Teaching our kids about time management is a life skill that will enable and empower them no matter what they do. As you look at the upcoming school year, finding opportunities to focus on this can make a big difference over the course of the school year.
Last year, I got lucky in this department when the first “monthly book report assignment” came home. Book reports can be a hassle. It’s a long term project as far as our little third graders are concerned. And for a working parent, it can be a big stressor throughout the entire month as we try to help our kids not only remember, but to get the work done.
With my daughter, I decided to turn this into a chance to teach her about time (and project) management. And with a 9 month school year, that would be a lot of opportunities in a row to figure this out. The incentive: if, by the end of the year, she was doing the entire book report on her own, in addition to her other household chores, she could get her ears pierced for her 9th birthday.
Here’s the summary of how we went from me helping with the whole thing to getting her independent by the end of the school year.
September: I helped her pick the book and needed to remind her each day to get the reading done and then get the writing and art assignment done. That was a lot of work! And our afternoon babysitter was the main person working with her in the afternoon.
October: Based on how things went in September, we knew about how many pages she could read in 15 minutes. We chose a book that we estimated she could finish in 2 weeks. We set a date for finishing the book and from there, we worked together to get all of the written and art assignments done.
November: This month, we made a list of all the days she could work on her assignment and worked backwards from the due date to figure out all of the work she would do each day. If she got behind on her schedule she’d need to make up those days on a Friday. (We set up the schedule so she could avoid doing any homework on Fridays.)
December: She got the month off. :)
January: We put a whiteboard calendar up in her room. From October and November, we figured out that there were certain days where it was hard to make progress. Her brother had a social skills group on Wednesdays to attend and she had reading tutoring (for her dyslexia which slows down her ability to read fluently) on Thursdays. We added those appointments to the calendar and we did the “work back plan” together. She read every day but worked on the written and art assignments on Mondays and Tuesdays with an occasional Friday.
February: She tried to create her schedule all by herself. This was difficult but she learned from the process. After she did the first draft, we worked together to make sure it was set for the month. By now, she was getting the daily tasks done on her own because she knew how to follow the schedule. Only a few reminders were needed from me and the afternoon babysitter.
March: Another month like February. We’re on a roll.
April: Wild card– Spring Break with a catch. Her dad took her out of school for a few extra days around Spring Break. She needed to work over one weekend and every Friday to meet the due date. She was NOT happy but it drove a great conversation about balancing fun and work. She got a few extra days of vacation and had a great time with her dad. To balance out that fun, she needed to do a little extra work over one weekend. This is how life can be juggling a full time job – and it’s a great lesson to learn early on.
May: She was totally on her own with just a final review of the schedule. I asked the babysitter to NOT remind her at all and I was going to casually ask her about progress over dinner. I was a bit stressed this month. I wasn’t sure if she would get it turned in on time. But it’s the 3rd grade. If she was going to miss a deadline, I’d rather her experience that earlier than later. She came through.
Turning monthly book reports into an opportunity for her to really take ownership of her homework really made a difference in my daughter’s school year. As she became more responsible for the work, her confidence grew. She got good grades on her assignments. And when she got a 3 out of 4 instead of a 4 out of 4 on any particular aspect, we’d talk about why we thought she got that score and what she could do next time to try and earn a 4. It was a forward looking exercise, not spending too much time lamenting something we couldn’t change from the last one.
As I look ahead to the next school year, I’m excited to see what the NEXT opportunity will be to help her become more independent in her school work, and see her confidence build even more. And yes, last weekend was her birthday. She got her ears pierced and is already taking charge of the responsibility of cleaning them and following the directions she was given to take care of them. So proud!