Friday, September 10, 2010

incentives vs punishments

The kids have had a fabulous summer going to camp, swimming at the pond, riding their bikes until 9pm, playing in the woods, and helping me in the garden. The 4-7 year old crew really does like hoeing the weeds, laying down hay for mulch, and picking produce. All I have to do is say, "I'm going to the garden to get some lettuce (until the wild turkeys ruined most of my lettuce bed) or pick some tomatoes" and find myself surrounded by eager helpers. Julia Ellen demands to be part of the fun, but she isn't so helpful since she tries to pick green cherry tomatoes and stand in the carrots.

So, when September 1st rolled around and I laid out the schoolbooks in stacks I knew it was going to be difficult to transition from "all fun all the time" to "get your work done before play" time. Of course the little ones seem to understand this best, maybe because they don't do very much work, 30 minutes at most, before they can resume their summer activities. The girls give me a little grief, but they practice the piano without grumbling and they even occasionally start on their stack of workbooks before going to bed to get a head's start on the next day.

Will is another matter. Starting from 7am, when I have to threaten to pour cold water on his head to get him out of bed (I don't wonder when I stumble over books in the mysteriously lighted bathroom every morning), to prodding him to get each subject completed, to getting angry over his messing around instead of seriously practicing the piano, my day is spent trying to give everyone else enough attention while simultaneously keeping him on task. There is nothing wrong with him, no condition or disability that hampers his ability to work on a 7th grade level unless you count laziness as a disease.

So far in the past two weeks I have promised the children to go bowling if "everyone" got their work done in a timely manner (we ALL knew who I was referring to) to yesterday lowering the boom after a particularly bad report from his piano teacher. He now has to practice 30 minutes before each meal until I get a follow up good report, which means he will have logged 9.5 hours of practice before his next lesson, ensuring that result. I've threatened to enroll him the local public school when we get back to Virginia, but with the guarantee of violence and drug activity, I'm not willing to follow through. Something has to change in the way we proceed with homeschooling, I certainly can't see myself admonishing a 16 year old, "If you don't finish 11th grade I won't let you get your driver's licence." He does like homeschooling and doesn't want to "go away to school" but I'm at a loss of what to try next.   


Mom Laura said...

Please send my child back home to me. I think she may have wandered to the East Coast and is living in your house incognito as a boy.

Same story over here with an eleven year old girl.

dstb said...

Oh, I feel your pain. This was our first week back to school after Maine and I knew it was not going to be pretty.

I decided not to push Math, but I did require practicing as lessons start up again next week. My 11 1/2 yo plays cello and he is torturing me. I suggest that he warm up playing scales and you would think it was a race to see how fast he can get them done, regardless of how it sounded. I ended up buying him a digital timer to use because his idea of 30 minutes was a lot different than my idea of 30 minutes. He sets it right near where he plays and if he stops playing to do something else (like talk to me, look at the truck going by outside, get a drink, etc.) he has to pause the timer. I still think he is not giving the practicing the effort it deserves, but I figure the first step is getting him to put bow to strings.

We'll be starting our "real" work on Monday, including math. Last year I tried everything I could think of to get him to do his work in a timely manner. I am open to suggestions. I have him work at the kitchen table where I can try to keep him on task. I have set a time limit and told him if he is not done, he will have to put it aside and move on to something else and then do the math for "homework" during his play time in the afternoon.

Sometimes I think I come at things from the negative/punishment direction too much, so I have tried incentives. If he gets his math done in a timely manner each day during the week, then on Friday night he can choose a movie for us to watch or a game we all play. That may work for one week, but then doesn't work the next.

His older brother has learned that if he just does it and gets it done, he'll have his time free. That gives me hope that eventually my younger one will figure that out.

I too, am open to ideas. I am not looking forward to the Monday battle.


Michelle said...

I recently read The Explosive Child which may offer some help in dealing with difficult personalities.