Worried about Summer Learning Loss? Isn’t Minecraft Educational?

by Judy Arnall

Your ten-year old daughter is wasting another beautiful summer day inside the house, playing Minecraft. You fear that her brain is becoming atrophied for lack of academic stimulation. You worry about education company warnings that children can lose a month of their school year learning during the summer. Will summer fun and a “break from formal learning” cause kids to fall behind academically in the Fall? Is there another way to keep up with academic learning other than by text books and lectures? Could video games support education? Hey, isn’t Minecraft educational? Yes, of course it is! Any type of toy or game is educational, in that it teaches children knowledge, life skills and the competencies outlined by Alberta Education in the new curriculum redesign.

Often, parents are critically conscious of the time spent on computer games, and assume that video games and toys are a frivolous waste of time. They think that if the game doesn’t directly teach math or language skills, time is wasted. However, indirect teaching of communication and math skills may be the best feature of gaming, along with enjoyment of plot, graphics, music and gameplay. A game can develop academic learning and competencies, even though not marketed as an “educational game”.

As a parent of five gamers (both genders), I learned early that my children hated the “educational games” that have primitive graphics, poor logic, clumsy interface, are non-multiplayer and just plain lame. “Educational games” seem to be marketed to parents that aim for functional use of time, rather than fun. When my kids immersed themselves in games like World of Warcraft, Nox, Spore, Gizmos and Gadgets, Age of Empires, Graal, Runescape and League of Legends, they learned not only reading, writing and math skills, but also knowledge of social studies, mythology, history and science. They learned valuable social skills such as cooperation and conflict resolution with other players in the same game, and with buddies outside the game playing with them in the same room. They learned personal skills, such as resilience during adversity, perseverance and commitment to continue and finish for the team despite discouragement. They learned how to deal with problems, team members and competitors under time pressure. They learned how to win gracefully, and how to face losing with dignity and without throwing a keyboard across the room.

Indirectly, games and toys teach some academic concepts in a way that is compelling to children, aided by the focus that is essential for game success. Parents who don’t play the game may not realise how their children have learned these competencies. Here is a brief overview of how toys and games teach children within the framework of the new curriculum redesign by Alberta Education.
Of course, children still need exercise, fresh air, and breaks from screens, which are also great life skills, but if your daughter chooses to spend her quiet time playing Minecraft, relax! She is counteracting summer learning loss in a fun, educational and engaging way.
Competancyvideogame
*Competencies retrieved from Ministerial Order on Student Learning (#001/2013), Alberta Education and adapted for this article. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/department/policy/standards/goals.aspx on April 29, 2014
Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE is a professional certified parenting and teacher conference speaker, and trainer, mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and love as well as the new book, To University from Unschooling, to be published Fall 2014 http://www.professionalparenting.ca, jarnall@shaw.ca, 403-714-6766 Sign up for notifications of free monthly parenting webinars. Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety. Sections may be deleted for space constraints.

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Hate Homework? Here is an OPT OUT OF HOMEWORK Letter to School

For parents and children who dislike the impact of homework on their family time.  Here is a template of a letter to send to school before the first parent-teacher interviews.  It’s meant as a starting place for discussion of homework and schoolwork boundaries.

Fall 20__

Dear Teacher

Thank you for teaching our child this year.  We as a family strive to live a balanced life that includes a variety of activities. Those activities include volunteering in the community, family social time, rituals and celebrations, part-time jobs, music and art lessons, sports, fellowship clubs, church and much-needed downtime.  We value those activities as much as learning academic subjects in school. 

In order to make time for these activities; we need to establish boundaries that provide a fair division between school instructional time and homework that encroaches upon outside-school time.  Therefore, our family homework policy is as follows:

_________(Your Family Name Here) Family Homework Policy:

The school assignments that are not given adequate instructional class time to complete in school hours, will not be completed at home.

We expect our children to give their best effort and concentration in the ___ hours of instructional class time that the government legislates and the school provides in order for our children to complete the required credits and marks. They can also use any school spares they have to complete school work between the hours of 9:00am and 3:30pm. I expect the school to provide adequate time and instruction in class for the student to complete the government requirements of the entire course.

We expect that our children will not be socially penalized within the classroom for our implementation of the Family Homework Policy, and will not be academically penalized in terms of marks for work that can’t be completed within the allotted school time. The current available research supports our belief that supplemental homework is not required for adequate mastery of the subject matter.  We appreciate that you respect our decision on how to spend our time at home as much as we respect your decisions regarding your time/curriculum management at school.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

Sincerely,

Your Name

How to Get Kids to Do Their Homework

“Help! My Child won’t do Homework!”

Suggestion and Ideas for Getting More Homework Co-operation and Less Power Struggles

 

  • Give choices in subject matter, time, or place of study. E.g. Would the child like to do Math or English today? When is their best, most alert time of day? Would they like to study in their rooms, outside, or on the couch?

 

  • Alternate bookwork days with outing days. Consider helping the child learn in a different way with an outing or field trip instead of researching books.

 

  • Consider giving tests first and if the concepts are mastered, eliminate the text material. Cuts down on boredom and busywork. If you know your child knows the material, talk to the teacher and request less homework.

 

  • Present the material in a fun way and geared to child’s learning style. Use learning aids such as movies, cookie fractions, board and action games such as multiplication tag. Children in elementary school love to learn through play.

 

  • Follow interests as much as possible, if not in format, then in content. For example, if the child has to write essay or book report, perhaps he could choose the topic or book.

 

  • Use rewards if they work for your child. Stickers, passes for fun outings and computer time are some choices from parents. Have a jar of 200 dimes (one for each school day). Any day the child does homework, put in one dime. The child can keep the money at the end of the year.

 

  • Avoid power struggles. Put your relationship building first. Try and approach learning another way. Listen to why your child doesn’t want to do the work.

 

  • For those hesitant writers, try being the scribe while the child dictates ideas. Or try letting them write on the computer, which is easier on little hands.

 

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  • For those hesitant readers, try picking up an enticing children’s book and reading out loud. Your child might come join you if it’s not forced. Model reading yourself. Cuddle on the couch with a child and make reading a fun, cozy, exciting time. Use vocal variety and stop when the child is not longer interested. 

 

  • Keep a routine going when you figure out the best time of day for bookwork.  This has to work for you and your child. Not all children are “right after school” people”. Be kind but firm in sticking to a routine. Children need some structure.

 

  • Have a written contract each week, month or year that is signed and agreed to by the parent and child, about what work must be completed for that time period.

 

  • Children often learn better by discovery than by being told. Lead them to an experiential activity that would reinforce concepts.

 

  • Some months are better than others. Children go through spurts and plateaus and most do not learn in tidy sequential steps. During a plateau, trust that the desire and motivation will come back.

 

  • Assimilation of material takes time. Plan for playtime, down time and many breaks (minutes, days, weeks and even months).

 

  • Create a learning environment of fun, curiosity and good feelings. Make sure everyone is fed, rested, comfortable and non-stressed!

 

  • Never punish for not doing the work. You want to create a climate for lifelong learning and enjoyment of the pursuit of knowledge. Remember, your job is to facilitate learning. Nudge, but don’t force!

 

Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery” She specializes in “Parenting the Digital Generationwww.professionalparenting.ca  (403) 714-6766  jarnall@shaw.ca 

Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety.

How to Get Ready for a New School Year

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Getting Ready for a New School Year

By Judy Arnall

The last days of summer are closing in and thoughts turn to the start of school when that yellow leaves appear on the neighborhood trees.  Parents often wonder how to smooth the transition from summer holidays to school.  Here are some tips to make a new school year successfully smoother:

  1. Don’t shop until the school supply list comes home.  It’s tempting to get a heads up on sales and deals, but if you buy the wrong item, your child will refuse to use it.
  2. When you shop, buy extras of the sale items.  Your child will lose things by Christmas or may want extra supplies for homework tasks at home.
  3. Get haircuts done early.  Most school photos are taken the first week and you want to avoid that just-cut look.
  4. Get the Doctor and Dentist appointments out of the way early.
  5. Photos! Don’t forget to measure and weigh your child or take a photo of them next to the same object every year.  You forget how quickly they grow.
  6. Move back bedtimes.  Change the lights out time 15 minutes per night for the two weeks before school.
  7. Pack away old school work.  Put in boxes and label.
  8. New grade.  New chores.  Celebrate the addition of another year and how capable your child has grown.
  9. The day before school officially opens, walk the halls with your child, get their timetable and map out the hallway and bathroom routes.

10.  Arrange play dates with new buddies.

11.  Draw up a homework contract.  Include stipulations that meet both your child’s and your needs and both of you can sign it.  Post on the wall for those inevitable whining moments.

12.  Separation Anxiety – handover or stay.  You must do whatever fits your parenting style.  You know your child best.

13.  After the initial sales, stock up on extra supplies, which can be marked down 80% by the end of September. Kids lose a lot of things.

14.  Clean up rooms at the end of August.  Pick up garbage, recycle old books, clothes and toys.  Assess whether new furniture needs to be purchased.

Judy Arnall is a Professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery” She specializes in “Parenting the Digital Generationwww.professionalparenting.ca  (403) 714-6766  jarnall@shaw.ca

Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety.

Gearing Up for September