Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is Summer Too Busy For The Kids?

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.  That’s an old saying that comes to mind when I hear people talking about how busy their kids are during the summer.  I think back to my summers as a high school student and I was just as busy as the kids are today, though it was a different kind of busy.  Most of my days were spent getting up around 5:30 in the morning, but rather than hitting the weight room and participating in a conditioning program, I got picked up in front of my house by Kenny Dobenecker and went to work for him, most often tinning barns or shingling houses.  We had an hour lunch break and if we came back to town I would grab a sandwich and head to the baseball field to hit in the batting cage with our baseball coach who was always up there from 11:00 to 1:00 to give us a chance to take some swings.  Back to work after that and then depending on whether I had a game that night or practice, I usually got off around 4:00.  Somehow I worked chores in there as we had 4-H livestock and spent a number of weekends at calf shows.

I hear a lot of people say that our kids are too busy in the summer, and I hear kids say that they don’t want to play baseball or softball because they want to take time off.  And we have kids that don’t come into the school to spend an hour to an hour-and-a-half in our strength and conditioning program.  And yet, I know a number of these same kids are not holding down a full-time job either.  So are kids too busy in the summer, or does it just seem that they are going in a number of different directions because everyone wants a piece of them?  I will give you that as on a recent day my own daughter did strength and conditioning, did some running to work on conditioning for cross country, shot some baskets and played a couple of softball games.  She doesn’t hold down a summer job because she already has plenty to do, but is she any busier than I was some 30+ years ago?

Perhaps the biggest difference between our kid’s summers and the one’s we had years ago is the level of organization and the number of people pulling them.  In some respects, I think that the demands placed on the kids include the parents by default because in some instances they have to help them get where they are going, and of course they want to attend games and other events.  However, I think we need to ask ourselves whether we want our kids busy and doing something productive, or do we want them sitting at home playing video games all day.  Whether it is happening in your home or not, it is going on in a lot of places.  There are a lot of kids wasting away the summer.  Toss in the fact that not as many kids are holding down summer jobs as there once was and I would suggest that keeping kids as busy as we can is also keeping them out of trouble.  While it may stress us as parents, I believe that busy is a good thing!  Yes, there is a limit, but for the most part I believe that kids want to be busy and doing something.  We certainly don’t want them hanging out in that fella’s workshop!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Too Many Projects!

In a meeting I had with a set of parents recently, I was struck by a comment that was made.  Before I go any further, this is not an attempt to discredit or criticize the parents for their comment.  Rather, I am going to use it to make a few points that I believe are very important relative to education as we now know it and as we go forward.  Basically, their comment was “Why are their so many projects?  What is going on with all of these projects?  Why aren’t kids just taking tests?”
The disconnect was a bit surprising because we school folk had apparently not done as good of a job as I thought we had of sharing information about what works and what doesn’t in education to parents and the community.  There are a number of different kinds of assessment, but one type that is being used more and more in the classrooms is project-based assessments.  They take many different forms, but the bottom line is that in most instances they give students a better chance to demonstrate what they have learned.  There is a purpose to traditional pencil and paper tests, but it is just one type of measure and some kids just don’t do well with that kind of assessment.
However, what really struck me was the reason that was given for being upset about the number of projects their child had to do: the burden on the parents!  This brought up a whole new set of issues that started running through my mind.  How is this a burden on the parents?  Are they doing the projects?  Are they writing the papers?  Do their kids stay up later at night working on a project than they do studying for a test?  Are the students grouchier working on a project than when they have to take a test?  The reality is that a child must be responsible for his or her education.  It is my opinion that teachers in our school are working hard to integrate better methods of instruction that lead to better learning.  We aren’t there yet, but we are getting closer.  At the same time, I have always said, learning is a partnership and if students do not own it, then they are not going to learn.  If there is a concern about too many projects, the reality is that this type of learning and assessment is only going to become more common.