, you can also find them at the library, and the library will have Story Time as well. These programs are geared towards getting your children to develop a love of books that will last a lifetime. It is one of the best gifts you can give them. You can also start a book-sharing program with some of your friends and family. If you are really ambitious, you can start one of these for your community. This will encourage people to share or donate books for children to the community, and will help lower income families give their children the gift of reading.

Monday, October 13, 2008

HomeSchool Finances

When people talk about teaching their children from home in the absence of any definite or structured curriculum, it is perhaps natural to think that homeschooling is cheap. But. this is far from the truth.

When you need to make sure that your children receives state-of-the-art education so that they can compete with regular school goers, expenses will naturally mount. The actual cost of educating a child at home is surprisingly high. Up-to-date textbooks, course materials, a library, computing equipment, lighting, specially-designed furniture all cost money. In this case, the cost may be slightly lesser when it comes to homeschooling the second child. Add to this any additional tuition cost for tutors who come to teach subjects that cannot be handled by parents, like higher-level math or science. The total cost can be a bit mind-boggling.

If you take another important factor into consideration, homeschooling costs may triple. The need for having one of the parents tied to the house and fully dedicated to providing education deprives the family of a second income. The average homeschooling teacher is usually someone with a college degree. This means that she/he can easily bring home a pay of $35,000 or more. It is also interesting to note that most families that have more than 2 children do not opt for homeschooling at all.

But, there are those who have been successful in carrying out homeschooling at low rates. This is dependent on the size of the family, the support group, the type of materials used and the availability of the material. When successive children can reuse the materials, costs goes down. Much of the course material can be purchased from vendors of homeschooling materials. A membership in a public library, theatre, concerts, ballets and other cultural events also help in cutting costs. Sometimes, it is even possible to barter expertise. For instance, the mother of an 8-year old gives dancing classes, and her daughter receives drawing classes for free. Support groups allow you to divide the cost of field trips, science projects and fairs.

Whatever the cost, advocates of homeschooling say that the benefits far outweigh these considerations. When you are able to decide what knowledge your child receives and when he or she should be taught and to what extent, it gives you a lot of freedom and a lot of power. Both the children as well as the parents benefit from this mutually enriching experience.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Strategies To Help You And Your Child Survive Homework

Linda Bress Silbert, Ph.D. And Alvin J. Silbert, Ed.D.

Is homework wreaking havoc in your home? If the answer is YES, then finding the real causes behind the homework problems, and taking steps to resolve them, will improve both school success and family harmony.

How do we know? Homework is the single biggest issue affecting home life, according to many of the parents who bring their children to us at STRONG Learning Centers®.

Here are the ten most common causes of homework problems, along with suggestions to help you resolve them.

1. THE HOMEWORK IS TOO DIFFICULT.

If the homework is continuously too difficult, with everything that entails, then a child will try to avoid it. Look into the cause. Begin by having a conversation with the teacher. If the problem is class-wide, hopefully the teacher will evaluate and adjust the nature of his or her homework assignments. If the problem is limited to your child, she may require additional help from the teacher after school, from you, from a sibling, from a teenager you hire, or from a tutor. If this fails to resolve the issue, then a reevaluation of the type of class, or course level, or teaching vs. learning style, or school may be in order.

On the other hand, the cause of the problem may be a disability: physical, learning and/or attentional. Your child may have difficulty in such areas as: hearing, seeing, reading, processing language, or writing, or she may have ADD or ADHD. If the problem is one of these, sometimes it is easy to resolve. For example, corrective glasses can easily resolve some seeing issues and behavioral therapy and/or possibly medication might help AD/HD, the newer term for the disorder. In many cases, consulting teachers, counselors, or specialists in the appropriate field, might be in order.

Note: If you suspect AD/HD, a valuable resource is CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder organization). For information on the learning disability (LD) issue in general, contact the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).

2. THE HOMEWORK IS TOO CONFUSING.

When children chronically complain that assignments or directions are confusing, they are likely to become frustrated and/or anxious, eventually avoiding such assignments. Parents usually respond to these children by asking, "Weren't you listening?" Or "Just read the directions!" The children were listening or reading, but they may not have been able to process the information.

In this case, the cause may be reading comprehension and/or language processing problems. You may need to seek the help of teachers or a learning specialist to help your child learn strategies she can use to overcome or compensate for her disability. For example, she may need to put the words into pictures or graphic organizers. Children who become confused due to problems with language processing, do better when they can see things visually.

And, regardless of who is working with them, be sure they remain actively involved. Children (and adults too) are notorious for shaking their heads "yes" when asked "Do you understand?" even when they don't understand. Sometimes they are just yessing you and sometimes they think they understand. However, when you ask them to explain or discuss what you were just talking about, they realize that they really don’t understand.

If neither of these areas are the cause of the problem, then you may need to investigate why your child continues to complain. If it turns out it is simply a ploy to get you to do the work with him, then you need to address the reason for that behavior. But wait – before you get annoyed, remember what it was like for you when you were a child. Homework isn't always fun, and sometimes it's nice to have a little company. Your child may simply want your company during homework time. Wow! How's that for the ultimate compliment?

3. THE HOMEWORK IS TOO LOW-QUALITY OR TOO BORING.

Sometimes homework assignments are low-quality boring busywork and children will avoid them simply because they don't want to do them. Unfortunately, one of life's little lessons that children need to learn is that sometimes we simply have to do boring things. If, however, every assignment appears to be dull, too easy, or too low-quality, you may need to talk to your child's teacher to determine the purpose of the assignments. Many teachers do not realize how some of the assignments are coming across to the children; chances are they will appreciate the feedback and adjust the work as appropriate.

4. THE CHILD IS DISORGANIZED.

He brings home the book and forgets the assignment. He brings home the assignment and forgets the book. Or he forgets the assignment and the book. Does this sound familiar? If so, it sounds like you've got yourself a disorganized child. The same is true for children who can’t judge time or can't manage their time. They may have the best intentions to get the homework done, but somehow it gets lost in their time-maze.

It is so difficult for disorganized children to get their homework done that some of them would rather lie, insisting that there is no homework, than be criticized and punished. If poor organizational skills seems to be the issue, there are many books and articles that offer great strategies to help the disorganized child. See, for example, pp 123-127 in Why Bad Grades Happen to Good Kids.

5. THE HOMEWORK IS TOO INTRUSIVE.

It's a fact; homework cuts into playtime. So what's the problem? The problem is that in some cases homework time creeps up to the point of consuming the home lives of the children and sometimes that of the family as well. Besides the obvious down side, this may be harmful to children's intellectual development. Their brains are developing and they need to use all parts, and good quality play provides opportunities to use the "far corners" of the brain that might otherwise remain fallow. So, it turns out that children need to play. Surprisingly, brain research indicates that occasional boredom is good, too, as it forces children to think of things to do — that is, to use their brains to create.

So if homework time seems to have taken over your home, work out a schedule with your child so that he doesn't have to lie in order to play.

6. TOO MUCH PARENT INVOLVEMENT.

Some parents are overly involved in their child's homework. Here are the three most common types, all of whom tend to drive their children toward lying and deception. If any of these describe you, then work to change your behavior.

A. The "perfectionist parents." Perfectionists demand picture-perfect-homework. Their children hate to let them see their homework papers out of fear that they will judge the work unworthy, tear it up, and make them do it again. Besides being tedious and time demanding, in these extreme cases it is downright disrespectful of the child.

B. The "helicopter parents." These parents hover over their children, making sure that every "t" is crossed and every "i" is dotted. They think they're being helpful, but here's the problem: By not giving their children any breathing room, they are delivering the tacit message that their children are not capable of doing the work themselves. Not only does this harm their self-esteem, but it also denies them the opportunity of taking responsibility for their own work.

C. The "Pandora parents." The children of Pandora parents tend to deny the existence of any homework they don't understand because asking Mom or Dad even the simplest question is tantamount to opening Pandora's box. Their well-meaning parents can't contain their enthusiasm and turn what would ordinary require a short answer into a long-winded treatise on some esoteric detail.

7. THE CHILD IS UNMOTIVATED.

Most children don't want to do homework. But while they may put up quite a fuss, somehow they manage to get the work done. If they don't, motivation may not be the problem; they may appear unmotivated, but this may be a convincing protective screen they've set up to mask a larger issue.

For example, many children appear unmotivated when in fact they avoid homework to protect their egos. How's that? Because these children erroneously equate failure with stupidity. Their logic is as follows: If they try and fail, it is a reflection of their intelligence. If they don't try and fail, it is not a reflection of their intelligence; it is due to lack of motivation or irresponsibility. These labels they can live with; the label "stupid," they can't!

8. TOO MUCH HOMEWORK.

Many kids simply cannot keep up with the projects, tests, quizzes, reading and other assignments they are given.

Here is a general guide for the typical amount of time children should be expected to spend on homework each school day. Grades K-2, about 10-20 minutes. Grades 3-6, about 30-60 minutes. Grades 7-12 will vary considerably, depending on subjects, projects due, tests, etc., but a reasonable average is about two hours, with more on weekends, as needed, for major projects and exams.

If your child spends considerably more than this on homework, look into the cause. Begin by having a conversation with the teacher. If the problem is class-wide, hopefully the teacher will make adjustments. If the problem is limited to your child because your child works slowly, or has other issues discussed in this section, talk to his teacher and see what can be done to modify his assignments.

9. IT'S TOO NOISY.

Many kids complain that they can't concentrate at home. Their siblings are running around, TVs and music systems are blaring, someone's on the phone, people are fighting, the dog is barking, the baby is crying. I don't know about you, but I need quiet to do work that requires thinking. Closed bedroom doors don't help much, as the muffled sounds of chaos always manage to get through.

Here is an idealistic solution. Even if it can't be carried out fully, at least it is something to aim for. As a family, consider designating a block of time as quiet time. Normal living continues, but more quietly than usual. Kids can use the time to do homework; parents can read, balance the checkbook, and write e-mails; those who have time to watch television can do so with headphones or the sound turned low. Sometimes quiet sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

10. THE CHILD IS TOO ALONE.

Some children are lonely when required to do homework in their rooms, and don't work efficiently in that setting. Some need continuous support and direction. That is, they need someone to help them stay on task or to provide a little assistance when they get stuck. If required to work alone in their rooms, these are the kids who emerge three hours later with little or nothing accomplished. Both groups of children tend to prefer doing homework on the kitchen table. This way they have people around them, either for support or company.

So, if homework causes chaos in your home, look into the reasons. Once you find them, and do what you need to resolve the problems, you'll be back on the road to school success and family harmony.

(Originally published at the Strong Learning website and reprinted with permission of the authors, Linda Bress Silbert, Ph.D. and Alvin J. Silbert, Ed.D.)