Friday, May 27, 2011

Simple Tools to Help Homeschoolers Keep THEMSELVES on Track...

Spontaneously and very suddenly finding myself out of town (see PS if you don't know what is going on)... and leaving behind homeschooling youth - at the end of the school year - really got me thinking about our homeschooling... And I'm afraid I simply must take a few minutes to brag about my boys. :o  :D

I realized after arriving here at my mom's place that I did not even feel inclined to say a single word to the kids about their schooling or even write them a note.

After homeschooling for several years now - I'm incredibly thankful for the progress made... Believe me, homeschooling is a lot of work. And there were many times when I felt like a failure and was tempted to send them all back to public school. I'm so thankful that Heavenly Father was there to help me keep going, and for teaching us and giving us tools and strength to continue on and eventually to even get pretty good at it. :)

I was able to leave town knowing that my youth can be responsible, and not have any trouble knowing what to do while I am away. I appreciate this so much that I thought I should share the insights and simple tool we use which makes this possible with other homeschoolers.

The tool I am referring to helps my kids to be completely self directed and responsible with their schooling;  one must not discount it for it's simplicity... It is just a very simple check off list of weekly and daily subjects to study (we started out having the kids place a check mark indicating done, but now have them place #'s in the chart indicating pages studied or time spent depending on the subject). The chart clearly shows the days of the week and the subjects that are to be done on each day. This serves both as a reminder and record keeper for the kids. It also serves as a tool for accountability; anyone who looks at their records knows how much work they have done.

This chart is incredibly simple, but it helps the kids to do all their work consistently because they can't forget anything; and they know they are expected to do their schooling and chores before anything else. They love knowing what is expected of them and not having to wait for me to tell them what to do next. I love how they do most of the record keeping, and especially how it helps them to take the responsibility for getting an education.

Once my kids got that check list in their hands, they soon began doing their studies first thing early in the morning (and they are actually getting better at this over time!). After they have completed everything on their lists, they spend the remainder of their designated schooling time studying anything they want to learn about or developing any talent they desire to develop further. They are required to stick with focusing on learning for about five hours each day (the length of time may vary with age). The time that they finish schooling depends upon when when they get around to starting... (which is usually an hour before I require them to start!).

Why do we do it this way? I like my kids to learn that there are consequences to their actions (be they good or bad). When one chooses to procrastinate, it becomes clear to him that he has made a choice which affords him lesser privileges and is regretful later... At such times, I say nothing, except in reminding him to keep track of his study time while he is developing the habit of doing so. When he sees siblings who disciplined themselves to start on time... end on time, his desire to also be through with his studies early in the day serves as a silent encouragement for him to start early as well (I love this totally silent and positive peer pressure!). If they start late, I compassionately insisted they finish anyhow (this happens seldom, and less frequently as time goes on). When they start early, I praise them for being so on top of things. :)

Because of the things my boys have learned through the natural consequences of their own actions, it wasn't long before all three of the boys were waking early and starting school before they were required to. The boys who went to early morning seminary hit the books the moment they returned from Seminary at 7:30 AM, even though they weren't required to until 8 AM. The son who is too young for Seminary began hitting the books while his brothers were in Seminary, around 6:30 or 7 AM. Eventually, I began to see the boys who attended Seminary getting a bit of their studies done before Seminary.

I am so proud of these boys for their remarkable dedication and responsible behavior. I really can't take any credit for what these kids are doing. But there are a few things I have done to try to encourage an atmosphere of learning in our home...

One thing I do is try to set an example of seeking out learning by talking about my own love of learning, and by studying in front of them to set an example of continued learning.

Another thing I have emphasized to them off and in in life, is that they are the ones who are responsible to see to it that they get a good education, and that if they want to be smart and be prepared to work whatever career they desire to work - they need to take the responsibility of making sure they learn. I can make sure they have books, and time to study, but they will get out of their minds what they put into them... No one else can make them learn.

They really seem to get this concept, because they find topics on their own to study, don't argue with me at all about not wanting to do their studies, and they actually TELL ME they are glad I "make" them do their school work. This always sort of shocks me when they say something like that because I DON'T have to "make" them study; all I do is kindly say, "school first" if they try goofing off before studies are done.

On rare occasions, one may beg for the day off. And on VERY rare occasions, I let them all have the day off... simply because life is to be enjoyed, and we enjoy playing hooky on occasion! ;D

But for the most part I tell them that I wouldn't want them cheated out of something as important as an education. I have a testimony of CONSISTENCY. Sometimes I hear them talking to each other when they notice examples of what happens when people don't study. They are so thankful that we do study. Their attitudes about learning are great blessings, which is incredibly exciting to me! :D

If you haven't started a checklist in your homeschooling... you might want to try it! The checklist is a tool which constantly reinforces the importance of prioritizing, learning, and taking responsibility for one's own education and future, and it helps student to never miss a subject - without ever having to tell  the student what to do. :) With this checklist, we do group study first, then the kids do their individual studies in whatever order they wish to. I try to give them as much control as possible over their educations. I don't hover...

As my kids learn to manage their own educations, they learn skills to help them to better manage their own lives. I love knowing that the skills my kids develop as they govern and direct their own schooling as much as is possible, spill into all other areas of their lives. I know they are learning to be more responsible and hard working etc. I am eternally thankful for every tool my kids have been blessed with to help them to learn and grow and become smart, self directed people.

Do you have tools to help your kids to keep THEMSELVES on track? I'd love to hear about it in the comment section! :D

PS. As you may already know... I got a call about mom being sick at 9:30 PM one night, and found myself packing all night and leaving the house at 4 AM to go take care of her. (By the way... in addition to missing my family, I MISS YOUR BLOGS SO MUCH! It seriously pains me to not have much time to read them!! I hope you miss me, too. ;0) Family and friends who are praying for mom... THANK YOU SO MUCH! The good news... mom is doing great! :)


  1. I do like the idea of getting the kids to be accountable. We have used planners, and some of my kids would check and then do their work first thing. My last son, probably a bit ADD, he tends to dream, procrastinate, but we are working on the check mark idea. I write in his planner, what to do, he must check it. Then I hope he will write it in by the time he is ready to serve a mission. I like your idea about the # of pages read, or studied.

    One thing I emphasize is finish one subject completely and then go on. My son would jump around too much and tak too long. We are using the Khan Academy and I like that, we can both see his progress.

    I stilli feel anxious when I leave town, and call home and check .

  2. Hi Delia :D
    Being a parent... encouraging accountability etc. reminds me of the task of the chairman of a church welfare program. We both have the goal to help others to help themselves. We can give a fish, or even a pile of fish; but a fishing poile is such a better gift. :)

    If and when each sees the value of the pole and begins to use it is up to them. But with-holding the fish does help them to desire to use the pole! Tricky and prayerfull work we have to do... ;)

    It is good to still call home and check. That is part of holding kids accountable.

    Good job homeschooling mom; you're doing great! :D


There is a ripple effect in all that we do; what you do touches me, what I do touches you...

THANK YOU for your comments; you add so much insight and brighten my day! :)