A good time to help children fill in blanks

June 08, 2007|by LISA PREJEAN

"We need to leave by a quarter 'til four, so make sure you're ready," I told my daughter as I walked through the kitchen on a recent Sunday. After delivering an item to another room, I returned to the kitchen to find her still looking at the clock.

"What time is a quarter 'til four, Mommy?"

"Quarter 'til four is a time, dear," I said distractedly, hurrying on to the next task.

Still she stared at the clock.

I noticed her finger moving in the air, stopping at five-minute intervals, with her lips silently mouthing the numbers.

She went the whole way around the clock, shook her head and looked back at me.

"There are no quarters on the clock, Mommy."

Until then, I didn't realize why she was confused.

"Would it be easier if I said we will leave at 3:45?"

She nodded and said she knew what time that was.


It's perfectly logical that she would think of time in numbers. Most of the clocks she sees are digital. However, it's important for her to be familiar with other time-related terms because they are still used frequently.

I've added half-past, quarter-after, midnight and noon to a mental list of items to review with my youngest this summer.

This is the time of year I fill in any gaps that need to be bridged before the next grade. As parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our children understand and learn the concepts that are presented in the classroom. Perhaps there are gaps because our child chose to daydream during that lesson. Perhaps there are gaps because the curriculum did not include instruction in that area. Perhaps the teacher didn't have time to cover that section. Whatever the reason, parents need to step up to the plate and help our kids continue learning over the next 12 weeks or so.

After all, there's more down time and more time to talk as a family when school is not in session. The best thing is that you don't need a worksheet, chalkboard or a desk. Children can learn a lot just by doing things with their parents.

How can you help your child? Here are some suggestions:

· Build your child's confidence and ability to follow directions by teaching him how to do household chores.

Initially, share the responsibility with him. Eventually shift the responsibility to the child. For example, if you'd like your child to learn how to fold laundry, start with towels. We taught our daughter how to fold washcloths when she was 6. Now, at age 8, she folds towels and puts them away. The pile of towels isn't always neat, but we'll work on that this summer.

· Encourage your child to take responsibility for her area of the house. To start with, she should make her bed each morning when she gets up. This will not only make the room neater, it will give the child a tangible transition from night to day.

I was surprised earlier this year when many of my third-graders struggled with writing an informative paragraph about how to make a bed. Most of them said they don't make their beds or that their parents make their beds for them.

Most children who made their own beds were strong, independent workers.

· Teach your child his address. Talk about what each line of an address means. The first line is for your name. The next line is the street where you live. The third line is for the city, state and ZIP code. Explain the difference between a city, state and country.

· As you read together, talk about the format of writing. What is a sentence? How can you tell when a new paragraph begins? What does the word "indent" mean? Ask questions: What do you think the author means here? Why do you think the author wrote it that way? Do you remember what happened in the last chapter?

The benefit of talking with your child and doing things with him is twofold. He benefits from your knowledge and experience. You benefit because you get to truly know this little one that has been entrusted to your care.

May you especially enjoy your children this summer.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

The Herald-Mail Articles