Saturday, February 4, 2012

So, you want to give your child some homework?

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
Make playdough
Paint (let them mix colors)
Make mud pies
Make a fort
Go Fishing
Stare at clouds
Dance in the rain
Swim in a creek
Watch birds

Now, doesn't that sound like more fun than a worksheet?


  1. I agree with what you are saying, but are you certain that "homework" indicated a worksheet? There are a vast array of things that could be assigned to students of any age to extend learning activities at home - "homework".

    1. My thoughts exactly! My younger 2 are in Preschool & kindergarten and they get A LOT of homework. We have to decorate easter eggs as a family that they hang on the walls. They have to read books sent home from the library to their family, no matter what the words say they just look at it and on and so on.

  2. Love This! So true, my oldest went to preschool for a year, he learned a lot, but didn't enjoy it. He was afraid he was missing out on all the "fun stuff with mom." My husband said I "ruined" him for school.

    He has been home this entire year, and is so much happier and learning even more because he is free to build and create when he wants.

    I am going to share this on my facebook page!

  3. @Amanda, Thank you so much for your comment. That is what I thought too. I taught in preschool for many years and often was asked by parents to provide activities for them to do at home. Usually these were parents who wanted to be involved in meaningful play but were unsure how to go about it.I would provide open ended activities, or some more specific to a theme. These were designed to be a jumping off point for a meaningful play and learning experience. I asked the father what kind of homework the girl had been given and it was a worksheet. This particular one was to practice measuring length. I don't think it is bad for parents to be given a little guidance for activities to do with their children. Doing just that is one of the reasons I started blogging. But our children are suffering from "push down" education. What was once taught in first grade was pushed down to kindergarten. Then it was eventually pushed down to preschool. And in all this, unfortunately, play is being pushed out.

  4. Great post, Kristin! A few years ago our more enlightened principal set a 'no homework besides reading' policy, based on research that shows that traditional homework does not improve elementary students' learning. Many parents, and quite a few teachers, were horrified. Sadly, with a change of principals that policy has fallen apart and most students are getting traditional homework again. This year I had a parent who kept hounding me to give her son homework all the time so that he wouldn't just play video games at home on the weekends and holidays! So I assigned 'homework'. His homework was to go play outside and to visit somewhere in the city such as a museum or park, etc. And he did, for the first time since moving here in August!

  5. What a brilliant post. I like to think that my class do all that stuff in their preschool year. In fact most days I truely believe I have the best job in the world.
    Kristen I have to apologize tho' I tagged you in my latest blog post but called your blog by anothers name - sorry - I have rectified it now but promise to be more careful from now on!

  6. Kierna, No worries! Thank you for rectifying it, but it happens to the best!

  7. This is an absolutely beautiful post! I love it! I couldn't agree more with you, and I love your homework list. It made me want ot go jump in puddles!

  8. Wow! Wonderful post!
    That's the kind of homework the children really need!
    Here in Brazil we can see the same think: Children going to "fake" schools - fake grass, fake trees. What they will learn with this "fake world"?

  9. Could I translate to portuguese your post, and publish in my blog? With credits for you, sure!

  10. Ana Carol Yes, that would be fine! I'm glad you found it helpful. Would you send me a link when you do?

  11. @Kristin - Thank you for the response. I'm very sad it was an actual worksheet. As a parent and an educator I can see how counter-productive that is, but isn't it just common sense that a preschooler learns through play? Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought everyone knew that. :(

  12. You would think Amanda! Thank you for your comments

  13. Hi Kristin!
    I had already translate your post!
    Here it is:

    I'll link your blog too.
    Thank you!

  14. Hi Kristin!
    I first read your article at Ana Carol`s blog and loved it. Now I just can`t stop reading your texts!! Thanks a lot for shearing these amazing experiences with us!

  15. AMEN!!!!!!!!!! That is what all of us professionals in child developement know. Preschool is not"BOOT CAMP" for Kindergarten.


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