Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summertime Studyin'

This summer is going to be different. That's what I promised myself in April, and reminded myself in May. This summer, my kids are going to have stuff to do. They aren't going to sit around and say I'm booorrreed and can I have more computer time?

School got out on May 21st, after my kids had completed 170 days of school. WTF??? When I was a kid, and even when I was a teacher, the standard was 180 days of school. Like all kids in Texas, our kids had to take the TAKS test (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills). Any kid who passed the TAKS test, had decent attendance and good grades, was eligible for early dismissal (meaning May 21). The extra 10 days (actually, only 9 because of Memorial Day) are called "flex days" when kids can come for extra academic work. In the past, the school has also offered elective classes, like Hawaiian culture (i.e. Luau Party) or Sports (i.e. All-Day Recess). Not that it's okay to skip two weeks of academics, but at least the kids are at school for those full 180 days and maybe enjoying being at school. But this year, I guess the nazi Principal is really getting her panties in a twist about the TAKS scores, so the only kids who could stay for flex days were those needing academic help. Our kids were actually requested NOT to come to school, as they would be bored and the teachers really needed to focus on the kids needing extra help.

So, anyway, I'm forcing my kids to do school work at home. I had such big plans! They would do book reports! And art projects! And science experiments!! So far? They've done a lot of workbook pages. I bought those all-in-one workbooks from Sam's Club for $8 a piece. They have sections on Reading, Spelling, Math, and Reading Comprehension. They are fine, and they really saved me a lot of work from looking online for worksheets that fit my plans. But, I don't know how interesting they are.

The one thing they HAVE done is give me some leverage for the computer time. We really try to limit our kids' exposure and time on the computer. Our kids get 45 minutes of fun play time, twice a week. Plus, beyond that, they get 20 minutes every day they don't have "fun time" for "educational time". But my kids and I have some disagreement about what constitutes "educational". My kids want to play games like Asteroids. They claim, "I have to plan it out! I have to know where I'm going to shoot my bullets! I have to figure out how to conserve my bullets!" Yeah, not so much. But I did come across sites like this.

And this.

And their favorite one is this.

Now, while I like the idea of my kids playing games that are meant for kids, with cutesy fun animation, and there is a clear absence of blood and scantily-clad girls, I'm still not sure how "educational" these games are. Teaching logic? Sure. Teaching kids how to think outside the box? Yep. Teaching kids how to differentiate between the right-click and left-click? Definitely.

I am really on the fence about the computer... I don't think it's evil. I absolutely see how it can be used as a great learning tool. But I wonder if we're really using it like we could. Or like we should.

How do your kids use the computer?

Texan Mama


Swizz said...

Sign up for Zoodles! The free version doesn't keep them from the fun stuff, but the paid one does. And the kids in this house LOVE it! Plus...they can't get to the rest of your computer accidentally.

Jennifer said...

Very rarely, but mine are only 5 and 2. Sometimes I let Baby Girl have computer time on the weekend, but it is always a site I pick out like Playhouse Disney, Sprout, etc.

Come for the weekend and we can take them so they can learn all about the Big Thicket. That would be educational.

anymommy said...

I am SO glad that I don't have to deal with this yet. I think I'll count everything as screen time and try to limit it to a certain amount per day...but am I going to follow the rules? Yikes.

Frugal Vicki said...

Okay, my hubby and I were laughing the whole way through, because he is from Texas and we always joke about "Texas education" (just a joke, no offense!!)
Isn't it amazing how they can be so convincing on what they want???

Sturgmom said...

I am still in shock that ELEMENTARY students got flex days. Only the high school students in my district got them! And they were actually scheduled mostly for days after school let out for everyone else, but before summer school started.

Anyway, we don't give our kiddos much computer time. They always end up screwing something up by clicking on something they shouldn't (not bad things, but it's still annoying) so we mostly skip the computer altogether.

Bridgett said...

Yeah, kind of in shock about "flex time" for elementary school. But as for your question re computers, we do use computers at home (Mike's in IT, I'm obviously on the computer). It is reward only, although sometimes the reward (like Maeve on PBS kids) leads to, you know, a little phonics. But I don't use it to try to teach anything. As a former chalk-based teacher, I don't trust computers that way.

Sophia has a blog that only invited folks can read--this has helped create interest in writing and typing for the dysgraphia. She also has an email address and I screen incoming and outgoing mail. She rarely uses it though. Mostly, it's "screen time" and counts against mindless TV watching...and for the most part, it's fooling around with GIMP (free photoshop like program) or pbskids or the online typing program (ok, so that I do use educationally....).

I'm always in the room or in the next room--our computer is in a public area and that won't change.

The Empress said...

Hi, came over from SITS. What an adorable blog you have...highly highly cute.

Glad I hopped over.

McVal said...

My kids use the computer many different ways...
my 18 year old uses it to practice in his skills of defending us against possible zombie attacks.
my 15 year old uses it to keep up with what her friends are talking about on Facebook and where the next bon fire will be.
my 10 year old uses it to mostly watch Taylor Swift videos... watch movies and play games.

So far, they're not coming out to my home office and saying they're bored, because they know I have a never ending list of things for them to do if they do that... The house will be a pit all summer...

Wendy said...

I think this was a great idea!

My kids spent the last two weeks of school watching MOVIES. Please! Total waste of taxpayer money.

I can't even get started about the TAKS test. Sheesh.