THE BLOG
09/05/2013 12:53 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2013

Thirty Minutes Tops

The new school year has begun! Kids in Chicago Public Schools are going on year two of the mayor's longer, fuller, most bestest day ever! The seven-hour school day has resulted in the shortest, most truncated school night ever. My kids have just slightly over four waking non-school hours to call their own. As a parent, I really cannot cover everything I want my kids to learn from me in the four hours I have them at home. I really like my kids teachers and I really appreciate all the work they do during the day, but due to the short amount of time I have my kids at home, I'm going to have to send some work back to school with my kids to complete during the seven hours they spend in the classroom. I apologize for the negative impact this work might have on the teachers and the rest of the class. I know only too well how that feels. However, the lesson plans I have in the evening are better learned if there is some additional follow through done during the day, parent/home connection and all that. None of these assignments should take up much time, thirty minutes tops.

To all my children's teachers: Please note that each of my children will be bringing a basket full of laundry each day to school. We are covering a unit on self-sufficiency at home. Children will be learning how to sort, fold and put away their clothes. We work on this during the evening, but if they do not finish their work by bedtime, it will need to go to school with them each morning. This is a great opportunity for teachers to reinforce in the classroom, what I as the parent am trying to teach at home. Having to fold laundry with my kids will cause you to cut short or eliminate some planned activities, but the laundry needs to be done. Resist the urge to grab it and do it yourself to speed up the process. It shouldn't take too long, unless you count all the time my kids will procrastinate and complain and tell you how they "hate folding laundry" and how they will never use this skill later on in life, and how you are the meanest teacher ever for making them do their work. In which case, this task could go on for over an hour. Neatness counts, and since we are using the Trailblazers method of folding clothes, please have my kids write an answer to the following question: How you KNOW the laundry is folded?

For my daughter's teacher: My daughter has brought a leotard and a set of bar grips to class. My daughter has gymnastics every day after school. It provides an outlet for her energy, stimulates her vestibular sense, which helps with some of her sensory integration issues. Believe me, she is a better student for you during the day, if she gets a couple of hours of physical activity during her short non-school time. She hasn't perfected her bar routine yet and she will be tested on it. This is a benchmark year for her in gymnastics, so testing is super important. Her coaches and gym facility will be judged on how well she performs her uneven bar routine. I'd like you to work with her, one on one, so when she takes the gymnastics test, she can score at or above average. It shouldn't take much time, unless she is exhausted from the two-hour workout she already completed. In which case she will fall apart, cry, want to talk to you about all the other girls in her class, who was making fun of whom, how to handle a snotty kid or a grumpy coach. Kids do need time to decompress, unwind, and talk about the social emotional aspects of their lives. I'm sure you can find time to listen, to sooth, to offer advice, AND get her to work on her hip circle. The gymnastics world is moving to Common Core too. So in addition to being tested on her basic skills, she will need to write an extended response regarding the main topic of her bar routine. It shouldn't take her long. Half hour tops.

Teachers: My children are being sent to school today with a tank containing two bearded dragons. The poop needs to be cleaned out, the substrate refilled, food and water dishes removed, cleaned and refilled as well. Pet care is incorporated into our nightly routine, but sometimes, during the four waking hours I am with my kids, they can't complete this task, so I'm sending it to school for them to complete with you. It shouldn't take too long to accomplish, unless you find you are out of supplies, in which case you will have to run to the store and pick up some things to finish this on going project. Even though you were not planning on leaving your other students to run out for supplies, let me assure you, you can pick up ground walnut shells, super worms and live crickets just about anywhere. It's so important that you as the teacher work with me on this. Failure to complete this assignment will result in sick pets, so please nag my kids every single day, to make sure they complete this on time. I know it will create a bad vibe between you and my kids and that vibe will rub off on the rest of the class, but reinforcing pet care during the day with you, is essential to what I am trying to teach them here at home. No big deal, twenty minutes tops.

For my son's teacher: Please make sure you check his backpack for his tin whistle. It's a traditional Irish instrument and lucky for you, sounds a whole lot better than a recorder. As a family, music is important to us and we fund raise extensively to provide music instruction during our four-hour home time. We want to foster a love of music here at home as well as the idea that any type of skill or talent, improves with practice. My son doesn't always have the time to practice during the four hours I have him home. As a parent, there are just too many other things I need to cover with the entire family like eating dinner and having a lively discussion. My son may need to spend time practicing his tin whistle during the day, at school, with you. It really helps if you can listen to him play and encourage his effort, reinforce in the classroom what I am trying to teach at home. It shouldn't take too much of your time, unless your other students also want your attention with their individual projects and efforts. Then you'll have to hear how no one cares about the oldest/middle/youngest child. The whole whistle practice won't take too long. Fifteen or twenty minutes tops.

Finally, for all teachers: I am sending my kids to the classroom with Barbies, board games, bicycles, sidewalk chalk, scooters, baseball cards, photo albums, records, a box of old buttons, brownie mix, an excellent climbing tree and a box of crayons. One of the most important things I can do for my child as their parent is give them the time, space and tools they need to have a fun-filled childhood. I've been a parent in the system for almost thirteen years, and I have found that my children need to decompress and get completely away from the seven hour longer, most bestest school day ever, if they are to go back to it the next day refreshed and ready to learn. Four hours is barely enough time to do this, especially if they have homework. I need you to reinforce during the seven-hour school day, what I am trying to teach during the four-hour school night, that there is a time for work, and a time for play, and you need time away from each in order to enjoy them both.

One more thing teachers, it is my policy to send work home with you over the holiday breaks as well. It won't cut into your vacation time too much....thirty minutes tops.