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Homework Q & A

Homework. It’s something most families live with. For some families it feels burdensome while for others it is a welcome step in reaching their academic goals. Some children bring home more homework than others. Some parents are far more involved in their children’s homework than others. Every situation is different, but we all need wisdom to think through homework – how to keep it in proper bounds, how to use it well, and how to use it to help our children grow academically.

Our friends at the Ambrose School, a fellow-ACCS school in Boise, Idaho, published a series of questions and answers that addresses several homework-related issues. I hope it provides some food for thought and some clarification.

Q: I’m spending hours with my grammar school student doing homework. I don’t even know how to do some of this stuff! (Latin for example).

A: Throughout the 3rd, 4th or 5th grade, students should work toward independence. Parents often make students dependent by being too involved in their homework. While this may make one feel needed, depending on the student it can be counterproductive. We encourage parents to gradually but continually put pressure on students to do their own work.

Q: If I don’t check my student’s work, he makes lots of careless mistakes. What do I do?

A: On the contrary, if you continually prevent your children from turning in assignments with careless mistakes, they will not learn to be more careful. Let them make the mistakes and learn from their failures.

Q: My child gets very stressed if he or she doesn’t get high marks on every assignment. We spend hours trying to get everything “just right.”

A: This “perfectionism” is best addressed at a young age. Students develop healthier practices overall when they learn to do work that is less than “perfect.” If not addressed, your student will likely develop difficulties accepting their performance in many areas of life. No one is perfect. Students need to accept B’s and C’s when they have done their best in the allotted homework time. This is resolved best by through strictly limiting homework time. [Recommended reading here: Ending the Homework Hassle by John Rosemond]

Q: My older student spends between 4 and 6 hours every night doing homework. He is really frustrated, even to the point of sneaking time in the middle of the night to do homework. Sometimes he even cries. I’m not sure how long he can keep this up. What can we do?

A: 7th through 12th grade students are expected to do up to 3 hours of homework nightly. When students exceed this amount on a regular basis, a problem needs to be addressed or they will be overwhelmed. First, speak with the teacher to verify that the student is doing their work in class and is approaching it correctly. The most common reason for this problem is a lack of diligence, even if this does not seem to be the case. Many students are prone to distractions: they take breaks when the work becomes difficult; they rotate between activities (homework, practicing an instrument, eating, drinking, playing, etc.); or they rotate between subjects too frequently (although this can sometimes help when the student is stuck on a problem). Even when it appears that the student is working diligently, his concentration may be scattered. He may be putting a lot of energy in, but accomplishing very little. Diligence requires structure and self-discipline. In our experience, this is a gradual process that takes 2 to 3 months to develop. The key is not to allow the student to spend more than 3 or 3 ½ hours on homework during this adjustment time. The overall time restriction will help them budget their time and move more quickly. The pressure actually makes them more efficient. This prevents the “doldrums” that occur when a student labors without being productive. Students need a time incentive to “run for the prize” rather than just labor, seemingly in vain.

Q: My student seems to be doing well, but I’m not! He’s only in the 4th grade and he’s already asking questions I can’t answer, particularly in Latin, English grammar, Science, and Math.

A: Our curriculum challenges students, and often parents. Our teachers realize this and will gladly help with questions after school or on break. Encourage your student to plan their work so that they have time to ask questions of their teacher.

Q: My student has many activities that keep him from doing homework on certain nights. How can we manage this?

A: Many of our students have busy activities. This provides an opportunity for them to learn how to plan in advance. Teachers publish homework assignments on a weekly basis and in advance by several days (often over a week). These are available on Renweb, our internet parent information system. Students can also obtain these directly from teachers. Students should be encouraged on Friday or Saturday to plan the upcoming week. For example, if a student has activities on Tuesday and Thursday, they should plan on the previous Friday to get at least one of the assignments for each of those days done over the weekend.

If you have questions about the work your child is bringing home from school, please let me encourage you to go see your child’s teacher. He or she is ready to talk it out and provide the clarification or help that is needed.


Challenging our Children to Do Hard Things

Parents sometimes become distressed when their children are asked to do hard things. After all, we love our children and want to protect them. When children are challenged, stretched, or required to do things that are above them, they respond in different ways. More adventurous souls will get excited by the challenge while more timid children may shrink away. One thing is sure: our children will rise to the level of the expectations that we hold them to.

We are preparing our children to be adults. That’s why we should constantly be finding ways to prepare them for an adult world. In our culture, in which the perpetual adolescence of marathon gaming sessions, pizza on the couch, and gallons of Mountain Dew till early in the morning is the ideal, training your children to be adults will be counter-cultural. Young children who act like young children are cute, but older children who act like young children, well, that’s a different matter.

When you require your children to do hard things, hold them accountable to your instructions, maintain a high standard, and expect maturity and responsibility, you are preparing them to succeed not just in school but in life. You are preparing them to be adults.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying: children should be allowed to be children. Children should play and use their imaginations and be given the freedom to explore the world as children. But a romanticized view of childhood that wants me-centered children only to play, continually to let themselves go in a Willy Wonka-like candyland of childhood pleasures, is a myopic view. There is an adult world that we are preparing our children to enter, and we must indeed prepare them. We have children, but we are training adults.

The Christian Scriptures require it of us. The Triune God raises His children toward maturity (Eph. 4:13-14), and so should we. So when we require children to memorize Scripture passages that they do not fully understand, when we lead children to pray prayers that are far too profound for them, when we teach children historical facts that have ramifications reaching far beyond their grasp, we are creating grooves for a lifetime. Children’s minds and hearts can run along these grooves as they mature, and then when they are adults, they will have familiarity with Scriptures, prayers, historical facts, and worldviews that fit them for usefulness in God’s kingdom and in the world.

Do you have a vision for your children’s maturity? Are you creating grooves for their maturity? Are you challenging them to do hard things? Regents loves childhood, silliness, and play. But we reject foolishness. We want to help you propel your children toward maturity and greater usefulness to God and to the world.


Time for ButterBraid!

It’s time to sell ButterBraid!

This year we’re happy to announce that we have a specific target for our fundraising: a new monument sign for the school! It’s going to take approximately $10,000 (possibly more) to purchase our new sign, so SELL, SELL, SELL!! Our school keeps 40% of each Butter Braid pastry we sell. Yes, they seem expensive, but they’re delicious, unique, easy-to-prepare for a home-baked treat, and they help our school fund specific projects like a new school sign. (And you can’t get them anywhere else!)

This year we have TWO new products: a savory 4-cheese & herb ButterBraid that’s truly delicious. It can be served with marinara sauce and even comes with a small container of sauce. Also new this year are Apple Dumplings (4/package): fresh whole apples wrapped in flaky pastry for you to bake in your oven and serve hot – with your favorite ice cream. Yum! What a wonderful fall treat!

This past Wednesday, our six seniors enjoyed passing out samples to friendly parents and grandparents to kick off our two-week campaign. Remember: we only have 14 days to sell all we can, and don’t forget there are prizes for the TOP TWO persons who sell the most pastries (# of items). If you have any questions, contact Mrs. Nicole Alders (Lnalders@gmail.com). She’ll be happy to help!

Order forms (and money) are due back in the office by September 29th. Let’s do our best to meet our goal of at least $5,000 this year!

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In Loco Parentis Maximized

There is a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that pictures Calvin as a square peg being beaten into a round hole, then as a zombie, a robot, a hamster on a wheel, a parrot, and a prisoner on a chain gang. At the end of the strip, Hobbes asks, “Another typical day at school?”

I hope you (and your children!) don’t share Calvin’s impressions of school, but I know you want your child’s experience at school to be as happy and beneficial as possible. Your child’s teachers share that desire. The Christian school and parents have a unique partnership, in which each has specific roles and responsibilities.

Please allow me to share a few thoughts on what parents can do to maximize this partnership and make your child’s experience at Regents Academy as beneficial as possible.

First, realize the fact that the school relationship is a partnership, not a solo act.

Resist the temptation to be a drop-off parent who thinks, “They do the educating. I do the parenting. I pay them thousands of dollars so that I don’t have to worry about the education part.” No, parenting is educating. We are your partners in fulfilling your responsibility under God to educate your children.

When you approach school as a partnership rather than as a responsibility that you have abdicated or shifted, it changes everything. You get involved with the day-to-day progress of your children. You go over spelling lists and discuss the literature of the week and review math facts and probe your child’s Bible knowledge. You spot weaknesses to work on and strengths to praise and celebrate. You see the teacher’s role as an adjunct to what you are already doing. You support the teacher in countless ways as a co-laborer rather than as a mere spectator. You develop trust with your child’s teacher as you work together with him or her.

Teachers love it when parents are deeply involved with the academic progress of their students. And the opposite is true as well: teachers get frustrated with parents who are distant and only minimally involved in the education of their children. We, as parents, must take seriously our responsibility under to God in the education of our children.

Second, cultivate a healthy skepticism that follows the dictum, “Trust but verify.” In short, don’t believe everything your children tell you happened at school.

I am not suggesting that you regard your child as a liar. I am suggesting that you be wise. A pastor I once worked with used to say, “There are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth.” There is truth to his statement. Your child will inevitably tell the story from her perspective and so will tell it a certain way. She will include certain details while omitting others. She will reverse the order of events or remember something wrong or make inferences that sound like facts.

Or perhaps she is lying. That is indeed a possibility. Solomon wrote in Proverbs that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. That includes sins like lying. If you believe your child is incapable of lying, you should go back to what the Bible says about her.

So don’t automatically believe everything your child says about what happened at school. Instead, try to understand what happened as best you can. Ask your child questions in a calm and even tone. Seek facts, not interpretations and inferences. Then, call or approach your child’s teacher as soon as possible. Avoid accusing your teacher before hearing her perspective. Ask what happened and listen carefully.

I have observed parents who listen to the story their child tells and then go to the teacher and point the finger angrily, accusing the teacher of unfairness or inconsistency without allowing the teacher a single word of explanation. Also, I have observed parents who listen to the story their child tells, accept every word, and then refuse to go to the teacher at all but instead bury the grievance, which quickly rots into bitterness and anger. In either case, this is a formula for a poisoned parent-teacher relationship. The Bible calls us to peace, not poison.

My own children have come home and reported an occurrence at school that was unsettling or problematic. We talked to the teacher and found out that what really happened was quite different from what we were told. Or, we found out that what happened was accurate, but it had been dealt with. In either case reacting based on my children’s account alone — or reacting with my emotions bent out of shape — would have been the worst thing I could have done.

A teacher once said, “If you promise not to believe everything your child says happens at school, I’ll promise not to believe everything he says happens at home.” Sounds like a good agreement to abide by.

Finally, let me suggest that if you have a problem or an issue with your child’s teacher, go directly to the teacher as soon as possible.

You will be tempted to gossip about it with others. You will be tempted to bury it until it festers into anger or bitterness. You will be tempted to send a scathing text or email. You will be tempted to stew over it until it bursts out later. You will be tempted to do lots of things that are neither productive nor biblical.

The right response is to go to your child’s teacher with a gentle and gracious spirit and simply ask to talk about the issue. In Matthew 18 our Lord taught us that if someone sins against us, we ought to go to that person and tell him his fault. Talking about it with others, unless you are genuinely seeking counsel in dealing with the issue, is not an option. It requires humility in parents to go to a teacher with the right spirit. It also requires humility in a teacher to be willing to acknowledge his faults and rectify them. It takes wisdom, too, because sometimes the teacher has done nothing wrong or has unintentionally hurt feelings.

Regents teachers are not only willing to talk things over with you, they are eager to do so. Almost every week, I see or hear of faithful parents who come to a teacher and share their concern, and the issue is dealt with peacefully and effectively. We live in a community, with teachers partnering with parents to teach and train children for Christ. We are fellow believers — grown-ups — who are called to act in love.

Now, I know that these are your children, and it is easy to get emotional or upset when you perceive an issue with a teacher. All the more reason to pray, get control, and go straight to the one who needs to work it out: the teacher.

What do you do if that meeting doesn’t yield results? That is the time, perhaps, to go to the headmaster and seek another hearing. Maybe there is more information that will clear things up, or maybe the headmaster can go to the teacher and get to the bottom of things and bring a resolution to the matter.

Please know this, parents: we are thankful for you and for the trust you place in us.


Welcome, Mrs. Melissa Ketchen

Regents Academy is very happy to welcome Mrs. Melissa Ketchen as its new first grade teacher for the 2017-18 school year.

Originally from New Zealand, Mrs. Ketchen taught for a number of years in Christian schools, but her most recent educational experience was homeschooling her four children, Abel, Natalie, Susanna, and Hayley (who will all be enrolling at Regents this fall). Mrs. Ketchen and her husband Nathan recently moved to Nacogdoches from Colorado and are looking forward to making many new friends at Regents.

Welcome, Mrs. Ketchen!