Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Homeschool: To-do lists for children

I've used many to-do lists over the years. I find it helpful at this time to keep a basic copy of what needs to be done most days in order for our family's schedule to run smoothly. It gives me a sense of accomplishment for work that is endlessly repetitive and never fully "done". With that in mind and with the goal of training our children in independence rather than dependence, I made a simple to-do list for them to follow each day. What did I have to lose beyond a single sheet of paper if they didn't respond well to their list?
They amazed me with their eagerness to use their new list every day. After introducing it to them the first day, I left the papers in a cupboard for our daughters to take the initiative in pulling them out and using them. Their job is to complete every task on their list; whether they actually use the list to mark off each accomplishment or not is entirely up to them.
What I discovered is that completing everything on the list is very motivating for our 5yr. She finished all her tasks about 3 hours earlier than normal on the first day, proud to have everything marked off. I've never seen her so happy to complete her chores! I don't have to remind her or prod her to finish them because they're on a list she wants to mark off every day. One morning she looked like she didn't know what to do with herself so I threw out several options: eat lunch, play a bit, look at a book, finish her last item on her to-do list. The last option brightened her face and was met with an enthusiastic "Yes!" before she set off to complete it.
Our 6yr is also eager to write her check mark next to each item, but still ready to leave her afternoon chores until the afternoon. Certain items on her list aren't required to be done until after our daily rest time, and she's not going to complete them until that required hour. Yet she also has responded well to the list, accepting that playtime comes after everything required is done (although taking advantage of the playtime available in the morning before completing afternoon chores) and understanding that complaining isn't worth the effort when the rules have been so clearly set. She also is finishing her schoolwork faster with the independence given her to mark off each completed task as she finishes it.
I kept the list as short and simple as possible. I wanted to start with just one list for both girls, easy for them to read, easy to maintain, and using just a little bit of paper each day. So I started with:

set table/Daddy's lunch

While both girls have tasks to do in each of these categories, their individual tasks are different. So the one list works for both although it means something a little bit different for each. After filling a page with several copies of this list, in easy-to-read font, extra large and with a line to mark next to each task, I printed it and cut out about nine lists to a page. Those nine lists were piled where the girls could access them so each can pull out one list each day and mark off each task as she completes it. There are a lot of other daily tasks I could have included (i.e. brush teeth, individual chores, prayer journal), but I really wanted to keep their first to-do lists as short as possible. Since we began this in May we have already added Spanish practice. The next addition will probably be ukulele practice. The list will continue to grow and the font to shrink as the girls grow older, and we may eventually print separate lists a bit more individualized for each. But it was important to start off simple and grow from there.
Linked with Works for Me Wednesday, DIY Linky

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