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A couple of weeks ago, my son, The Littlest E, had an amazing homework assignment.  Yes, homework in preschool.  You might thinking, you’re kidding, right?  He’s only 3-½.  But, wait.  It was a cool homework assignment, esteem building, he learned about caring and nurturing, and it was just plain fun.

Each child in The Littlest E’s Grasshopper class gets to be “Friend of the Week,” which entails making a poster of family, friends and things you like, bringing it to class and sharing about it.  The students are also assigned a letter and bring in objects and things beginning with that letter.  Finally, for that same week, each child takes care of Gary the Grasshopper, a grasshopper stuffed animal that chirps.  During the week, the child makes journal entries of the activities he/she does with Gary and he/she is responsible for Gary’s wellbeing.

Gary Likes Chips

The Littlest E had a blast on so many levels.  My husband, Tom, and I did, too.  During the week, Gary sat with my son in his car seat when going to school.  He slept with him at night and cuddled with him and all his other animals.  He went grocery shopping, joined us out to dinner at California Pizza Kitchen, helped make breakfast and coffee, took a bath, or at least joined my son in the bathtub away from the water of course (didn’t want to damage the chirp should he get wet), and came out on a playdate.  He also took part in The Littlest E’s swimming lesson.

Swimming Lesson

My son loved caring for Gary.  Within a couple of hours of having him home with us, he told him, “I love you, Gary.”  He wanted to bring him everywhere, even back to school.  It was wonderful seeing him so responsible.  Of course there were times he’d forget he had Gary and needed a reminder or two.  There were also times my energetic son threw Gary, but he heard me say on one occasion, “That wasn’t nice.  We don’t treat our friends that way.  That hurt him.”  “Sorry, Gary,” was the response followed by a big hug.

We bought a poster board at the nearest Michaels and The Littlest E picked out stickers he wanted on the poster (butterflies, animals and super heroes), as well as blue letter stickers for spelling his name.  It was important to give our son as much ownership of the assignment as possible so he could learn from it, and not do it for him.  It was a delicate balance of when to step in and when to let go.

Making Breakfast

We showed him various photos of family, friends from class and outside preschool, and of some of the activities he did.  He picked the pictures he wanted on the poster.  I have to admit, there were a couple of photos I wanted up there, like the one of us as a family right after The Littlest E became a U.S. citizen and the one from the Ethiopia heritage camp we attended last year.  He didn’t want to use them so they stayed off.  We helped him organize where the photos went on the poster and he placed the stickers.  It was fun family bonding time and it was great for him to make decisions and create something on his own.

He brought the poster to school on a Monday and during circle time told the class all about the photos and who was in them.  One of his teachers told me later that he loved sharing about it with his class.  He even took one of the other mommies on a tour of the poster.  He had such pride in sharing.  When I picked him up that afternoon, he wore the biggest smile.

Playing Guitar

That night, we put together his “letter” bag.  His letter was “R.”  We went through a whole bunch of things and I asked him if they began with the letter “R.”  This was another good exercise for him, learning how letters sound.  We settled on bringing in a picture of a rhino, a rubber band, a rubber ball and a receipt.  We’d bring in more things later in the week.  All the while, The Littlest E was taking care of Gary.

Wednesday night was his last night with the cuddly, chirpy, green grasshopper and we put together his journal entry.  Throughout the week Tom and I took a number of photos of Gary’s stay with us.  The Littlest E picked out his six favorite ones.  He loved looking at all the photos.  We also spent time singing because one day while you are Friend of the Week, your parents come to school and do something with all the kids.  Our musical son wanted Tom and I to sing songs.  There are a number of songs he knows and he finally selected “I am a Pizza,” “Willie Was a Whale,” and “I Know an Old Lady.”

Elliott Family Singers

For class Thursday, The Littlest E wanted his classmates to wear their pajamas to school since it was his special day.  He glowed when he played his ukulele while Tom played his guitar.  The children clapped while we sang and joined in when they knew the words.  It was awesome to watch their faces.  After the songs, our son shared about his journal entry and the things he did with Gary, and finished talking about his “R” objects.  He enjoyed himself thoroughly.  It truly was a special day for him.

Journal

This was the first of many major homework assignments to come.  Though, I think it’s going to rank right up there as being one of the most fun.  I’m very grateful that Sunnyside Preschool does Friend of the Week.  Each child gets the focus and has a special week devoted them and the students learn more about each other.  It’s an esteem builder.  There was so much to glean from Gary and this assignment.  The Littlest E loved having us read his friends’ journal entries to him because he got to learn more about them and see photos of them outside of school.  He misses Gary, but can look at the photos and his poster to remember his week with Gary the Grasshopper.

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