School Achievements, Homework and Challenges

Q: My little girl is far advanced of the other children in her class. Her teacher is complaining about her daydreaming, humming or just “spacing out” in class. She calls it a “behavioral problem.” We think it is because she is bored and unchallenged. The school doesn’t test for admission to their gifted program until next year. In the meantime, how can we handle this? – Daydreamer

A: Daydreaming in school can’t be all bad, as both Albert Einstein and Robert Frost were daydreamers. So your daughter is in good company. The big question is: How is she doing in school? Is she an academic superstar who aces all her work? If the teacher agrees that the work appears way too easy for your child, can he or she find a way to add more challenge to the curriculum?

Many students do have the ability to listen in class and absorb information even though they appear to be daydreaming. Of course, humming while the other children are working quietly can be distracting. The teacher should be able to bring your child back to focusing on her schoolwork by asking her questions or talking to her about the work that she is doing. Is there any possibility that this is an attention problem? What is your child’s behavior like home? In any case, you don’t want her to get in the habit of not paying attention in class.
Parents do bear a responsibility for providing their gifted children with challenging activities from visits to museums to art lessons. If the school curriculum proves to be totally inappropriate for your child, there is always the possibility of homeschooling her.

Q: Since research is now showing homework doesn’t truly affect achievement in elementary school, I am wondering why teachers still want children to have nightly assignments? – Puzzled Parent

A: The value of homework is not limited to achievement. If your children can get just some of the following benefits that doing homework brings, it will make it so much easier for them to be top students at school:
The opportunity for additional practice of skills learned in the classroom
The acquisition of good study skills
The development of time management skills
Learning how to be organized
The development of such traits as initiative, independence, and responsibility
The extension of learning beyond the classroom
Getting in the homework habit for later grades
Letting parents see their children’s schoolwork

Q: I never know how much involvement parents are supposed to have in a school project? – Wondering

A: This is an age-old question and will continue to be asked as long as teachers assign projects. There is a fine line between helping too little and too much. Naturally, parental involvement with younger children will be greater than with older children, especially if a project is very complicated. If you are truly uncertain about how much help to provide, ask the teacher.

One role parents always have is to provide encouragement and show interest along the way with any project their children do. Parents also have the job of funding the project and driving their children to buy the needed supplies. From the first project their children do, parents should teach their children how to develop a timeline for completing each step of a project. This makes it much easier for children to handle future projects on their own.

Parents need to keep in mind that the teachers have been working with their children all year and know their ability levels. They know their range of vocabulary so they can quickly spot a book report that mom or dad wrote for their child. They also know what a teepee would look like if a second grader or an adult made it. And parents should avoid making fancy computer charts for their children. Projects should not show the helping hand of parents.

Parents should send questions to Dear Teacher, in care of Charlotte Parent, PO Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395 or