THE BLOG

Learning, Playing and Planning for Extraordinary Growth

06/28/2015 10:18 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2016

See Jane run.

From my early days of learning to read, Dick, Jane, and Spot always seemed to be up to something. Running here and there. Socializing. Problem solving. Saying Please and Thank you.

Dick and Jane didn't just teach us the words; they modeled how to behave in polite society. In today's world, we find things are much the same and, yet, they are very different. Back in the day, we learned the skills at school, and then had all the time in the world to practice those lessons. We'd get home from school, have a snack, run outside for some much-needed playtime with neighborhood friends, and finally go back home for dinner and a bath, still having enough time to complete a bit of homework. That time with our friends? That was when we practiced social skills, negotiating for our needs and wants, and learned the value of empathy, kindness, fair play, and compassion.

My, my. NOW we see how things have changed!

  • When I was a child I was enrolled in one activity a week; today's children are scheduled, and over-scheduled, not only having daily after-school activities, but sometimes two or three commitments on the same day.
  • My homework didn't take an hour to complete until I was near the end of middle school or into high school. Currently the National Parent Teacher Association and National Education Association recommend a "10-minute rule" (homework should last about 10 minutes multiplied by the students' grade level); many schools have not adopted this practice.

While summer is with us, while you have the time, put some strategies in place so you're well-prepared for the start of the next school year:

  • Parents should first talk with one another and discuss the parameters for how often they want the family to have meals together, how time should be spent over school vacations, if they'll be agreeable to having children participate in activities that extend over those vacations, any carpool logistics that may be of concern, and any cost limitations for the family.
  • Armed with this information, parents and children should then sit down together and have a family meeting that is scheduled in advance so disruptions are less likely to occur. The children should name the activities in which they have the greatest desire to participate and then, as a family, the activities can be researched to learn the time and financial commitments involved.
  • Additional thought should be given to what, if anything, needs to be put in place IN ADVANCE of beginning the activities or the school session. It might be necessary for a child to choose between options. It might be a family requirement that the child have extra home responsibilities in order to be allowed to participate in a special pursuit, or even earn money to help pay for the activity.
  • A homework plan may be decided in advance, with parents sharing their expectations with their child, especially if a more regimented schedule might be necessary for the child in order to be successful in both school and the proposed activity. It may also be advisable to discuss what guidelines will be given to screen time once school begins, and to create a home-study area with all the materials that are typically necessary to complete home assignments.

All of these ideas may seem a bit much, but, really, it's just a matter of strategically planning for what you wish to accomplish. After all, advance preparation, rather than just letting things happen by chance, will reduce stress and anxiety, as well as increase the chances for a successful and rewarding outcome.

And that is why Jane was able to run that long, and that fast. It was all a part of a plan.

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