I see that most parents seem to be asking for your input over the summer so we can develop some habits that will be in place by the time the children start school next August. Well, I have one of my own. Every year we go through the same song and dance. My son comes in from school, gets a snack, watches TV and then starts his homework at around 4:30. It can be 9 or later before he finishes. He starts everything with “I can’t do this” or “It's dumb.” He daydreams, chews his fingernails or just sits while I try and urge him along. I end up ready to pull my hair out.
This year he goes into the sixth grade and I know he will have more to do. I tried the timer last year but he said he wasn't a baby. What else can I do? I feel like I am running out of time.
In our hurried lives, almost from the time our children are born, “time” means “hurry,” and “hurry” means “stress.” A classic case of A=B=C, or A=C.
As parents, we are doubly stressed by time - by our desire for more of it, and by our child’s seemingly complete disregard for it.
For example, a typical school begins for many parents by telling their kids to “Hurry up and (eat breakfast/get dressed/make your lunch) or you'll be late for school!”
Then we end the day by reminding them, “hurry up and (eat dinner/clean up/brush you teeth) so we can get to bed on time.”
During the time in between, our children listen to school bells or teachers to tell them when to start and finish their work.
No wonder they become stressed with disbelief at the complete reversal of what they have become accustomed to when the teacher says, “Don't rush. Take your time. You have 10 minutes to complete this quiz.”
How else can a child interpret the meaning of time? Time appears crowded and hurried, and students often tune out to protect themselves from the hectic pace. Before your child can learn to use time appropriately for planning, chunking, and estimation, he must first learn a realistic definition of what time is.
WHAT TO DO
As soon as a child can tell time or count by fives, it’s time to replace a timer with an analog watch or desk clock - not a digital one. I can hear many of you now thinking, “In this age of tablets, iPhones, and digital stopwatch applications that are more than adequate, why would I recommend an analog?”
The analog desk clock or watch helps visually redefine time as space, allowing the child to see the area between 2:15 and 2:30, on the face of the watch. It becomes more than running numbers, it becomes a visual slice of space.
This helps define time as empty space with no connotation of hurriedness.
Using the analog watch as a picture of time, you can teach your child how to learn what he can realistically and effectively accomplish in a certain amount of time - or space.
Make sure the analog clock is placed close enough to the child’s work that he can check the time without losing concentration. For this reason, your child should not look at a watch on his wrist or at a wall clock that breaks the train of thought and interrupts the ability to work within known limits. Have the child take the watch off and place it in front of himself in the position of a clock.
At the start of each new assignment, have your child tell you where the big hand of the watch will be when he finishes. Then say, “This is how much space you have.”
As your child travels through space, he will also learn to assess his own working capacity. At the end of the allotted time, discuss what you accomplished with that space. This will lay the foundation for effective estimation down the road.
Once your child is comfortable with the new process, let his teacher know he will be using his analog watch on his desk during assignments.
It's important to redefine time to eliminate stress and hurry, but it’s also essential for your child to develop self-recognition of working capacity. That's not just a skill for school, but one for life and for the workforce of the future.
CONTACT DR. FOURNIER
Have a question about education, education-related issues or your child’s schoolwork or homework? Ask Dr. Fournier and look for her answer in this column. E-mail your question or comment to Dr. Yvonne Fournier at firstname.lastname@example.org.