As an early childhood educator for many years, this is one of the first questions posed by prospective and current kindergarten parents during open house events, classroom tours, and back-to-school nights. Why is this such a popular query? Well, adults have very busy lives and, understandably, they want to know the homework expectations and how these may possibly alter their evening schedules. Parents familiar with some public school demands have shared horror stories of children having packets of worksheets that need to be completed after a full day of school. Other parents, however, welcome homework and are looking for ways to keep their children challenged or busy while older siblings complete their homework. All of these reasons are legitimate.
However, do pencil and paper tasks (worksheets, workbooks, etc.) truly challenge our children? Do these tasks actively engage them? Do they promote critical thinking and creativity? Do kids truly enjoy them? Many years ago, at an early childhood conference, one of the presenters noted that any concept or skill-based worksheet can be transformed into a game or hands-on activity. That statement has stuck with me for many years and has helped shape our kindergarten curriculum.
For example: Which activities provide more opportunities for learning? Using a ruler to measure line segments of differing lengths on a worksheet, or using rulers, tape measures, and yardsticks to measure a variety of objects in your home or in the classroom? A worksheet in which students cut and paste pictures that rhyme, or reading a story together and having your child fill in the rhyming words? It’s fairly obvious both latter choices are better and the list of examples could go on and on. In kindergarten, we strive to provide these types of hands-on, engaging activities within the classroom and encourage parents to do the same at home.
Yes, we do occasionally have homework, but the goal is for it to reinforce what is being learned at school and have meaning for the children. Keeping this goal in mind, my colleague, Kate Davis, created an activity calendar. This calendar is sent home on a monthly basis and it is a great opportunity to bridge each student’s learning between home and school. The activities can be completed on each family’s timetable and parents can choose those that will be most engaging for their child. A few of the October offerings include:
- Draw a picture of your favorite thing to do in autumn!
- Find things around your home that are taller than you. Then, find things that are shorter than you.
- What is your favorite color? Take a walk and see how many things you can find of that color.
And, no, it is not required to turn the “work” in to the teacher unless your child really wants a sticker!