My 16-year-old went off to school for the first time this month.
My neighbor who knew none of my children have ever gone to school outside our home asked me:
Was it hard?
I heard myself answering, but I was sitting across from my then 15-year-old son in a restaurant last spring when he said, “I’m thinking I might want to go high school next year.”
I watched him as he fidgeted and explained his reasons for wanting to finish his education outside of our home, but all I could really see was a two-year-old holding up letter-shaped puzzle pieces and asking, “What dat?” All I could hear was this little boy insisting, “Read, Mama. Read!” I could only see an older boy who read everything he got his hands on, including his Bible. I saw a teen who questioned absolutely everything. And back in the present, I saw a young adult seeking his mother’s approval for something he felt led to do.
As I continued to answer my neighbor’s question, I saw myself weeping alone. I saw myself talking and praying with my husband. I saw my conversation with my son in which I told him honestly, “I don’t want you to go to school!” And I heard him answer, “So why are you letting me go?” I felt the ache in my throat once again when I answered, “Because it’s not about what I want, but what’s best for you.”
I kept talking to my neighbor while I watched my boy heft his backpack on his shoulder and walk toward the bus stop, wondering if he would get picked up, if he would find all his classes, if he would have anyone to sit with at lunch, if he would miss me.
And I realized that answering my neighbor’s question was like answering whether natural labor is hard or grieving a loss is hard or parenting is hard.
I wondered why I had never thought to ask God that question.
Was it hard to send Your only Son away from home, knowing what He would suffer?
I suppose I haven’t asked because I already know the answer:
Love is hard.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Have you ever had a hard time sending a child off to school? How can you encourage another woman who has sent her child out of the nest?
I put lots of projects off until the summer when I will supposedly have more time. My husband works teachers’ hours and has most of the summer off. He enjoys being what I call “The Crazed Cruise Director.” He has lots and lots of plans for us to have lots and lots of fun. And while we all have a good time, every fall I find myself asking what I got accomplished during the summer. The fact is, I need to stop procrastinating, imagining that I’ll be able to do it all come summer.
I see the same procrastination habit in my children. They have to get their school work and chores done during the day, but they typically wait until the last minute when my husband typically announces we are off to do something fun. Again, while we all enjoy our free time, I find myself frustrated that important work isn’t getting done.
Do you put things off until the summer or the end of the day? Do your children? Does procrastination frustrate you like it does me? If so, read on.
While I put things off, I think a lot about why I do. I wrote about procrastination that is based on our dislike for obligations. Anything we have to do, we don’t typically like to do, so we avoid it. I give you some suggestions for coping with this type of procrastination on my Not Wonder Woman blog for Christian women.
But there’s more to understanding and defeating procrastination.
First, we have to address the argument often made that we procrastinate because we work better under pressure.
Not so, say psychologists. Did we really need a psychologist to tell us the truth about our last-minute, panick-stricken work episodes? I think not. Deep down, we know that this way of working is inefficient and just plain stressful. Like any bad habit, I believe it also diminishes our self-esteem.
If we aren’t procrastinating because it’s more effective, why are we? The simplest explanation is that we will always do what is most rewarding now, rather than later. What’s most rewarding now isn’t for your child to do the math worksheet he doesn’t enjoy. What’s most rewarding now isn’t for you to make breakfast for tomorrow. What’s most rewarding now is for your child to run around pretending to be a cowboy and what’s most rewarding now for you is to surf the Web.
The reward we get for not doing the less pleasant work now can create a habit–a bad one.
Second, we have to break the habit of procrastination.
- Don’t shame yourself or your child. It’s natural for us to do the most rewarding tasks first. What goes against the grain is building our skills at delayed gratification. Even though it’s challenging, you and your child can break the habit.
- Take small steps. The website, tinyhabits, explains how we can be successful in changing our habits by making the changes very, very tiny. You might have your child start by doing just one math problem and you could just decide what to make for breakfast.
- Reward them. We develop the habit of procrastination because it’s rewarding. To change the habit, we have to reward our new work behavior. You could congratulate your child or give him a sticker after doing one math problem. You could give yourself a piece of sugar-free gum or put an X on your calendar as a reward. Even an “Atta, girl!” can work wonders.
- Make the long-term reward more visible. The reason the allure of playing cowboy is greater than doing a math worksheet is because your child can’t see the positives in being good at math. To help him, you might read from a book like Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians. Or you might simply tell Dad how smart he is getting at math which will enable him to do a special math-related activity with dad (e.g., build something). For yourself, you might read a list of reasons you want breakfast made ahead of time each evening. I use my iPhone to give myself reminders at critical times for habits I want to change. I might use something like, “Remember how nice it will be to have a healthy breakfast already made when you get up.”
With just a little effort, you can break the procrastination habit in you and your child. Don’t postpone it!
How have you been able to break the procrastination habit?
I think I have tried just about everything to teach my kids their math facts–flash cards, repetitive curriculum, electronics, games, pictures, and software. The problem isn’t so much teaching them as it is the kids retaining them.
While I am happy with my current math curriculum, I decided to give Learn Math Fast a try. The basic setup for book one is:
- Teaching using money
- A worksheet on the facts
- A timed test on the facts
Competition Can Motivate
My children are competitive. While I know many homeschoolers aren’t wild about competition, I have seen the value of it in teaching–even when the only way you are competing is with yourself.
I time each of the kids with my iPhone (it’s my version of a Swiss Army knife). They know when their siblings have completed the test under the time limit. They also know how much time they have to shave off to come in under the time limit set in the book.
Rewards Can Motivate
Yep! Learning is self-motivating, but offering my kids a small reward for passing the timed test has them begging me to learn their math facts. Not even the math video games they’ve played have had that effect. The combination of competition and rewards has been a winner for me.
My kindergartner and second grader know their addition and subtraction facts cold. The upper elementary kids are making progress on multiplication and division. I expect them to really get them down when their younger siblings start learning them.
When it comes to motivating kids, timed tests, competitions, and rewards can be very effective!
Do you want to give Learn Math Fast a try or could you get the same results using your current curriculum or flash cards? Do you have any tried-and-true tips?
Through 12/5/15, get $5 off one book using code JUST1BOOK or $20 off the 7-book set with code ALL7BOOKS at LearnMathFast
I have often made the mistake of thinking that organization was everything. It isn’t! While getting organized won’t make you a great homeschooler, it can help.
I used to hate my homeschooling space. It was cluttered, chaotic, and downright ugly. If you have many or young children, you will have to accept a certain amount of chaos. But if your space feels orderly, you and your students will, too. This summer, think about some inexpensive solutions to make a motivating space.
- Get rid of anything you know you aren’t going to use. Give it away, sell it, or trash it if it’s something no one would want. I sold a curriculum book for $2 at a used sale that a woman told me she’d prayed she would be able to get inexpensively. That made purging and selling worth it to me!
- Make everything that you will be using in the upcoming year visible. I know I am not the only homeschooler who forgets she owns something and buys it again! All of my bookshelves are cheap office store purchases. They’re not good quality, but they do the job. If you need more books visible to you, consider buying more bookshelves. Craigslist is a great place to look!
- Put everything you will not be using this year out of sight. The fewer distractions you have, the better. I keep unused materials in storage on even less sturdy shelves organized by science, history, and other.
- Separate individual kids’ materials. I use inexpensive plastic crates for this purpose that I store on bookshelves.
- Create a space to store individual work for the year. I use additional plastic crates to hold files for each school year for each child. Besides being a place to record what we do to adhere to the law, it’s a great place to store memorabilia.
- Create a record keeping system. I’ve tried just about everything and found that a paper system works the best for me. This year, I am combining my love for scrapbooking and junk journals with my homeschool record keeping. I created an album using Ditto products.
- Create a homeschool toolkit. Homeschool teachers don’t have a desk where everything they need to do their job is at the ready. That’s why a mobile toolkit comes in really handy. Find a cute bag to organize all of your essentials. I was inspired by this blog post to create this toolkit:
Inside is my record-keeping journal (this picture was taken before I was done with it), files to hold work completed by each student in the coming year), pens, sticky flags, my label maker, flash cards, and more. The kids’ files from previous years are stored under the sofa table we bought from Craigslist.
- Decorate your space. I recently overheard two school teachers talking excitedly about getting into their classrooms and getting it ready for the school year. Classroom decoration has to be functional, but it doesn’t have to be ugly. My favorite parts of my school space are my pull-down maps I purchased from ebay and the white board/cork board I bought from Craigslist.
Functional, but all the mess is INSIDE.
We purchased our table and chairs from Craigslist also, but the paint and removal of scattered posters and papers from the walls made the biggest difference. Could you put information for your students on a display board that can be put away? Or could you frame them using art or poster frames?
- Pray and ask for wisdom. We know that God will always give us wisdom! Before I made over our school space, I prayed about it. When I was in the middle of the chaos, I honestly didn’t know what to do. But God answered my prayer and gave me a space that motivates me and the kids, too. May He do likewise for you.
Me in seventh grade
I returned to my hometown junior high school after a five year absence. There were just over fifty students in my class, so it was easy to get to know everyone again. What was hard was understanding why the girls in particular treated one another so poorly. Like some kind of crazy lottery, a girl was chosen without much rhyme or reason to be "dropped."
Dropping meant that none of the girls would speak to you. You were shunned. Completely. Anyone (including boys) who dared to associate with the dropped girl would also be shunned. The dropped girl ate alone. She walked back to school from having lunch in the cafeteria, followed by a group of girls who mocked and ridiculed her. I watched as girls subjected to this treatment completely fell apart. Then as quickly as the girl had been dropped, she was restored.
It wasn't long after I arrived at school before I took my turn. It's no wonder. I was the "new girl." I wasn't shocked that I had been dropped. But I was devastated by how long I was the favorite social outcast.
I had an okay time of it outside of school. I had a friend I spent time with. But school itself was unbearable. As a psychologist, I have asked myself why my dropping went on so long. I think one reason was that I never buckled. Unlike some other girls who sobbed, begging for it to stop, I never let anyone see me cry. I won't say how long the ordeal lasted so I don't exaggerate. All I know is that it was an eternity for a junior high girl.
I had often prayed and cried out to God for help. Then one night I had a dream that it was over. When I woke up I knew that this was God's answer. The end of this lonely road was in sight. I felt compelled to write a letter of submission to the girl who seemed to be the dropping ringleader. I heard her reading it out loud to some of the other girls. She was clearly shocked. My status was restored within days of my dream.
In high school, the practice of dropping ended. I went on to become vice president of my class and was on the homecoming court. Since graduating from high school, the dropping ring leader seems to be the last person you'd ever expect to be a "mean girl."
In junior high, I felt completely alone, but I wasn't. God was with me and is with me still.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
I recently began reading Gifted Hands, the Ben Carson story (Kids Edition) to my children and I believe every homeschooling family, school teacher, and librarian should be reading it to their students.
The reading level is appropriate for multiple age levels and my children beg me to read it. Then they beg me to read another chapter. The message that faith and reading are an integral part of success is communicated in a compelling way that even my eight-year-old reluctant reader caught. In fact, my son bragged about how many books he read last night.
Other important teaching is diligence, the impact of racism, and what it’s like to be poor. Don’t miss this inspiring addition to your homeschool library.