Five minutes: That's all it takes to make homework review a success. During Indian Valley Middle School's Back to School Night Thursday evening, several of my daughter's sixth-grade teachers suggested that parents spend five minutes with their child to reinforce what's being taught in the classroom.
I tried the "five-minute review" guideline this week. After school, I sat at the kitchen table with my 11-year-old daughter, Angelea, and requested that she tell me what she learned in each of her classes.
Knowing that she'd rather be kicking a soccer ball or browsing the fabric shop next door, I tried to stick to the timeline.
We began the "five-minute review" with social studies and the term "molten metal" to describe the Earth's core.
"Remember seeing 'Journey to the Center of the Earth?'" I asked, reminding her of the Jules Verne fantasy. "Do you know what 'molten' means?"
"No." she responded, miffed that I made her correct the misspelled word "galaxy" on all her papers.
"Molten means 'melted,' a liquid," I explained.
Since the galaxy was one topic, she decided to make the table into a universe, using a pumpkin for the sun and a pepper shaker for the Earth. I stuck a pencil into the pepper to make an "imaginary axis" to mimic Earth's rotation.
"You can't stick a pencil in the pepper!" she scolded me. "It's dirty! Put the eraser in first."
"Both ends are germy," I explained, as I digressed to the topic of germs and tossed out the pepper. "What did you do in phys ed today?"
"I played goalie," she replied.
I asked her to compare the role of goalie in field hockey to that of soccer. We talked about how different balls are used in different sports, and then I steered the conversation to the painful subject of math.
She retrieved her math papers. Some needed a few corrections. Then out of the clear blue, she said, "Sometimes I daydream."
"Sometimes I do, too," I confessed, and was tempted to tell her that daydreaming was a writer's paradise, but resisted the urge.
Next, she pulled out a language arts folder. She was most impressed with the scented ink stickers used by her teacher. So I scratched and sniffed my way through her work, a novel approach, I thought, to parental discernment.
Finally, it was time to call it quits. After discussing locker woes and a tasty spaghetti lunch, she got packed for the next day, raced outside and zipped out of the driveway on her scooter in a blaze of childhood glory.
Then I sat by myself in a quiet kitchen, cupping my head in my hand, looking at the bottle of water in the window she had placed there more than a month ago as a science experiment. The bottled water had a piece of green gum in it.
Angelea had asked the question, "What happens to gum when left in water over time?" I observed her teeth marks still in the gum after 30 days. The water had turned a clear, lime green.
The "five-minute review" guideline had worked. While No Child Left Behind legislation continues to steer classrooms across America, and the classroom of my generation is long gone, some basic facts remain.
Spending time with your child is your best investment. Asking questions keeps you in touch with a child's feelings and progress. I learned a thing or two at Back to School Night at IVMS, and I'm grateful.
Before I got up from the table, I thumbed through a language arts self-discovery assignment. At the bottom, it asked, "what do you want to be?" Angelea wrote, "A teacher."
In my opinion, when a child is impressed by what she sees, what she learns and how she feels in the classroom, and then wants to exemplify that in her future, that's a good education.
Linda Kay Goodwin, RN, BSN, MBA, is a nationally award-winning columnist and recipient of the American Academy of Nursing Media Award for Excellence in the presentation of Health Care Information to the Public. She is employed by Mount Nittany Medical Center and West Virginia University Medical Center.