Thursday, January 17, 2013

A List of Responsibilities Every Day

Here's Sydney's list of responsibilities this week:

And here's Willow's:
I've never seen another homeschooling parent's work plan, so maybe these are crazy. All I know is that they work for us right now.

(Which is all that matters, right? So many arguments between fellow parents could be avoided, I think, if people simply accepted that what someone else is declaring is what is working for them, not you, right now, not for all time. But then what would I read when I'm in the mood for mama drama?)

Each day contains each child's general chores (usually listed by room--they know what they're supposed to do there) and specific schoolwork. On Monday mornings, after I finish my coffee, the girls meet me at the table with binders in hand. They remove last week's material, and I pass out these lists and the assorted printables/worksheets/whatever for them to hole-punch and insert into their binders. When we first began to use binders, I took the time to make labeled subject dividers--these have almost entirely been torn away over several months of hard use, and nobody seems to miss them much.

Every morning, each kid has ultimate free time from the time that she gets up (Syd sleeps in sometimes, but Will is always up by 6:30) to the moment that I finish my coffee, although she can start work early, if she chooses. But as soon as I've cleared the table of my coffee/newspaper habit, I call for the children to choose something from their binders. One kid might choose math, one kid might choose music practice. If both kids choose something that I need to be involved in separately for each of them, I'll ask one of them to do her chores instead, and then play quietly until I can help her. If one kid chooses a schoolwork that she and her sister will be doing together that day, I'll either get the other kid involved at that time or put the work off until both of the kids are free.

If the girls get distracted with play, or immersed in a book, or involved in a project, I'll let them be, but if I notice them at a stopping point, or see them wandering by, or hear them fighting, then I'll redirect them back to the binders. In that way, almost all the responsibilities are marked off by dinner. If anything remains undone, then Matt's there to assist us after dinner. I know that means that we're rarely "done" with school, but early on, when I required the girls to sit at the table and do their work at one go, they'd hurry through their assignments, doing poor work, forgetting to enjoy themselves, and absorbing very little. This way, a kid will very often get immersed in her activity and work far longer than I'd have required her to and delve far deeper than I'd intended. It's important to me that, even though I'm rigidly structuring each assignment, the girls feel autonomous and can own their own work.

Sometimes we have an off day (today is one!), and if that happens, I'll turn one of our three free days each week into a schoolwork day. We're definitely doing weekend school this week! If we really get off-track, such as when one of us is ill, then I'll usually just keep missed assignments in their same spot for the next week; many subjects we cover once weekly, and even the subjects that we do daily don't build off of each other that same week--math lessons, for instance, are on Mondays, with the other days for reinforcement, review, drill, enrichment, etc.

These work plans have worked well for us for several months, now, and there's a lot that I like about them:

  1. They offer excellent accountability for everyone. I expect the children to mark responsibilities off as they finish them, so that I can glance at the binder and see where each child is. I file away the marked-over sheets the next week, so that if I'm ever required to prove that we've been working at (or above) grade level, I'll have the evidence.
  2. They allow me to plan all week. As soon as I've printed each child's work plan for the week, I delete the entries and begin to plan, gradually, for the next week. Whatever I haven't filled in by the weekend, I fill in then.
  3. They give the authority to something that can't argue back. For some reason, the girls just don't argue about what's on the list. If I told them, out of my head, to complete a math worksheet, then I'd die of old age before Willow had finished arguing with me about it. But if I say, "your list shows that you need to complete this math worksheet," well, then...who can argue with The List?!?
As the girls get older, I'm curious to see how our work plans evolve. Might they begin to write their own work plans? Might we evolve from specific assignments to blocks of time that they can use for their own research and projects? Might we transition from daily plans to weekly plans?

Who knows? All I know is that this is what works for us, for now.

(Just not today. Today, Will played while I worked with Syd on her fashion show design, and then Will and I played chess, and then we had Gym Day with our other homeschooled friends for two hours, and then I took the girls to the library for another two hours, and then when we got home I remembered that today is Willow's half-birthday and therefore I need to make her a half-cake, and then Matt came home and I was all, "Holy crap, it's 6:00?!? Here, follow this cookie cake recipe and then order pizza." Because there are plenty of hours in the weekend for math worksheets, clay sculpture, and cataloging Egyptian gods and goddesses, but this is the only day in the entire lifespan of the entire universe that my Will is turning 8.5, and we're watching the movie of her choice and eating pizza and a cookie-half cake to celebrate!)


Tina said...

I think that for those moms (and dads) who don't allow their homeschool plans to change and grow, don't get as much enjoyment out of it. We've been doing the structured homeschooling for just over a week and I can already tell that it will be an ever evolving thing.

I like the idea of the binder, tough at the moment I am trying a version of the workboxes.

julie said...

I tried workboxes for a few weeks--I liked the idea, but I could never find a good space for them in our teeny house. If we ever move to a house large enough to have a dedicated schoolroom, I'd give it another go, because I liked being able to have a kid's manipulatives, board game, microscope and slides right there waiting for her.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Julie! I like that you add in the PBS kids shows specifically. We do this, only more random. I bet the kids would like it as nice break between their more "schooly" subjects.



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