Routine is my super power!
I have seen a few Facebook posts lately asking for help on getting their child to sit and work through their day’s workload. The child is fidgety, has a short concentration span, does not want to do the work, poor attitude towards their work, etc. Well, 6 months ago that described my 10 year old son. It is something I have been working on for the last 6 months and finally this week I feel my goal has been achieved.
I just rescued my day from disaster by using my new super power: routine! To cut a long story short, I slept in and the day did not start in its usual way. In the past it would have escalated into a complete melt down from my son, we would be arguing all day, and no learning would have occurred. But not today! I managed to pull it back into line and start at the beginning of our routine. We managed to complete all of today’s workload on time, and we feel pretty good.
I will start at the beginning. I have 2 older sons who are very heavily involved in sports. The previous 2 years consisted of daily training and many trips away for competitions. It was impossible to establish any kind of routine or regular learning for my youngest son. Needles to say, not only did his academic work slow down, but his character training was quite neglected. Once my oldest son became an independent driver, all this changed and allowed me to focus once again on Master 10.
The first thing that had to change was his attitude towards, well, everything. We were lucky if he completed just 1 subject in a day. There was no routine and we almost always ended up in a serious argument. Character training is my priority where academics come second, so I decided to strip back his academic work to the bare minimum with the intention to slowly introduce non-core subjects as things improved. His day consisted of Religion (no writing anymore, just the 2 of us on the couch, going through his books with discussion), Spelling, Grammar and Maths.
Next I had to learn what motivated him. We did this by writing down what he would like to do if he had free time. For a 10 year old boy this included playing with his friend, playing on the PlayStation, watching TV, playing Lego, free time outside and playing board/card games with the family. He wrote this on our whiteboard in the Family room – a prominent location where he could see it often throughout the day. I had to make his goals attainable so he felt a sense of achievement. If he did a free time activity, he would write it in his diary so he could see the amount of free time he achieved over time. Also, he wrote his school subjects on the white board and ticked them off as he completed them each day.
At first I gave my son the freedom to choose the order in which he did his work. I figured there was not a lot to get through so it really did not matter, as long as the work was completed. This backfired as he felt a sense of control over his activities and would not relinquish any of that control to me. When things happened throughout the day and I needed him to work on a particular subject, at a particular time, he got upset. So I wrote down a schedule for him to follow. It was simply the order in which he did his 4 subjects. Wow, this made a huge difference. He no longer had to second-guess himself and just had to get on with it. This was the beginning of our routine.
In the beginning he struggled to complete each subject in a timely manner. At first I would allocate an amount of time to each subject, but never let him know what that time was (he would focus too much on the time slipping away instead of the work). When I felt he reached the time limit, I would calmly tell him it was time to move on and he would have to finish the subject later, but before free time. When the subject was finally finished he could tick it off on the whiteboard. Yes, we did have arguments over this, and he did not always complete the workload for the day. To get us past this situation I had him add extra things to his whiteboard table of subjects. This included exercise, cooking, shopping, and chores, basically anything else that he did during the day. He would tick everything off as he did it. Next we totaled the number of items on the list and at the end of the day he received a percentage score: the total number of items divided by the number of items ticked. He wrote this in his diary so he could see in a numerical form his daily achievement. Bingo, he was self-driven to improve this score.
Over time he began to achieve free time each day. With this sense of achievement his attitude towards schoolwork improved. I was beginning to see my happy, funny boy again. We were butting heads less and less. As he completed his work earlier and earlier in the day I was able to slip one extra subject into the schedule at a time. We started with a fun one on the computer: 15min of Mathletics each day. Next came Spanish and coding once a week, then 15min of daily typing. It tool about 4 months before we were ready to include Science. This week I cut back on his grammar program so I could include his writing program. He told me he loves his new writing program and is really enjoying Science. And finally History will begin next week: at his request!
Both of us are excited to be learning together again. We look forward to our daily religion discussions snuggled up on the couch. My boy is motivated to complete his work, and I can see a huge character shift. I have also grown from this experience. I no longer have the anxiety I felt over his attitude and can approach conflict more calmly.
Now, I know you might be thinking that it is easy for me as I really only have 1 child to educate (Master 16 is learning almost entirely independently and Master 17 has graduated). With little ones, our routine is so important. Somehow I lost sight of that when my children grew and things got crazy with their commitments. It was refreshing to re-establish the basics and focus on what is most important to me, and that is the heart of my child.