Thursday, December 5, 2013

Transforming Homework Sessions into Home Memories

Wind chimes clang in the ten degree weather, and students everywhere unload textbooks and notebooks across kitchen tables, or toss heavy backpacks onto worn couches.
Artist Hilda Robinson, "Studying at the Table"
What transforms homework sessions into home memories? 

It's the x-factor, that unknown variable that finagles its way into each afternoon. Whether its mixed formulas in Algebra or seismology from Physical Science, there is always a potential for life to be shaken right up, huh?

Class homework seems to be an afterschool event in most families. How do we create happy family environments and memories while flipping pages, erasing problems gone wrong, and keeping everyone on task?

Cutting into gooey caramel-chocolate cupcakes, my teen daughter and I wrote out algebra problems side-by-side on the sunny kitchen table today. I sipped hot coffee and we looked together at the problems she had misunderstood earlier.

"Oh, I see it. I know what I did wrong," she exclaimed, circling a forgotten negative sign. We moved on to other problems, cracking jokes, getting drinks of water, and talking with others in the room.

After one too many interruptions, I became agitated and brusquely brought us back on track. "Okay, let's focus now," I said, sterner than I needed to.

"Mom, we're fine. It's okay. I'm working," assured Morgan.

I paused and remembered. Laughter, calm, and intentionality make the difference. We both visibly relaxed, sinking deeper into our chairs in the sunlight, working quietly on math problems together. Quiet saxophone music played from a corner of the kitchen.

Later Daniel and I read books together, noticing rhyming sounds, commenting on watercolor illustrations, and learning about bats and shadows. We made paper cut outs for shadows, and cast long pictures across the living room floor, before ducking into the bathroom with a flashlight too. Shadow bats, cats, and snowmen wavered in the light, dancing in his hands.

"See how any shadow picture needs the light?" I taught Daniel. "Without light there is no shadow. Where is the light source to make this shadow?"  

Those phrases suddenly seemed much deeper than simple preschool science. To cast a picture, there is always a light. There is always a light. Where is the light source? Without the light there is no image.

Hmm, I snapped off the red flashlight, and headed back to the kitchen. Peaceful saxophone music still played, Morgan gathered up her heavy science books, and I sought out children's videos about bats.

(Also linking up with Emily at Imperfect Prose.)


Brian Miller said...

learning can be a lot of fun...i think part of it is being engaging...relevant...def teaching the last couple years has given me an appreciation for when you can pull it off...smiles. good to see you...smiles.

dawn said...

Learning, home and learning together- such possibility and potential. Challenging to find the balance but sounds like you are getting along just fine.

Misty said...

When I homeschooled my youngest I often let the adult in me forget how fun it could be to be a kid... now that our homeschool days are done, and she's in high school, I feel bad about that.

Floyd said...

Making memories. True love in action makes the best ones and you're teaching in love and wisdom. Not many of us can do what you do... Great job, heart, and wisdom.

Dolly@Soulstops said...

Jennifer, what a great job you are doing with your are teaching them more than just are teaching them about love and life...and this Advent, as we celebrate the Light coming into the appropriate :) Merry Christmas :)

Wise Hearted said...

Jennifer you make home schooling fun and your children will for ever be blessed.

We visited northern Minnesota for Thanksgiving. Cold and snowy but we flew out just before this last snow storm hit. I forget how much beauty the snow can bring but I also forget how cold cold can be. Blessing

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Brian,

I love how much I learn as a result of researching whatever I'm teaching. It seems I'm the first pupil. :)

Have a great year with your students,

Jennifer Dougan said...

Thanks, Dawn. It's nice to talk with you again.

Have a great week,
Jennifer Dougan

Jennifer Dougan said...


Thanks for this reminder to not lose the fun factor. It goes by fast doesn't it? My oldest is in college too.

Have a great week,
Jennifer Dougan

Jennifer Dougan said...

Thank you, Floyd.


Jennifer Dougan said...

Thanks for slipping in here, quiet and encouraging, Dolly.

Jennifer Dougan

Jennifer Dougan said...


Glad you had a nice time here for Thanksgiving. :) It sounds like you got out just in time! It's frigid this week,
Jennifer Dougan