Oh the pain, the pain. I’m currently working on modifying the beautiful 2015-2016 work plan I had set up last semester for Thumper. How great and beautiful was it? The week we were to leave for winter vacation, she had two wonderful days where she just followed her work plan and finished everything on her plan in about 3 hours.
She was so proud of herself.
Then, the day before our trip, I told her that we had to run some errands and pack. She actually asked me how she could then squeeze in her work. She was worried she couldn’t get her work done for the day in time. Sadly, I had to tell her that it was okay to not work that day.
Last year, I had a work plan that I probably followed for about a few weeks. I felt bad that I posted about it and didn’t actually use it. This year’s work plan has been test driven for a few months and so far it’s sticking.
The biggest mistake I made last year was not having a tight work plan. I gave Thumper way too many choices. Without a classroom routine set up, she did not know how to use her freedom of choice. It’s akin to teaching Thumper how to cook by showing her each step slowly, making sure she has mastered certain skills, before giving her more responsibilities. For example, to teach her to make hot chocolate, first she learned to just mix the cocoa and sugar, then I taught her how to pour milk into a pot and use the stove to warm it up. Only after she’s shown me she’s very careful with heated food did I allow her to pour her own milk into the hot chocolate mix. This took at least 6 months. I realized I needed to really show the kids the steps before giving them free rein. It’s inherently different in a homeschool because the child isn’t coming into a very well established classroom with kids showing them how to do these things. So it’s all up to me to implement them.
In October and November, I struggled mightily with work plans; partly because I had so many ones I knew about. First there are the work plans I read in the Lillard books, which is basically children having meeting with teacher and then coming up with list of things they want to do and then documenting it down on a workbook. Then there is what I saw during my observation of classrooms, which have grids of Monday-Friday across, and general subjects (Reading, Math, Culture) going down. Teachers check off each subject as children complete them.
First I tried to do something similar by writing them on the whiteboards. I listed the items and had how many times Thumper had to do them each week, which were more granular than subjects. The first week I had Reading, Being Read to, Math, Meditation, zhuyin, etc with 3 squares for each week. By the third week, the list grew to about 7-10 items, with some items having 4-9 squares and others 3.
At this time, I got push back. “If I read one paragraph, does that equal to one check mark?” “If I do 3 math problems, am I done for the day?” I would always tell her, “No, just do as many as you want and then stop.” But at the same time I wasn’t okay with the choice of just 1 problem, so I was technically lying to her. In addition, because she dillydallied, sometimes it would be Thursday and she would have a mad rush of finishing all the check marks. Because of this, at that third week, I also had her “plan” by writing when she was going to do them on top of the squares. But there really wasn’t any consequences like in a real school where they have to finish work during lunch and can’t play. Because other things in life gets in the way, like Mommie being too tired at the end of the day, having to make it to swimming, Mommie being hungry herself and needing to leave the classroom to feed Astroboy.
I had thought myself a genius in using the white board because I can arbitrarily add new squares. And I knew I was “assigning” the amount of work because it’s a transition. But I found that this didn’t work for two reasons:
Within each subject, there are multiple threads. Saying I want her to do math does not specify WHAT math. It also gets confusing because I don’t know off the top of my head what materials goes with which strands of math and therefore which ones I need to hit or do follow up work with.
She got into the “How do I check off the squares” mentality. Totally not what I want. One reason I love Montessori philosophy is the child choosing their work, within limits. And having the ability to do a lot more of one work if they’re interested. Checking off squares does not help with that ultimate goal.