Overcoming “Furlough Daze”
If you are a parent of an SFUSD student, you are now well aware of furlough days, the mandatory days that the district has ordered schools closed, in order to cut costs without firing teachers and other employees. Tomorrow, Friday, April 6, 2012, all SFUSD schools and administrative offices will be closed for a district-wide furlough day. (It’s the third of a total of four furlough days this year.)
As an educator, I appreciate the district’s creativity in saving teachers and other employees from the unemployment line. That said, I’m definitely not pleased that our state thinks it’s OK to pass the buck (or I should say the bill) on to working parents by increasing their childcare costs. Worse yet, the reduction in instructional days seems to bear no correlation with the increase in accountability measures mandated by state and national officials for teachers and schools to improve student achievement.
Some families already have childcare lined up and will continue with business as usual. If you are like me, and don’t fall in this category, furlough days can present a range of challenges while you attempt the juggle of actually trying to get stuff done while your kids are at home. (Note to self: I wonder if there’s any research on the correlation between number of furlough days and levels of teacher appreciation…)
Anyone who knows me will vouch for my willingness to stand on the soap box in support of public education. Nonetheless, my griping about public education spending (or the lack thereof) does nothing to solve my immediate problem of finding relevant and doable activities to keep my little ones occupied on days home from school. In an attempt to make lemonade from the lemon of our state’s educational decision-making, I would like to share some ideas with fellow families finding themselves in a “Furlough Daze”.
Furlough Days | The Hook: Play School
Kids, especially younger ones (K-6 grades), are especially gullible when it comes to the powers of suggestion when combined with parent enthusiasm. After attempting to explain the relationship between the economy and state education spending to my twin six-year olds (seriously?), I then explained that a furlough day is still supposed to be a learning day… only at home. Fortunately, their eyes had glazed over with the first explanation and they can barely spell furlough, so who were they to question?
Once I had done my best acting job and sold the “school at home” idea, it was time to get creative. Below, you will find a list of activities and possible inspirations I’ve used to keep kids both active (aka: not bugging you) and enriched (no darn furlough day is going to keep my kids from learning!) while you attempt to keep your schedule and to-do list somewhat in tact. Using this as a framework, you can think about other learning activities that happen at school and tailor them for you and your family.
- Read, read, read – My kids know they are expected to read a minimum of 20 minutes a day. On Furlough Days I increase the time to 30 minutes and put on the timer (ah…. the silence is bliss!) Afterward, you can have your child write a journal, draw a picture of a main character, or design a poster of the “movie version.”
- Visit the library and “check out” some books or educational videos!
- Computer learning – There are lots of great online sites for kids to explore while learning. Try PBS Kids, National Geographic Kids, or your favorite museum web sites for more ideas.
- PE – Skip the gym and go to the park! While your kids get their ya-ya’s out, you can get in a little cardio or strength training in the process.
- Field trip – OK, this one won’t actually help you get any work done, but it does make maximum advantage of taking a day off from work and spending it with your kids. “Field trips” are a great an opportunity to learn more about your child’s interests and help them make connections to what they are learning in school. Pick a museum to explore. Avoid crowds. Have fun!
- Extra credit – Find out what your child does in class for extra-credit/enrichment and ask your teacher to suggest resources or visit stores like Barnes and Noble, Target and Costco to find workbooks that can reinforce your child’s academic skills.
Next year, when the girls are a bit older (and frankly I have more time to plan) I will wrap my head around what a civics lesson might look like. My girls and I could use each furlough day as an opportunity to learn more about how furlough days are impacting our economy and student learning, we could write letters to our elected officials, take field trips to visit Sacramento legislature …. Hey, maybe if we all planned a visit at the same time, we could really get something done!
In the meantime… how do you maximize fun AND learning on furlough days while keeping your sanity? Please share your ideas in the comments below. About SFPSMOM.