I was at the park the other day with my children. Birdy, my 5 year old, had made friends with another little girl who was about the same age. The little girl was being watched over by her father and the two of us began chatting. Both girls are scheduled to begin Kindergarten next year.
"Where does your daughter go to preschool?" the father asked me.
"At home." I answered, "Where does your child go?"
He gave me the name of a new preschool that I had seen open up the road. It is a beautiful new building with green grass, brightly colored immaculate play grounds which look like they have never been played on.
"Do you like it there?" I asked.
The father went on to tell me how wonderful the school was, and how much his daughter is learning there.
"What we really like are the academics," He said. "They even give her homework! She is going to be so prepared for Kindergarten."
I thought about Birdy, and what she and CC had done while at my house that day. They dug in the dirt. They found a worm. They made play dough. They climbed a tree. They played with dolls. They collected interesting rocks from the front yard. They worked together, they took turns, they argued, they made up, and they had fun. They are going to be so prepared, not just for Kindergarten, but for lifetime of learning. And all with out any homework.
In the 1940s a psychologist named Donald O. Hebb took home some laboratory rats and kept them as pets. These rats were let loose in the house. They were free to roam and play most of the day. Dr. Hebb observed that these rats seemed to perform better at problem solving than the rats from his lab which were kept in simple cages with no enrichment. Many studies were done afterwards based on Dr. Hebb's observation. They discovered what most preschool teachers know. Free play makes us smarter.
When our children have to get hands on with the world around them, their brain makes leaps and connections it would never get from a worksheet. They learn to problem solve, observe, calculate, hypothesize, and experiment. They can't help but learn, and their learning is self motivated. It is not out of a desire to please a teacher or adult, but out of a desire to please themselves.
So, you want to give your child some homework?
Here are my suggestions...
Dig a hole
Climb a tree
Plant a flower
Jump in puddles
Use a hammer and nails
Take apart a stereo or VCR
Paint (let them mix colors)
Make mud pies
Make a fort
Stare at clouds
Dance in the rain
Swim in a creek
Now, doesn't that sound like more fun than a worksheet?