Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Helpful Tip for Homeschooling

(Ali holding a color-it-yourself puzzle from Auntie Kandi)

A friend and I were talking about the challenges of homeschooling two different grades.  Every mom I know who homeschools more than one child struggles with getting everything done and feeling like they are giving enough attention to each child.  Lori and I were especially concerned about our oldest kids' getting their stuff done.  And then I had a lightbulb moment!  Both of our oldests are EXTREMELY motivated and organized little girls who can accomplish amazing things when they set their minds to it.  Ali can clean the entire house and vacuum every room without even being asked if she is in a cleaning mood, and can somehow find the energy to color 20 or 30 pictures in a day if she feels like it.  Ansley, my friend Lori's daughter, makes me laugh because she is so mature for her age and such a little mother to her siblings.  One day when she was 7, she turned to her 5 year old brother Caleb and asked him who he was going to marry and what he was going to be when he grows up. He, being the typical boy, was like, "Huh?"  She put her hands on her hips and said, in an exasperated tone, "I cannot believe you don't want to think about these things!  These are important life decisions Caleb!  Get your act together!"

So, with daughters like these, I wondered if we could somehow harnass their zeal and intelligence to help our school day run smoother!  I suggested to Lori that we might make our lives easier by placing some of the burden of our kids' schooling on their own shoulders.  Just as they are responsible for their daily household chores, we decided there are a few things that our girls can definitely do, without our help, to meet their schooling goals for the day.  We each decided to sit them down at the beginning of the new semester and explain what they were in charge of for schoolwork.  I made a little sign with Ali's 3 tasks for the day and hung it up.  Lori made a chart of all the spelling lessons that she wants Ansley to do in order to catch up to her grade level. 

So far, it's going really well.  I used to feel torn between taking advantage of Ali's academic energy right after breakfast or getting dressed, doing some dishes, etc. and then getting to school.  Now, I can do a little cleaning in the morning and get ready for the day, knowing that Ali is taking care of some basic things that are improving her everyday learning, and then we can jump in and do the lesson time together a little later, without feeling like we're already behind.  One of her tasks is to read for 15 minutes, and the boys love curling up beside her to listen.  I can be loading dishes into the dishwasher or fixing a meal when she's doing that and still help out with the occasional difficult word she is sounding out.  Her other task is to do 2 worksheets in Explode the Code and to color 1 page in her Anti-Coloring book (which is an awesome coloring book that encourages creative drawing instead of just filling in a picture with color.)

Of course what works with first-borns may not work with our boys.  Since my boys are very easily distracted, I think we will have to start with 1 independent learning activity they are in charge of doing each day when they are a little bit older.

Both Ali and Ansley are thriving under this system (so far) because they like having a game plan/map/schedule and it motivates them to get it done.  Ali even does extra pages in her workbooks and reads extra minutes because she is enjoying herself! 

If you implement this idea with your child, follow these tips:

1.  Keep it simple so they don't feel so overwhelmed by a lengthy list that they give up.
2.  Pick tasks that you are sure they can do on their own.
3.  Praise them when they follow through on it!  They will be encouraged to continue!
4.  Make sure they are following through on it by checking their work and communicating with them about what they are learning.

Though this is a novel idea for newbie homeschoolers with younger children, like me, I'm sure that this is the main mode of operation for large families and folks with older children!  So, if you are a pro and this is "old hat" leave me your tips in the comments!


Thia said...

This is really something for me to think about. Right now we are all starting our day together with calendar stuff and our Bible work. Then I work with my oldest for a bit before setting her free with her assignments while I work with the middle two. Usually everyone finishes up by lunch time. After that, we all work together again on science or history and have our read a loud. But sometimes it's after 3 when I get into my housework for the day!! Which leaves me an hour before I really need to focus on dinner. One hour a day is just not enough for a household of 6.

Kristin said...

I'm no pro, but I too have started implementing some independent work for Madison as well. For instance, this morning I had a really important phone call to make that I knew would take some time. Instead of delaying the start of our school day, I got Madison situated with some things I knew she could do on her own and then went to make my phone call.

She also likes to help Noah with some of his work so sometimes if I need to do something I will tell her to assist Noah. She always finds it fun to be the "teacher" and it's definitely still a learning opportunity for herself when she has to teach the material. She will often ask me, "Can I be Noah's teacher today?"

The Three 22nds said...

My 6 year old likes to be the first to be helped, and my 8 year old will quietly take a backseat (I am pretty sure in the hopes that something will happen and we will never get to it). Before I start with my 6 year old I look through Deacon's work for the day and pick out something he can do himself- even if I have to skip ahead in his book. I think as a homeschool mom I work with them too one on one sometimes, when they actually need to just figure it out for themselves. It is something I am trying to get better at!

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