Are we overloading our kids with homework and killing their creativity?

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hwAccording to recent news (see Flanders Today and Klasse Leraren), in some countries, such as Belgium, children are overloaded with homework:

Secondary schools are overloading students with homework, according to Lyle Muns, chairman of the Flemish secondary school students organisation. Muns feels excessive homework assignments are obliging many students to stay home too much, with too little time to develop essential social skills. Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show that Flemish 15-year-olds spend an average just over six hours a week on homework; their Finnish counterparts, for instance, spend 3.7 hours a week on assignments but achieve better results.

Personally, I have nothing against working and studying hard, as long as it involves intrinsic motivation strongly coupled with spiritual satisfaction, but I have also started to get the impression that kids these days, at least a representative sample I generally come across, are really busy; busier than adults, if I may say so!

Finland, in this case, stands as the ultimate example of the worn out cliché “work smarter, not harder”. Nevertheless, I think we need to think more about the correlation (and the causality relationship) between the amount of homework given to the kids and their long-term success, because, well, in the long-term that’s what counts, and not some temporary test scores that helps the feelings of teachers and parents.

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Brieven aan Jonge Ouders (Letters to Young Parents) Magazine

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We have recently received yet another issue of Brieven aan Jonge Ouders (Letters to Young Parents) magazine and I wanted to say thank you to the Gezinsbond (Family Bond) organization in Belgium for this nice and useful publication. We’ve received this magazine on a regular basis since our son was born in 2011, and it contains a lot of useful information for parents and every issue focuses on babies at the relevant age , e.g. the most recent issue is for 19-20 month old toddlers (see the photograph below). During the first few months we have even received another magazine (from the same organization) for grandparents, describing things that they can do with their grandchildren 🙂 I truly appreciate the efforts of the editors and authors of this magazine.

Jonge Ouders

Jonge Ouders

 

Parents underestimate their children’s worry levels and overestimate their optimism

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Apparently, parents’ job does not get easier. Or maybe that’s the curse of evolution on modern life, what do you think?:  Parents underestimate their children’s worry levels and overestimate their optimism

It’s well-established that parents frequently overestimate their children’s intelligence and the amount of exercise they get. Now a team led by Kristin Lagattuta has uncovered evidence suggesting that parents have an unrealistically rosy impression of their kiddies’ emotional lives too. It’s a finding with important implications for clinicians and child researchers who often rely on parental reports of young children’s psychological wellbeing.

It’s previously been assumed that children younger than seven will struggle to answer questions about their emotions. Undeterred, Lagattuta and her colleagues simplified the language used in a popular measure of older children’s anxiety and they developed a pictorial scoring system that involved the children pointing to rectangles filled with different amounts of colour. Time was taken to ensure the child participants understood how to use the scale.

To read the rest of this interesting visit http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.be/2012/09/parents-underestimate-their-childrens.html.

Note to myself: I’d better take it seriously if our son seems psychologically uncomfortable (better be safe than sorry?).

Trying out the WebMD Baby app for Android

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I’m certainly not one of those app-o-holic people who try out more than a few ‘app’s everyday, constantly install and uninstall and compare and review (even the thought of it becomes tiring after some time), but occasionally I take a look at what Google Play recommends and to my luck I came accross a nice one about parenting by the famous WebMD series: WebMD Baby app for Android. My impression? So far so good; it is nice to be provided with nuggets of simple yet important information that helps me remember what I’ve already read and started to forget, if for nothing else. I did not find the logbook part particularly useful and the part ‘only for dads’ made me smile a lot. I’d recommend this to dads who look for a memory refreshment regarding what really matters when it comes to the health of their young beloved ones.

WebMD Baby app for Android

WebMD Baby app for Android

The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development

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The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development

The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development

The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development gave me enough food for thought on the topic of morality and children. I’ve just become a father and I also happen to see many kids from various ages in my extended family. My thoughts and feelings after observing the younger ones and teens, how they react to their peers, elders and to the world in general is neither very optimistic nor really pessimistic but I must confess that I generally tend to be a little pessimist. Sometimes I feel like I will not have much say when my son will be a teenager, all that peer pressure and other parameters that will be more or less out of my control. But on the other hand, I also observe the parents and see how their behavioral patterns affect the children, e.g. their attitude towards sports activities, how they value sports and what kind of ethical standards they adhere to.

Richard Weissbourd draws a pretty broad and sincere picture about the current situation of parenting in USA, as well as major problems and attitudes towards children. Some parts of the book may run the risk of sounding a little alien to the people outside of USA, but in this highly connected world of ours I don’t think we can deny the influence of culture from the other side of Atlantic. One of the striking points of the book is how Weissbourd describes the changes of attitude in immigrant children: in the beginning they are very nice, polite, hard-working and respectful (according to their teachers) but after a few years of interacting with their peers in USA they undergo a dramatic change of attitude towards their teachers, school life, and moral values; which is generally perceived as very negative by the very same teachers.

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Prenatal Information Evening @ University Hospital of Antwerp (UZA): A few lessons for mothers and fathers – Part 2

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One week after the first session we attended the second and final session of ‘Prenatal Information Evening’ at UZA (University Hospital of Antwerp).  Similar to the previous one it began with valuable and informationally loaded presentations from experienced medical staff. In addition to medical information (such as the importance of pelvis and then details about breastfeeding) it was also great to learn more about ‘Kind en Gezin‘, a Belgian government organization dedicated to family and child support.

Prenatale Infoavond - 2

Prenatale Infoavond - 2

After the presentations there was a short break and then a nurse took us to the fifth floor and showed us the maternity. We had the opportunity to see where the pregnant women stay when they first come to the hospital birth, and then the labor rooms to which they are brought when the pain starts. Across those rooms were the operation rooms where the actual birth takes place.

I’m really thankful to every person who organized such a nice and informative event for us parents. I think this kind of orientation is very important because when the baby decides it is time say “Hello, world!” I’m sure I’ll feel a sense a panic no matter what and I’m glad I won’t have to think where exactly I should take my wife to. And having some information and idea how the whole process will go on is assuring.

Prenatal Information Evening @ University Hospital of Antwerp (UZA): A few lessons for mothers and fathers – Part 1

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Two days ago we attended the first part of “Prenatale Infoavond” (Prenatal Information Evening) session organized by UZA (University Hospital of Antwerp). This is an informational evening session to prepare expectant mothers, and freely available to them (and their relatives); all we had to do was to register ourselves by signing the application form a few weeks before the event. I was curious about this event because I know that UZA has certificate of ‘Baby and Mother-friendly Hospital‘, a program initiated by “UNICEF and the World Health Organization to ensure that all maternities,whether free-standing or in a hospital, become centers of breastfeeding support.” (Recent research indicates that there is strong evidence showing this initiative led to higher level of breastfeeding.)

I must admit that I did not expect such a smooth and information-rich organization. We were greeted by nurses and midwives, on the tables before the auditorium entrance there were very high quality booklets and brochures related to birth, small bottles of oils and creams for mothers and babies. Organizers were also kind enough to provide us with an abundant amount of tea, coffee, orange juice, water, etc.

Prenatale Infoavond @ UZA

Prenatale Infoavond @ UZA

The evening consisted of two presentations with a fifteen-minute pause in between. In the first session a senior nurse gave a presentation during which she talked about the labor process before birth and the birth itself. In addition to her slides she showed samples of instruments that may be used during birth such an electrode that can be attached to the baby’s head to record its brainwaves, a vacuum pump that sticks to the baby’s head and guides the baby, etc. There were more than one of each instrument and everybody had the chance to examine them by themselves. Meanwhile the nurse continued to give information about the labor process, what kind of hormones are involved, how the bonding between the mother and child (as well as father and child) is established (the child is directly and nakedly placed on the chest of the mother) and what the mothers should be expecting at the preparation and labor room.

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