Friday, July 17, 2015

An Acute Bout of Summer Homework

Zilla is 7 years old
Mega is 4 years old

Lesson: Sometimes homework is handled best like an illness. 

It is that time of year again! Summer break!!!
Before you get too excited though count how many pages of homework need to be completed and figure out when you can squeeze it in between trips to the beach, camps and visiting relatives. 

As you may already know, summer vacation in Japan falls during the school year.  For whatever reason elementary schools seem to think kids need to study 30-60 minutes a day or more and assign homework accordingly. This doesn't sound so bad, right?  

Let's do the math. 

Most kids are not in the mood to do homework when they could be relaxing or playing with friends so something simple that should only take a few minutes can easily take double or triple the normal time. Let's estimate the homework takes 1 hour a day.

Spend 2 days at camp. That is +2 hours of homework. 
The day after camp is no longer a 1 hour day but it is now a 3 hour day.

Go to Grandma's for the week and play with your cousins every day. That is +7 hours of homework.
Get home and your week of fun will be followed with a day of 8 hours of homework.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

Here are the rules Mega and Zilla came up with for getting the homework done as painlessly as possible:

1. Don't complain about it. 
Complaining won't make it go away.

2. Tackle the homework right away 
before getting into full-on summer relaxation mode.

3. Treat it like a cold. 
Stay home, keep the place quiet, eat soul food.

4. Set up incentives. 
Make a check list including each bit of homework. Plan rewards like a piece of candy for each section finished, earn an extra chapter in the bedtime story for completing a subject area, an adventure to go on when it is all done.

5. Find the fun. 
Zilla is really good at this part!
Use creativity wherever permissible to make it a bit more interesting.

Mega is still preschool age so her homework is a calendar to fill in. Each day of break gets marked off with a special sticker. There is also a space on each day for a weather sticker, brushed my teeth sticker and an "I pooped" sticker. Why the teachers want a record of the children's pooping over summer break is something I fail to comprehend but it is what it is.
The calendar also has a space to write a sentence or two about what we do each day and a page in the back for summer pics. I don't mind making the calendar as it will go into the Mega's baby box and help her to remember how she spent her summer this year.  We look back at Zilla's from time to time and enjoy reading it.
Her other piece of homework is keeping track of how many flowers bloom on her morning glory plant that she's been growing from a seed. It has yet to bloom so she is anxiously waiting to get started on that!  We still need to find a plant baby sitter for the times we are away during summer who will keep watering and keep track of the flowers for her. 

This year Zilla has a couple workbooks to complete, a pile of worksheets in addition to a daily diary (thankfully it is short like Mega's) and some book reports. He has been very diligent in getting a head start. Some morning he gets up early to work. By the afternoon his interest wanes and it is a struggle to stay focused but he is getting things done! Hopefully the main parts will be completed soon!

Now, I realize that the theory behind the homework is to keep things fresh in the kid's mind. That is all fine and good and does make sense. However, I also believe that kids need a break. It is good for the brains, bodies and souls to take a break from schoolwork. It is this line of thinking that shapes the way we tackle the summer homework. 

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