How I’m Helping My Kids Stay on Track for Homeschool During Quarantine

This is a picture of what I’m doing today to keep my youngest girls to stay on task with their school work. It matters to me that they’re motivated, rather than forced (otherwise it’s miserable for all of us!!) This has been the best strategy so far:

You don’t have to be an artist to create these simple hand-drawn charts to help track & visualize tasks for kids who are homeschooling.

You don’t need any special print-off; just trace their hands on a paper and write which actions earn them a sticker to put on each nail – or just use crayons if you don’t have stickers. Be as vague or specific as you need to be. Just keep it fun! The girls’ tasks here are divided into things like worksheet pages, 15 minutes at a time on math, reading a short book, as well as simple chores changing into their day clothes or clearing off their place at the table.

Ten is still a pretty big goal number, so I gave my littlest a bonus prize when she earned 5 stickers for the first hand, and the girls will each earn a manicure from Mommy once they’ve adorned all 10 fingers!

Traditional weekly fill-in-the blank charts were doing nothing for us, because they proved to be too abstract for a 5 and 7 year old. Then again, I can never expect that a chart will “do something” for me. Strategies fail quickly when they aren’t backed up by effort. Reminder charts have to be referred back to frequently so they get a chance to remind us to do the work. Having a visual strategy with short-term goal setting did really enhance their efforts, and the girls were happily referring back to these charts on their own!

This system is better than what we were doing before, because it visually displays how they’re progressing overall, rather than waiting all day for any benefits as they go through the mental list (usually I would just end up enduring the push-pull cycle!) This is also preferable to receiving little rewards for EACH step in the right direction, because they’re still getting some delayed gratification.

My kids’ school allows them to be self-paced, which has its own challenges, but I imagine visualizing a “countdown” could also be useful for those children who seem to have endless Zoom meetings.

I have a bonus tip which I’ve shared with some of my other young clients who have to endure back-to-back zoom meetings: Make tally marks as you listen to lectures. Use two categories, labeled “Stuff I already know” and “Stuff I didn’t know before” (or “New” and “Review”). This simple system gives your brain something to scan for, and scanning requires a lot less effort (and therefore requires less motivation) compared to the expected task of active listening. Think of scanning like when you’re in an environment with a lot of background noise and you hear your name; suddenly you pay attention! Your name is something your brain is programmed to scan for, without conscious effort. Depending on the subject, your brain could be casually scanning for “novel information” in order to try to add up tally marks. You might count your tallies to gauge how well you were listening. **Extra credit if you actually write down what the new information IS!!**

Have a better day!
Love,
Janina

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