I was once asked to teach 5th and 6th graders how to study and keep track of their assignments and projects and how to keep their tests from the first of the year, for an end of the year test. I was asked to do this because my children seemed to do this effortlessly and had their assignments done on time and were not asking for extensions. I set about developing a curriculum. This was strictly a volunteer activity. I was glad to lend a hand.
When we sent home the first announcement to the parents we had some ask that their children be let out of the class. When we asked for parents to supply the kids with the needed work surface and basic tools for studying, we got more complaints.
It almost seemed that parents didn’t have the buy-in for their children to succeed. I was very discouraged, but the 6 teachers insisted that I press forward. So I got the items the children needed donated by a local office supply store and I got the kids to use their own left over school supplies from the previous year and we worked together to get the new course launched.
The first thing we did as a group was talk about: “How we spend our time”. This was so much fun. Each child had a sheet from a calendar time planner for one week and a 24 hour day, and a bunch of colored pencils. We all said okay where do we know you have to be from say 8:30 am until 3:00 pm? A loud “SCHOOL” rose from the chorus of voices. So I asked them to color in that time block in RED. Then they set aside the red pencil. Next we talked about how we all “SLEEP” and the kids colored in their sleep time in BLUE. Then things began to get tricky….no two children had anything else in common. That’s hard to believe.
I asked them when they typically do their homework and I have 30 different answers. I asked them where they did their homework and I had 30 different answers. A picture was beginning to form on why they were having trouble with their time and their homework and their book reports and long term projects.
Who schedules a child’s time anyway?
What is the most important use of a child’s time?
In the end we decided to put this project to the side and do a daily log of what each child did for 7 days and the results were very enlightening to the children. They also did an inventory of their personal study area in their own homes. Only 2 kids in a class of 30 had their own study desk, chair, light, and basic equipment to work with. This made me quite sad. If we say our children are our future and we want them to succeed, we have to provide them with the tools to do that.
I personally do not think the kitchen table is that place. When the students were asked what was going on in their kitchen the answers were what you would guess: TV is on, phone is ringing, people coming in and going out, children being piled in the car and taken here and there, meals being prepared, interruptions, fighting with siblings, crying and on and on. Not an ideal study atmosphere. One kid claimed he studied under his bed with a flashlight, well we know he just wanted attention!
Children have to be taught how to study and they have to have a place to do that. I’m not talking about going out and buying new furniture. The children I taught used what they already had. The items were 90% left overs from the previous school year which were not used up. They did need a couple of things such as a good reading light, a sturdy chair, a work surface and the most important two things are parental support and time to do their homework.
Children all want to do well in school. We need to help them achieve that.