Too Much, Too Little, or Just the Right Amount of Struggle: What Do Butterflies Have to Do With Engagement?

As a family, a school, and a community, we want what is best for our children; we want them to be successful, to have a world of opportunities, to be comfortable, and to be confident. For some, this means finding the right balance between guiding and supporting without an overemphasis on doing, problem-solving, decision-making, and shielding from negative experiences or natural consequences. Perhaps I’m pushing the season a bit, hoping for Spring to finally arrive, but… when I think about the consequences of over-engagement, I think about the butterfly, who needs to struggle, to fail, and to try again and again to work its way out of the safety of its cocoon; if we free it too soon, it doesn’t develop the necessary strength, independence, and resilience to fly into the world. Continue reading

Homework or Inspired Family-School Practice?

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Homework is a topic worthy of discussion for families, schools, even researchers. Families often struggle to complete the work assigned by school amidst their family practices and commitments, and may as a result feel guilty about not supporting the school.  Some families feel unable to support their children with schoolwork (particularly as it increases in complexity with each academic year), leaving them feeling less than adequate on the landscape of school. Children often feel less than successful, particularly as family members get frustrated, questioning, “Didn’t you learn this at school?” Schools and Ministries do their absolute best to support families with regard to traditional homework completion: they host curriculum evenings designed to demystify the curriculum, they post lists of to-dos (e.g., how to set up a routine, how to support, how to change your language), and they try to be as explicit as possible about the homework. And all of this occurs within a culture of research that suggests that while homework is an educational staple, it’s unclear as to what types of homework make a long-term difference (see Homework: New Research Suggests or Finding the Right Balance). Continue reading