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I'm honestly not sure whether we have a lingering case of the Winter Blahs, an early case of Spring Fever, or we're just generally lacking in motivation, but the bottom line is that it's not easy to stay ahead of the homeschool to-do list right now.
As usual, we're on track and doing fine with some subjects, and struggling to some extent with others. The hardest part, as always, is getting motivated to keep on keeping on in those subjects or tasks which aren't our favorites. To add to the problem, I am working two days each week, and at least two of the other days each week are taken up or interrupted by gym class, guitar lessons, or something else that needs to be done. As much as we see the need to get down to some serious work and find a more consistent rhythm for getting things done, it's a challenge to build any momentum with so much to work around.
Kennady and I had a little bit of a showdown last week when I realized that she was not getting as much done as I'd been thinking. She was put out with me for getting on her case, but even so she agreed with me that something needed to change, and the work had to get done.
After digging around in our motivational toolbox for a bit, we're trying to tweak things a bit using some of these strategies:
School before play. Admittedly, it's not like I'm going to say she can't go to a guitar lesson if her science isn't done. But we agreed that playing guitar and ukulele needs to wait until after she's put in a full day's work on her academics. And obviously, watching videos and just general goofing around or socializing needs to be done after the school day is over as well.
Plan ahead better. When it comes right down to it, Kennady and I are both unorganized learners. Logical organization of our workspaces and careful clock watching doesn't come easily to either of us. So we both need to work harder at planning for success. For me, that means making up current assignment lists for her regularly; and checking up constantly on how she's coming along. I need to follow up promptly when she needs my help with something or it will get shoved to a backburner until it's stone cold. For her, she needs to keep her books and supplies organized so that she is not wasting time hunting things down or trying to figure out where she left off. She also needs to practice better time management so she can keep herself on task during the days I'm not here to nag her every half hour. (Not that I would ever nag! I can't believe my husband and kids would call it that, when I'm just being helpful and reminding them, right?!) But seriously. Learning how to manage their own time effectively is an essential skill young people will need in college, in the working world, and in life.
Have you got an unorganized learner? I found this helpful article some time ago and recommend it. Most of the tips are more suited to younger students, but there's stuff for older ones too: Organizing the Unorganized Learner at Our Journey Westward.
Real deadlines. We have a bad habit of being too willing to move the target. And I think we're not the only homeschoolers that have this problem. After all, we're flexible, right?! We can't be so flexible that the due date for an assignment keeps getting put off and put off until the school year is over. This is an issue in our homeschool, so I'm thinking I may need to put a rule for us in place - perhaps allowing only ONE due date adjustment for any major assignment. If there's a consequence for not meeting a deadline, then it needs to be applied. I suppose I might even have to invent some consequences and I don't want to do that, but sheesh. If we need Chapter 20 finished by a certain date, we need to bust our butts to finish it and not go out for ice cream until we do. Am I right? Am I alone in this, or do other homeschoolers struggle with this too?
Watch the clock. I find it super helpful to use a timer to keep me on track. I tend to get caught up in something I'm working on and totally lose track of time, which is great if that job gets done, but not so good for the other nine things on my to-do list that I didn't even start on. Naturally, I'm also good at putting in lots of time on the jobs I like to do and not so much on the ones I don't like. I need to start using this strategy all day long, and I'm going to introduce it to Kennady and let her try it. Work hard at math for half an hour (or whatever) and then do something else. Or focus on reading the history text for an hour and then take a five minute break and get a snack. You know that the break or a switch is coming if only you focus on what you need to now. And your breaks should be timed too, to make sure your half hour lunch break doesn't turn into an all-afternoon YouTube marathon. Snooze buttons are a special treat in the early morning, but I think we can all agree that overuse of the "just a few minutes more" mentality puts us behind schedule more often than not. Plus it's a myth that we "work better under pressure" - we might work more frantically under pressure, but that's not the same thing as better.
Turns out I wrote on this very topic about a year and a half ago.
This is, without a doubt, the most frustrating aspect of homeschooling during the high school years for me. Finding that elusive sweet spot where my kids are well on the way to independence, and my level of involvement in their schoolwork is mostly advisory. It's tempting to continue to manage their time for them, or to be constantly nagging them about what they need to do. But as graduation looms ever nearer, they will need to be able to manage their own time and take charge of their own preparation for the career they choose.
When it comes to schoolwork, it's pretty obvious that high schoolers will likely do better when they are interested and engaged in their coursework. We all tend to be more motivated to work on the things we like and want to spend time on, and to procrastinate or avoid the things we find difficult or unappealing. Teens are no different, and if they excel in a subject area and want to pursue a career in it, they will probably study that subject and pour themselves into it. By the same token, they may hope that mom doesn't notice that they haven't really worked on that subject that they don't like and wish they didn't have to do.
Her challenge is to learn to manage her time and apply herself to the subjects she doesn't like as much. My challenge? Encourage, guide, and mentor. That means I check on her often and ask what she is working on. I am still struggling with how closely I need to keep an eye on her to make sure she's working on all her subjects. I need to do some stuff with her to help her stay focused, and to make sure she understands those concepts that aren't coming as easily. And I need to set an example for good time management - and boy, is that a challenge for me!
How can homeschooled high schoolers get all the required coursework done on time? How can they learn to be effective managers of their time? How can they take responsibility and ownership of their own education? They need to have the reins handed to them; they need to practice being in charge; and they may even need to experience a setback or failure.
See also my post: Middle School Monday - Winter Blahs
How are you doing - are you staying motivated or do you struggle? Leave a comment and let me know your best strategies for staying on track!
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