October 9, 2014

“So How Was School Today?”

I recently came across this poem entitled What Did You Do Today?

It got me thinking about how often I’ve asked a similar question of my own children, with little response.  Or I remember asking the even more generic “How was school today?” which usually elicits non-informative answers like “Fine!” or “Good!”.

When children come home at the end of the day,
The question they're asked as they scurry to play,
Is, "Tell me, what did you do in school today?"

"NOTHING! I did NOTHING in school today!"

Maybe nothing means that I played with blocks,
Tied my own shoes, or found precious rocks.
Maybe our monarchs hatched today,

Or maybe I learned a new game to play.

Maybe today was the very first time
My scissors followed a really straight line!
Maybe I sang our song from beginning to end,
Or maybe I made a brand new friend!

When you're only five, and your heart has wings,
NOTHING can mean so many things!

            - Author unknown

At Friends’ School our teachers, in both the preschool and the elementary school, do a wonderful job of updating parents with newsletters packed full of the many ways that the children at Friends’ are learning. Parents who volunteer in our classrooms often tell me how amazed they are at all the engaging and experiential ways the children are involved in school.

Over the years, I have found that when I ask specific questions, my children are more likely to participate in a more robust discussion about their school day. Why not try some of these:

  • What happened in the book your teacher read out loud today?
  • Will you sing me a song that you learned at school today?
  • What was the best thing that happened at school today?
  • Tell me something that made you laugh today.
  • Where is the coolest place at the school?
  • Tell me a weird word that you heard today. 
  • If I called your teacher tonight, what would s/he tell me about you?
  • How did you help somebody today?
  • How did somebody help you today?

Some of these questions come from a great blog post 25 Ways To Ask Your Kids “So how was school today?” Without Asking them “So how was school today?” written by two stay-at-home moms, both called Elizabeth, both the mother of three kids. They report great results in enriching conversations with their children about school.

Other thoughts about things we can all do as parents to have more fruitful and fertile conversations with our kids about school.

 Become knowledgeable. Read the stuff the school sends home. (Read, don’t just skim!) We send home the Happenings every Friday, this blog, teacher newsletters, and many more less formal communications. This way, you’re really in tune with your child’s day.

 Be specific in your questioning. As parents, we tend to ask our kids at the end of the day, when they are no longer in school mode. Children need specific references to the time of day. “What did you do in reading today? What activities did you do with math? Who brought in the snack today?” By asking for specific details, you narrow the day down for them. Young children in particular need this.

 Ask the teacher or another parent what you should ask. At Friends’ we have many school-specific programs and activities, such as our buddy program, team lunches, this week’s elementary Movin’ and Boppin’, the upcoming Harvest celebrations.  If you’re not sure what
any of these are, our teachers and other parents (or Ann, or Jana, or Mandy, or me…) will be happy to help!

 Alone time. I have found that the best way that I get information out of my daughters is to have a little quiet time with each, alone, each night before bed. I usually get details out of my kids when we’re alone in the car, snuggled up after reading a book, or walking somewhere by ourselves. There is something about these times when we are not face-to-face (for example at the dinner table) that makes opening up easier for our children.

One thing you can be sure about at a dynamic and engaging school like Friends’: the answer is truly never “Nothing!”

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