The last couple weeks, we’ve been talking about Homeschool Scheduling; How to set up your curriculum and time to stay sane this upcoming school year. I haven’t yet talked about the biggest trouble maker when it comes to keeping a Homeschool schedule:
Off Task Kids.
Having a routine can be the difference between a Homeschool that works for you, and a Homeschool that causes daily tears. I am currently schooling two boys in Kindergarten and Second Grade, and last year, I created a system that actually works to keep the kids on task.
Basically, this system is a lot like the idea of “workboxes” that Homeschoolers often talk about. The problem with workboxes in my home is that I really don’t have materials to stick in a box- and I don’t have room to PUT a box. Instead, we have a lot of programs that are mom-intensive, and I need a teachers manual and white board to teach them, and lessons that involve everything from DVD lessons, the computer and the iPad. A box just didn’t work for us.
I took the idea of workbox cards, and turned them into a system that I can put in the kids binders (like I did last year) or hang up on the wall for quick reference (which is the plan for this year).
Each child gets their own schedule sheet. It has three columns, one with a clock face, one for “to-do” assignments, and one for “done” cards. The night before we start school, I take my schedule cards (I keep them on a laminated page in my binder- so I have all my choices visible and easy to find) and I place them in the To-Do column for each child. On the clock face, I shade in the amount of time I want to take to do these assignments. For example, I shade 15 minutes for chores, 45 minutes for math, and 30 minutes for afternoon reading. In the “done” column, I place the “reward cards.” For example, on Tuesday, I want to take the kids to the park in the afternoon. I also want Bug to play some math games on the iPad, and we’re going to need a snack in the morning. I put the Snack Card on the sheet for when Math is finished, and the iPad card for after reading, and the playground card very last on the page. When Bug finishes Math, he gets to move the Math card to the “done” column, and take the snack card to be traded in for a break and a snack.
The clock face with it’s shaded time is a HUGE help to me, with Math especially. Sometimes, my kids kick their feet. I set the timer for the amount of time allotted (45 minutes in this case) and the kids and I work diligently. When the timer rings, we’re done. It doesn’t matter how far we got, either Bug can finish the work independently as “homework” in the evening, or we can just pick up again where we left off tomorrow (see, the flexible schedule we talked about last week really comes in handy here!).
Using the timer and a reasonable amount of focused time does a couple things- It lets the kids know that we really aren’t going to do math forever. It makes sure one bad lesson doesn’t throw off our entire day, and it keeps me in control of the situation. If I let Bug kick his feet all morning with Math, I won’t have time to teach the other subjects I want to teach. It’s not fair to him, me, or the other kids.
The reward cards can also be used to discourage feet dragging. For example, if I put that playground card after Math class, and Bug is not diligent with his lesson, I can always take it away. It’s a carrot. Use it wisely. I don’t recommend taking the rewards away often, because then they lose a lot of their power of incentive. Most of the time, a promise of a set amount of time to work, and a reward to come is enough to keep the kids on task.