Month: October 2012
By Dianne McLean
I believe all homeschoolers go through this at one point or another – kids aren't motivated, they sit for what seems like an eternity staring at the same math problem, they daydream, they throw fits when you try to get them to do their work, etc. Even if you tell them they can't go play with friends until they are done, they just don't seem to care.
We parents tend to believe that playing with friends is the problem. We feel our children "need" friends, when they are clearly telling us that family is more important to them because they aren't striving for the goal of being with friends. Even if you are constantly arguing and being with family is a negative experience due to their own lack of obedience, they are still with family.
So a 12 or 13 year old boy dragging his feet on his assignments and not caring whether he sees friends, should signal a big clue that the problem isn't your son, it's the relationship as well as a lack of accountability. So how do you ease the tension in the home and instill accountability in your child?
I went through the exact same situations with my kids when I first started homeschooling them. These are some of the things that I did:
- Find WHAT motivates them. For my kids, I couldn't tell them "you will see your friends when you finish your work" because they really didn't care or respond to that. They would dawdle until 10pm or later. They had my full attention, and kids will do that subconsciously – even if it was negative attention.
Next, I had to SHOW them what they could receive – show them how wonderful that reward is, give them a taste. Once they felt the thrill of freedom based on their own accomplishments, it became easier for them to strive for that.
Instill ACCOUNTABILITY – I did it using these strategies:
- Level of accoutability #1 – We began by scheduling Fridays off. I created a policy which was that we did lessons Mon-Thurs, and we would schedule catch up time in the morning if needed on Friday, then we went to the park or on a field trip. But in the beginning, they would still whine and dawdle. So what I told them was this: "I teach Mon-Thurs until 2pm, during each lesson block I give more than ample time for you to complete your seatwork, if you do not complete it, we ARE moving on to another subject and your uncompleted work becomes homework. I do not teach after 2pm." (However, I was flexible, if they needed me as a parent after 2pm to help them with homework or they needed more instruction, I would certainly do so). If they chose to dawdle in the evenings, it no longer had bearing on me. I still went about the things I wanted to do instead of standing over their shoulder getting angry. This created accountability on their shoulders for their time, and it was immediately more peaceful in our home (remember not to get angry, it's their choice and their consequence).
- Level of accountability #2 – This was in conjunction with the Fridays. Park day was also an outlet for ME. So I told them that if they didn't have everything done by the time we left, they would have to go and do their homework in the car or on a park bench and can't visit with friends – they are not keeping me from enjoying my day off. With my daughter, this happened ONE time and she learned to stay on task. With my son, it took two lonely park days doing his work while all his friends played basketball in the distance, and one benched baseball game (the coach benched him for being late) to teach him.
- Level of accountability #3 – The next level was to let them decide on their rewards. Why should I plan the field trips? I let my kids make a schedule of field trips (within reason of our budget of course), it's good leadership training for them – AND it gives them a goal to shoot for. They think about the activity, they plan for it, they look forward to it. They would even call their friends and invite them, so now they had an obligation to do everything in their power (which means their work needs to get done) to attend.
I utilized my human support system – specifically my husband. They (my husband and son) are both very much outdoorsmen, so they like to hunt, fish, target practice, work on cars, ride dirtbikes, etc. I asked my husband to schedule one afternoon a week after work with my son. His contingency was that the previous week needed to have a 100% completion record (everything was done on time with no arguments). So he would check their previous week record on Sunday and then they would plan their outing for Tuesday or Wednesday evening. What kid doesn't want to go dirtbike riding in the middle of the week, even if it's just for an hour or so, with his dad? Now, I ought to digress here by saying that family time was NOT conditional in our home as a general policy – don't misconstrue these "special events" as manipulation of love or relationship. We prayed together, ate together, read scriptures together, and spent plenty of family time together doing really fun stuff without even mentioning their academics. But the "extra" days were just that, "extra", and they were contingent upon performance. And of course all of these things were great for my husband to release some energy after a long day at work, so he looked forward to it. Taking the dirtbikes out for an entire Saturday might seem fun for a young couple or family, but when parents get older those Saturdays can get quite long, so a quick evening trip was perfect for our guys.
With my daughter, she also loves to spend special time with her dad. So they would go have an ice cream cone, go see a movie, or go shopping (yes, he took her to Claire's, what a guy!) They tried to put her on a dirtbike, that didn't work out so well, she's quite girly. Sometimes they would just go and get haircuts together, go to the library, or paint a canvas of the sunset (yes, they did this too) anything to spend that extra time.
What about dinner time? Because our family is really big on having dinner together, on the days they had scheduled for their outing I would crockpot some meatballs for quick meatball subs, or some pulled pork for BBQ sandwiches. They would come in from loading up the truck, put a blessing on the food, and out the door they would run with their dinner in hand. It would be the FASTEST family dinner, but it was worth it. They had to stop riding when it got dark anyways, so we would always make up for it with family dessert.
And really it didn't take long before the conditional part was no longer an issue, my kids saw the fruits of their labor – because not only did they get the extra outing with mom or dad, they also had free time to do a lot of other things like go be with friends, explore personal interests, and just relax without mom breathing down their neck about their assignments. They saw what would happen if they just buckle down and do the work. We stopped having motivational issues – and arguments – once all of these things were in place. My husband came home to a happy wife, instead of a stressed out mess.
Spending time with their father one day a week, and having a pleasant outing with mom on Fridays, developed something in my kids that I presumed we might lose when they become teens – and that was a love for family time. It was extremely valuable and now that they are adults, they express how grateful they are that we instilled these family values in them and encouraged them to succeed.
If you don't have a father (or mother) in the home, is there a family member or a close friend you can lean on for support? What about other homeschoolers?
I hope this was helpful for you – and would love to hear your ideas and suggestions for motivating your tweens and teens while homeschooling them!
A lot of parents contact us each year with the concern as to how they can homeschool while working full time. With the economy still declining, this is more of a challenge than ever before. But it is possible with a little creativity and planning and many parents have done so with huge success!
Veteran parents say that the key to success is planning, flexibility, and communication with friends and family. The most important of these concepts is the planning and scheduling. The parent is not available 24/7 as in most traditional homeschools, so children need to have someone who they can lean on for support when parents are working.
One of the beautiful freedoms about homeschooling in general is that learning does not have to take part at specific times of the day or on specific days of the week that correspond to public schools. This carries over very nicely with those who need to have more rigid schedules due to employment – whether they work at home or outside the home.
The most challenging issue with parents who homeschool while working full time is not the educational aspect, rather it's organizing care for their children while they work.
Telecommuting is particularly popular with homeschoolers as a viable employment source which resolves much of the childcare conflict. With all the technology tools available, it is a lot easier to communicate with employers from anywhere in the world. Some families have made great sacrifices to have their children home with them and be able to telecommute such as converting a bedroom into a quiet office and asking children to share a room, or revamping other spaces in the home.
Another viable option to avoid needing expensive or outside childcare is to have opposing work shifts – for example one parent might work early morning hours while the other parent works in the evenings, allowing for one parent to always be present.
One idea is to trade mentoring hours with other homeschoolers who face the same challenge, for example while you are working your children could be with your homeschool friend and while your friend is working you could take their children. Just remember that the legality of having someone other than yourself homeschooling your children varies from state to state, so be sure you are within your state laws. Sometimes just a change of wording such as "my children go to a mentor for 3 hours, 2 days a week" rather than saying "my friend homeschools my children while I work" could keep you out of trouble.
Lesson planning can be a challenge as well as implementing lessons. Parents with teens have a great resource and can use the opportunity to teach their teens about leadership, which is not about telling people what to do, it's about mentoring and being an example. Teens can easily help younger children with certain concepts and lessons. Using computer-based learning tools is a big help to many in this situation as the lesson planning is generally done for you. Some parents even record lessons on a laptop using their webcam, or a mobile device, and send them to their children from the office. Again, technology is making it easier and easier to overcome many of life's challenges!
Overall, most parents who take the steps to plan and schedule will tell you that all of the sacrifices are worth it to be able to keep your children at home and know what they are learning.
What about you? Do you work while you homeschool? What is your day like? What options have you found that help you?