Principal Makela’s December Newsletter

Alison Makela, Madera PrincipalDear Madera Family and Friends,

Our conversation about Last Child in the Woods last month was inspiring! Thank you to all who came out to discuss the book and the valuable impact of nature on children’s physical and emotional development. Out of it came some good food for thought regarding tangible things we can do at home and school. (Dads’ Club, Are you ready to dig up the asphalt on the upper playground?)

As we discussed possible causes for the shift in the way our children play, another topic came to the forefront that interestingly had been rising up in other conversations recently as well – homework. Homework is a controversial topic and one that as a staff we would like to consider in the future. Research finds little positive correlation between homework and achievement at the elementary level.  With busy schedules taxing family time together; incredible gains in childhood diagnosis of stress, ADHD and depression; little time for unstructured play that we know is important for healthy development; and, the need for children to develop thinking and problem solving skills that come out of activities
other than worksheets and drills, it may be time for us to consider how we might make adjustments if needed.

The staff and I began this discussion at our last faculty meeting. We recognize that the month of December can be a magical time for children but it’s also very busy and can be stressful for families. We’d like to give you a gift of a month of alternative homework. For this month, we expect children will be reading books for pleasure each day for at least 20 minutes as always. We also hope you will use your newly found time together to enjoy the following possibilities:

  • Enjoy dinner time conversation together – family meals, by the way, do have a strong correlation with academic success.
  • Play board games, read a good book together, take a walk in your neighborhood, write holiday cards or letters. Do a jigsaw puzzle. Build something or make holiday gifts. Build a fort. Do an art project based upon this month’s Artist of the Month, Frida Kahlo.
  • Visit a museum or see a play.
  • Go on a hike on one of the many, many beautiful trails nearby.
  • Rest. Many children don’t get enough sleep each night. Take this cue from nature, when it’s dark and cold outside, to snuggle into bed earlier, with a good book, and get a good night’s sleep each night.

Kids, what we’re NOT saying is take this time to play more video games or watch hours of TV. Really, it’s time to use your imagination, your heart and your wit. I challenge you to disconnect from things that isolate you to connect with the world and people around you.

May this holiday season be filled with family, friends, joy and wonder,


One comment

  1. Thank you, Ms. Makela, for your powerful insight that is not only words, but action! I will make sure my 6th grade boy reads the part to the kids! He’s been playing more music on his instruments and playing with toys that have been neglected. And Mom and Dad have plans to get him in more on the Christmas prep action!

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