Stephanie Doskas enrolled in a free workshop at the Riverview Community Learning Centre in Verdun because her son, Matthew, struggled with his homework. Only in grade 2 at Riverview Elementary, Matthew already saw homework as an unwelcome chore.

The once-a-month workshops – dubbed the Spaghetti Nights Family Workshops because participants were treated to a spaghetti dinner – taught Doskas how to help her son change his outlook on home assignments.

“The last thing he wanted to do after a day at school was more work,” said Doskas, a member of the school’s Parent Participation Organization (PPO), who also has a daughter, Lillian, in kindergarten.

“The workshop taught us a lot of tips about setting up an atmosphere so that homework is more of an activity and less of a chore.”

One of the tips she learned, said Doskas, was to give Matthew the choice of which part of his homework he would like to do first.

“That gives him a sense of some control,” she said adding that another tip was to put things like maps on the wall, or a globe on the desk, in order to foster – but not force – a child’s natural curiosity.

Doskas was one of 27 Verdun families who took part in the workshops was offered by the Riverview Community Learning Centre, in partnership with the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE) of McGill University. The spaghetti dinners were offered though financial and in-kind support from McGill.

Audrey Ottier, Lester B. Pearson School Board coordinator for the Community Learning Centres at both Riverview Elementary in Verdun and Riverdale High School in Pierrefonds, said that each interactive workshop offered parents a forum for sharing ideas and best practices.

“The workshops provided information from professionals and parents alike on such topics as creating positive educational environments for studying, helping children with homework and even financial planning for post-secondary education,” she said.

The workshops are part of McGill and the LBPSB’s Homework Zone Program, which has been serving Riverview students since January, 2012, and which connects over 40 McGill student volunteers with more than 100 students from Riverview, Verdun and Orchard Elementary schools.

Daycare was provided for children who also participated in focus groups – information which was then presented back to parents at the end of the workshops.

As for Doskas, she said the workshops helped her learn how to help her children with the challenges facing them.

“The workshops were fun as well as useful,” she said adding that her son no longer has a sense of gloom and doom when it’s time to do his homework. “And that will hopefully be passed on to my daughter as well.”

The workshops were so successful in fact that another series is set to begin next month.

“We got such great feedback,” said Ottier, noting that anyone who would like to participate in the workshops should call to register so that organizers can plan ahead for the spaghetti suppers. (From: Alycia Ambroziak, LBPSB)

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