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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Becoming self starters

I'm trying not to micro manage my kids during homeschool. The last couple days have been an experiment for us. While the kids were in public school they would come home with hours of homework and expect me to sit right next to them while they worked on it. That is the way our homeschool work started. Every morning I would call, bribe, or yell to get everyone sitting on the couch so we could start our day. Not very effective for bringing the Spirit to family prayer. Then I'd drag, pull and bribe everyone to the table to start our work where I'd sit and "encourage" them to stay focused. I never got anything accomplished for me. the house was a mess. I loved spending time with the kids, but I also had things I needed to do. Things had to change.

I've been very good bout making lesson plans a week in advance. It helps me stay sane not to wake up every morning and scramble to assemble my thoughts. So now I post those plans where my kids can see them. I explained to them that they don't need to wait for me to tell them to start their work. Now they know what is expected of them and they can do it when they want, but no privledges until the work is done.

Yesterday it worked really well. They kids were excited to be more in control of their day and I didn't have to coherce anyone to get things accomplished. It took a whole lot longer to get the school work out of the way though. Today, this have gone down hill a bit. I need to find a balance between too much control and none at all. I don't mind directing them, but they need to become self starters to be successful in life. I want to instill that now.

I'd love to hear suggestions if anyone has any. I know only a few people read my blog and only a few of those homeschool, but I would love to hear things that have worked for others in teaching their children to get started on their own. My kids don't get dressed unless I tell them too. They don't to school work unless I tell them too. They don't bathe unless I tell them too. I want them to learn they don't have to be told to do everything.

I have great kids. They are good at so many things. I am so blessed.


  1. With Josh, we make the lesson plan a week in advance (just like you). We give him a start time for school, otherwise he would sit around all day and do nothing. At 9, he starts his school day. He can do the work in any order he chooses but he is not allowed to do ANYTHING else (other than have a snack, lunch or use the bathroom) until he is done with all of his work. Some days, he finishes at 1. Some days he is still working at 4.
    One thing that is key - be firm. Often Josh wants to while away the morning, lazing around and such. He has a start time to prevent this. Once he starts the day lazing around, he tends to spend the whole day that way. Even though you want them to self start, in the grown up real world they will have start and end times to meet. Kids need to practice this habit.
    One thing we also use is a chore board. Each kid has a small dry erase board on the fridge with their chores for the day. You could use the same idea for "get dressed", "take a bath" - a visual reminder of what you expect for the day. That way they know what you want from them. Put a time limit on it if you need to.
    Finally, even though home-school offers freedom from grades, grades or points are a great way to keep your kids motivated. Give your kids points they can spend for privileges. Or give them a certain number of points for each A, B, C with a cumulative reward at the end. They need to SEE the result of their work just as much as you do.

  2. I really find that life is happier and things go better when I let go of the structure, when it comes to education.

    I suspect that Dallin struggles, to some degree, with dyslexia. So, I do have to still be structured about reading and writing, until he really gets it.

    We also participate in a science co-op because it provides social time, gives him the chance to learn from adults other than me (which he also gets in primary and cubs), and it is nice to have fun activities and not be the one who has to plan them every week.

    When it comes to math, history, art and such, we address it through unit studies/lapbooks. I try to hide the fact that he's learning because he's much more receptive to learning if it is done through activities, rather than through texts and worksheets.

    As for teaching them to be self starters, I'm still working on that. I have started trying to use the "Tulip Method". A friend loaned me a booklet a ways back. I don't know if you can still get a copy of it. It's called Tulip Accountability System. It was written by Pamela Kandior Morrill. At the time, her email address was She lived in Logan, UT.

    Dallin has become easier to deal with since I started doing some of what she suggests. I need to do the whole system to see how it works for him. The friend who shared it with me has six GREAT kids. (You may have met her. It's Doreen Georgeson in Eldorado.) She said that once she started following the Tulip Method, there was no longer a need to become angry. She just calmly holds to the method, and the kids have learned that is the way it is going to be. Her older girls are now getting themselves up and to seminary in the morning. And, her three oldest are all doing well doing self-directed studies at one of the charter schools in ABQ.

    If you can't still get a copy of it, once my scanner starts working (I just got a new one, and it seems to have some software issues), I can scan Doreen's and email it to you. But, if the lady is still selling them, I'd feel guilty steeling her revenue that way.

    I would figure on at least two weeks of YOU being consistent before the kids will come to realize that you mean it when you say it. I know...much easier said than done. If not, I wouldn't still be trying to master it with Dallin.

  3. My kids aren't old enough for school yet, but I do plan on homeschooling.
    I was homeschooled and there are some things I still remember. When we first started, we would sit at the kitchen table with my mom and she would go over what we needed to learn that day. If we had questions or needed help, she would be there. I don't remember her ever hovering or micro-managing. There were some subjects that she would go over a lesson plan with us together and she would READ to us (which was my favorite time). I can remember lying under the table (I have no idea why I did that) while my mother read long chapters.
    As I got older, I remember wanting to take my homework to my room. In part for the quiet and in part to assert my own independence. I WANTED to feel grown up enough to do my homework alone. But I knew that if I needed my mom, she'd be there.
    Eventually, my mom stopped doing my lesson plans altogether. My high school education was through a correspondence course from American School. They mailed the books and other supplies and I mailed the tests back for grading. I only had to call in to the school a couple of times for questions.
    Apparently, American School also has a plan where you don't have to mail back the tests. My sister told me that when she did it, our mom graded her tests. I'm not sure how that worked but she said that option was less expensive in tuition.
    You have some great boys and I'm sure they're wanting structure and accountability in some form as much as you want it for them. (Though they would never admit it!) I think the ideas already shared are awesome and I'll tuck them away in my mind until I need to use them myself!

  4. Since my kids are all still fairly young (my oldest is 2nd grade) I struggle with this too. It is easy to get burned out and wish you had freedom like most moms to do whatever you wanted in peace, instead of being constantly over them. I think I'll just have to do this for a while until they get a bit older. Obviously Dallas is much more self directed than Sam already.

    But like you, I have a chart. Well two charts... One is chores which have to be done by 8am (they take turns with their bathroom, chickens, bedrooms, laundry, and living room) and we usually have eaten breakfast (even if it's just them feeding themselves cereal) by 8am too.

    Then from 8-9am we read books or watch t.v. depending on what I'm doing with Leia and do our 5 minutes morning scriptures and prayer.

    At 9am we start school and they have 3 blocks. Most of the stuff gets done in the first red block (grammar, reading, phonics, spelling, handwriting, and math). These are all the things they do separately based on their age. This usually takes less than 2 hours, so they are done by 11am or earlier.

    Then they have a break and they can snack and then I do the green block which is science all together. Takes about 1/2 hour and then they have to practice their piano. Then Lunch.

    Then whenever I feel like it in the afternoon we do Mon-art, Tue-History, Wed-break or makeup, Thurs-trip to Library for books, Fri-Service (although we suck at this, because it requires finding someone who needs service and setting it up, but that's the goal).

    Sam is my kid who doesn't want to do school almost every morning. Different things work on different days with him. Threatening to take away his computer time on Saturday, telling him he can't leave his desk until his work is done, setting timers, etc. I wish I knew more, but it seems to be working. He is at least getting better slowly.

  5. I don't know anything about homeschooling like your friends above - but finding each child's currency makes a big difference in my house. For example - Cal's favorite thing in the world is PE class at school with his dad and his biggest fear is that he won't get to go, that he will miss PE. So - PE is his currency. if he doesn't get his chores done, or if he isn't nice to his sisters, or what ever we have for the day - he doesn't get to go to PE class - he has to sit on the side with me and watch the rest of his class having fun. He hasn't missed a class yet. Of course you have to decide if you will give them 2 chances, or use a chart to show their responsibilities, but don't get to discouraged, we have tried LOTS and LOTS of different things.

    The girls are a little harder, as their currency is much more invisible. it is still there, but changes much more rapidly and less obviously than Cal's (that makes life with 3 girls more mysterious - as if we didn't have enough drama!).
    Anyhow - I think it is great that you are homeschooling and loving it! I am very excited for you.