When I started my homeschooling journey, I was given a great piece of advice by the publisher of Five in a Row curriculum. Steve Lambert, who writes the curriculum along with his wife, pointed out that “normal” school is not what schooling at home is. Today, we have a vast amount of information at our fingertips thanks to Google and mobile devices. If I need to convert quarts to liters, there is an app for that. Better to instill into our students the process of learning and a love for learning. This method of discovery learning becomes a journey and a process that is not allocated to Monday – Friday, 8-3. I agreed with what he said then, and as I watch our world change so rapidly and realize that I may be shaping young lives for careers that do not even exist yet, his words ring true. So, what does this mean?
What flexible is NOT
- Flexible is not leaving your child in their room all-day
- Flexible is not giving in to wants over needs
- Flexible is not assuming the teacher/school is responsible for your child’s success
- Flexible is not disorganized and without order
What flexible IS (for both child and parent)
- Flexible is a plan to deal with unexpected
- Flexible is safety and security because we know what comes next
- Flexible is confidence because we know what is important and how to say NO
- Flexible is a life skill that employers want
Routines are Essential
I recently read Please Stop Expecting Normal From Kids (and Teachers) Right Now. One of the lines of this article hit home. “What kind of message does it send our kids when we prioritize state and standardized tests when many students’ basic needs aren’t being met. Maslow before Bloom.” For those of you who do not know those names are, let me explain. Maslow was a psychologist whose pyramid of needs has physical needs, safety, and security at the base. This makes sense because if people do not have these basic needs met, learning is difficult, if not impossible. This is why you see so many social programs at school. Bloom was an educational psychologist who broke learning into different levels with regurgitating information in the lower order of thinking skills and analyzing and creating in the higher order.
This information is important to teachers and parents. Where should our children feel safe? Not just at school, but at home. Routines give a level of safety and security which leads to confidence and success. This great article on Why Kids Need Routines from Aha! Parenting gives more explanation into that. What do routines have to do with being flexible?
Everyone Needs a Plan
All of us learn better with pictures. Planners are graphical organizers that help parents, students and teachers see what needs to be done and when to do it. It is the first thing on the wall in an elementary classroom and taped to a high school student’s binder. Planners are the structure, security, and ritual that help students feel like they know what is coming next and gives them a sense of control. They need this at home just as much, if not more, than they needed it at school. The more visual the better.
- I used this one from Amazon I changed it every day and went over it in the morning with my student. We often did it together, or I had them so it, and I checked it. You can create your own cards. I added household chores and free time. As the item was accomplished, my child turned the card over. It worked great because my life changed from day to day. This way everyone knew what was coming, which resulted in fewer temper tantrums. I could also tell at a glance what my child had accomplished. Younger children need more monitoring or check-ins than older children do, but this is an easy visual for everyone.
- I know students need to read a clock. My kids do, but when they were young, I gave them digital watches with timers. Watches worked amazingly. Once my child knew their time goals, and that fun or free time was scheduled later, it made a world of difference.
- Older kids still like the clear visuals. Many children are tactile and like to move things so don’t rule out visual scheduling for older students or yourself. Our kids like to know what is going on with us and when is a good time to talk, and when you need left alone.
- Consider shared family calendars/tasks and email. Create a school calendar in Outlook or Google Calendars. Teach your child to plan their day in the same way as an elementary calendar. Tasks can be put on the calendar and then marked off. If the calendar is shared, parents can see at a glance what is being done or even assign remotely. Many school calendars can be imported into Outlook, but I prefer typing my tasks in because it reinforces what I need to get done.
- Shared calendars will help your child know what you are doing, and when you are available.
- Teaching your child to work within the family with shared calendars is a life skill that is needed for future jobs.
- You can monitor and interact remotely. Some older kids will type and say things they will not say in person. They are very used to communicating this way. Win/win
Planners? How is this flexibility?
- Plan what is important first. Instructional time for students does not take 6-8 hours. Think 2-3 hours at the elementary level and 4-5 at the high school level. That should be a relief and a level of panic (see future article on Help! I have my kids for 24 hours a day). Much of the time at school is transitional. Think about all the time taken lining up, bathroom breaks, getting materials out, or waiting for someone to catch up. Instructional time is important. It is a big rock. So, make sure this is clearly scheduled.
- Flexibility comes from the fact that things are written down. There are only 24 hours in a day and, teaching your child to budget time from a young age is an essential life skill. Steven Covey writes the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and 7 Habits of Happy Kids. These best-selling books are a modification of President Eisenhower’s time management system that urges people to stop focusing on the urgent and non-important things that suck up time and instead focus on what is important. Kids can learn it too. When kids see that important things go on the schedule first and that we are not always focusing on the Urgent, they are learning lifelong skills.
- Time budgeting is every bit as important as money budgeting, and few people stop to think about it. By teaching your children that they have a plan, you give them a feeling of security, and you help them create boundaries. Knowing what needs to be done, helps them to see when you need to say “No” to things that are wants and not needs.
- Planning is a graphical organizer. This graphical organizer is the key to flexibility. When things change, it is possible to see what can be moved. Instead of immediately responding to what we: want to do, a planner is a visual tool that helps a student look at things and make an educated choice based on what is important. Plus, we remember more when things are visual instead of just auditory or words, up to 50-65% compared to 10-20%.
Flexibility Encourages Creativity and Entrepreneurship
The most successful people in our world take risks, calculated risks, but risks, nonetheless. To have the confidence to do this, a child needs to know that failure is a learning process but with review and reflection and adjustment, failure is a teaching tool that can lead to success. Teaching your students, a plan to be flexible and adaptable to what is around them has long-lasting benefits. Who knows, you might find that planning to be flexible might help you too.