EEME makes monthly hands-on project kits and online lessons to teach kids electronics.
Due to COVID-19, my 2nd grade son has started remote schooling-at-home, now referred to as distance learning. I have predominantly taken the role of watching over his day-to-day education and am learning a lot on how to be a more effective home educator.
As a break from writing about electronics, STEM, and EEME, I thought I'd share some of the learning tactics I'm employing while working with my son.
Summer break has started
Second grade ended for my 8 year old son. Usually, we enroll him in various camps for the summer. But because of COVID, my wife and I have decided to keep both him and his 4 year old sister at home.
When school was in still in session, it was straight forward to keep my son's day pretty structured. He had his distance learning assignments. With my additional lessons on how to use checklists, my son paced his school day relatively effectively.
For the summer of 2020, I am still trying to maintain some structure in my kids' day. For my 4 year old daughter, we have a daily session of some combination of drawing, letter / number writing, and read-along. For my son, we have some combination of reading physical books, math on Khan Academy, programming on Khan Academy, and Mad-Lib writing practice.
About 30% of their day is pretty structured around learning. However, the remainder of the day is still quite chaotic. It generally revolves around free-form playing, goofing around, etc.. Kids will be kids and it is summer break after all.
So don't get me wrong, playing is essential for a kid (and even adults)! But as with anything, when you do it in an unbounded manner, you reach the point of diminishing returns, and end up consuming the entire day. For my kids, if the free-form playing occurs before the structured learning, we fight an uphill battle to even to the structured learning. For instance, my son will plan to have a reading session, but he wants to start his day playing. 8 hours later, near dinner time, I'd ask him if he's done his reading and the answer would be no. He got too involved in racing his toy cars and forgot. Argh!!
How I use the kitchen timer to help my son manage time
Life's most precious resource - time
This led me to a thought - we are taught not to waste food, not to waste water, not to waste money. But what about time?
Now, it is harsh to criticize a child's playing as a "waste of time". But how come we don't teach our kids to keep better track of time and to be more thoughtful in how they decide to spend it?
So rather than go down the path of being that nagging parent that constantly asks their kid if they've done XYZ, I bought my son a couple of kitchen timers. He wants to play, goof off, do whatever, no problem. I'd ask him, "how much time do you think you should spend on doing what you just said you'll do"? "What will you do afterwards"? Then I'd tell him to go set the timer! When the timer goes off, we created an understanding that he should autonomously transition to do that next thing he said he was going to do.
Sometimes he plans a learning sessions first, then a playing session next. No problem. Go set the timer and do it! Sometimes it's reverse. No problem again. Go set the timer and do it! My blood pressure has dropped 10-15% thanks to a kitchen timer.
The timer idea also had some secondary benefits. For some learning activities, he has a hard time getting started - such as Mad-Lib writing. With a timer, he's now become more autonomous about doing it. He knows the exercise is bounded. It doesn't feel so overwhelming to understake. So he has become more willing to do them and does it more effectively.
Even as adults, we've felt overwhelmed at certain tasks (ahem... doing taxes). The timer habit has helped me as well. As a mattter of fact, the timer idea is basically the Pomodoro Technique. But rather than 20 minute chunks, my son has the ability to choose the amount of time to spend on a task. I believe this makes him feel empowered. Additionally, if he chooses 1 minute to read or 8 hours to play, then it's an opportunity for us to reason together about why that may not be the best idea. "If you really want to swim with and study sharks when you get older, you have to learn to read well". For the most part, he gets it.
Unfortunately, my 4 year old daughter is still too young. Stay tuned, I'll write an update 4 years from now. But her older brother does set the timer for her and has started coaching her on time management as well. Oh yeah!! =)
The timer exercise has inspired our family to add the value of time into our set of family values. At the end of the day, time is the universal resource that is guarateed to run out for everyone. Let's make sure our kids understand the value of time, and then trust their judgement to know how to use it wisely as they mature.
If you found this post helpful, please give the timer idea a try with your kids. I'd love to hear how it works for your family.
If you are looking for hands-on electronics kits for your 7-12 year old kid, we are still shipping during this COVID-19 fiasco. Each kit is paired with its own online curriculum to teach your family how to build the circuit as well as how the circuit works.
You can learn with EEME in three ways:
Subscribe to our monthly kits - each month we send you a new project.
Make a one-time purchase of our 9 project set - which is effectively the first 9 month's of projects.
Thanks so much, stay safe, and happy building!!
Jack "EEME Dad"