Kindergarten's 3 R's: Respect, Resources and Rants

I love to share silly stories, teacher tips, crafty how-to's, bulletin board ideas and the occasional coffee-fueled rant at Kindergarten's 3 R's. For 18 years, my Super Stars have been the source of my professional focus and joy!

Michaele is a winner of Top 25 Teacher Moms - 2013

What's one of your favorite new books for children?

Last year, one of my Super Star Families introduced me to Pete the Cat with a gift of "Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes" and "Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes," both of which became class favorites. Every time students discovered another Pete the Cat book, they begged me to add it to our class library. With sing-along music c.d.'s and videos we found online, Pete the Cat became our partner for not only literacy activities, but music and movement wiggle time too!

What advice would you give to a mom who thinks her child has too much homework?

In kindergarten, many children get lots of hands-on practice during school hours. They work on developing their fine and gross motor skills, and are introduced to literacy, math, science, social studies, and creative arts concepts. They socialize and problem solve as they work independently or with partners, small groups, and the teacher. What looks like "just play" to adults is actually exploration and real-life practice. Learning by doing, kindergartners immerse themselves in projects and curricular activities planned and facilitated by their teachers. Many children are so focused and involved in the busy job of learning that they require rest or a nap each afternoon!

Homework in my class looks like what might be considered traditional family time activities, to include special habits that not too long ago, were the norm for many parents and their children: reading a story before bedtime, sharing what was learned while at the dinner table, and helping parents write grocery lists or letters to grandparents. Reminding parents that these activities not only help to strengthen family bonds, but also count as real-world application and practice of important communication and literacy skills is a tip I happily share every year.

I believe parents and teachers should engage in open dialogue with one another to best meet students' needs. Children utilize multiple ways of learning, and the repetition of some forms of homework can not only feel cumbersome, but boring. Ask your child's teacher about alternate projects and activities that will help keep his or her interest. If your child has special needs or requires accommodations for learning, ask your teacher to adjust homework parameters accordingly.

As highly as educators and families regard rigor, we should reconsider whether the constant sacrifice of a child's peaceful moments, times of relaxation, and self-initiated activities is justified.

What's one of your favorite educational activities that can be done outside the classroom?

I'm certainly no rugged outdoorswoman, but I love to expand the walls of my classroom to include not only our school grounds but local attractions like gardens, farms and parks. Planting bulbs in the fall and seeds in the spring helps my students learn about life cycles, seasons, plants and food production. Visiting farms gives many of them their first opportunity to get up close and personal with animals such as cows, chickens, ducks, geese, sheep, pigs and horses, and they get to observe the growth of food products at the source instead of just purchasing the final fruits, veggies, meat, eggs and dairy at the grocery store. Nature parks help my Super Stars to understand their connection to the environment, and with the help of park rangers and nature guides, how to stay safe when outside.