Friday, October 30, 2009

Reward Systems

Sometimes, when we are trying to establish a new work habit, I have found it helpful to use some sort of reward system.  However, I think it is very important that I don't reward the kids for doing a job, but instead I reward them for how well the job is done.

For example, I wouldn't give a reward to the children for cleaning the kitchen after a meal (but there are consequences for not working).  However, I might give a reward for speaking kindly the entire time or for doing it in a certain number of minutes.

In my experience, reward systems tend to fizzle out in a couple of weeks, but that's okay because we're usually well on our way to establishing the habit by then.

Sometimes I'll put in a reward system for a habit that we've already established, but I would like to have it done more efficiently or in a more kindly manner.  In that case, the speed or kindness during the work is the habit I'm trying to establish.

Some reward systems that have worked for us are:

-Point systems - When the kids earn a certain number of points they can purchase something from a chart (ie. 20 points = choosing a meal, 30 points = 30 minutes of play time with mom or dad, 40 points =  10 extra Wii minutes, 100 points = choosing a family outing, etc).

-Sticker charts - Some kids are motivated by stickers themselves, I usually have them fill in bubbles with stickers and when the bubbles are filled they get some sort of prize (a treat, play time, etc)

-Tickets - Buy a cheap roll of tickets from wal-mart and when the kids get a certain number of tickets, they can turn them in for a reward

-Bean jar (I got this from Rachel Demille in Leadership Education)  Children get to put beans in a jar.  When the jar gets filled up, we go on a family outing and do a family service projects.  I like this because we work together towards a common goal and there's no competitiveness ("I have more stickers than you", etc)

(these aren't really rewards, but they help us accomplish our tasks)

Music - I do find if there is contention during work (or to prevent it), it helps to put on some soothing classical or church music (the Children's Songbook CDs are very effective) to help calm me down.  It seems to have the same effect on the kids as well ;-)

Blog (or tell) about it - I'm finding that I feel kind of hypocritical when I'm telling people I'm doing something and then I slack off ;-)

Lists - Sometimes having a list can help kids stay on task.  I read about a kitchen list from Angela's blog today.  I put this one together for our meal time clean up this morning (when we're all done with #1, we all do #2, etc)

1) Clear table and counters
    Unload dishwasher
2) Clean table, chairs and counters
     Pick up stuff from floor
3)  Sweep
     Load dishwasher

It worked great

I've written about my latest favorite here.

It's fun to come up with little systems, but I have to remember not to get discouraged when they fizzle out - it's not a succesful reward system that I am trying to accomplish - it's the good habits that they help us start.

Any other ideas?

This post is part of my thoughts on how to teach the kids to work.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meal Time Clean-Up

This post is part of my thoughts on how to teach kids to work.

My friend Angela (one of the people whom I look up to a great deal and got me looking into home-schooling in the first place) (her site is awesome, by the way) told me that no one in her family was allowed to leave the kitchen or dining room after meals until they were clean. I liked this a lot so now we have the same rule in our family.

This was hard at first and we had to start slowly. I'll admit that some days I just let them leave without reminding them to stay because it was just easier to do it myself. We're past that now. They know to stay without any reminders and they work together until it gets done. It goes pretty fast these days.

Here's how we got there:

At first, I set out cards with kitchen jobs on them that had to be done after every meal (loading dishes; clearing the table and counters; wiping counters, table and chairs; sweeping the floor) and they would get to pick the job that they wanted to be responsible for the rest of the day (we would rotate who got to pick first).  When they were done with their job, they could leave.

This worked for starting out because they got accustomed to doing different jobs in the kitchen in an efficient manner.

However, since the ultimate aim for our family work isn't efficiency, but unity in purpose, bonding, cooperation, and practice in working hard and serving others - we do things a little differently now.

Now, everyone is expected to do whatever needs to be done until the kitchen is clean - and then we ALL leave.

When I first started doing it this way - it would sometimes happen that one or two (or all) kids would play in the kitchen (as they held a broom or a rag) until I finished cleaning it and then we would all leave. It really was too much work for me to focus on my work and to keep pestering them to do theirs. I realized that they needed more practice working! So here's what we do - when a child isn't working during family work time.

It has worked well. Since there are 5 (or 6 when Rock is home - it's nice if you have a husband who is willing to set an example) of us cleaning the work goes pretty fast and it's not such a burden to anyone anymore.

Of course, different things are expected of different ages. Bazinks usually wipes the chairs, washes the dishes (plays in the sink), sorts the silverware or sits on a stool and watches us work (I give him that option as long as he stays in the kitchen until it's done), the rest of the kids usually start out with their favorite thing (wiping the table or sweeping) and then ask me what else needs to be done (yes, it often happens that the table gets wiped before it gets cleared and then it needs to get wiped again, but I think they're starting to see that that's not the most efficient way to do things :-) )

Here's a list I put together to help us do things in order:

 (when we're all done with #1, we all do #2, etc)

1) Clear table and counters
    Unload dishwasher
2) Clean table, chairs and counters
     Pick up stuff from floor
3)  Sweep
     Load dishwasher

It took time to establish this habit, but I am sooo glad we did. With homeschooling and everything I just don't have time to do it all myself. The kids know they're needed.

Following Directions

This post is part of my thoughts on how to teach the kids to work .

Sometimes there are miscellaneous things that pop up that I would like the kids to help me with. I don't like to assign them every single thing because this robs them of the joy of helping out with things that are not their assignments. Also, I want them to learn to look for things that need to be done without me having to tell them all the time (we're working on this. For example, I'll say - "Go look on the stairs to see if anything needs to be done before people use them, etc. I also try to remember to praise them when I catch them picking something up when they weren't asked to do so).

They're still little though, and I don't expect them to see everything that needs to be done. Most of the time I just have to ask for their help.

Usually they respond well to a sincere plea for help, and they get the most joy out of helping in this way. Sometimes I'll even let them say "no" and then I ask someone else just so that they can experience the bad feeling that comes when you don't help someone in need.

However, sometimes I expect them to be obedient when I really need something done and saying "no" just isn't an option.

Here's how I would handle a typical resistant scenario:
Me: "Spice, would you please put the things on the coffee table away?"
Child: "But I didn't get them out!"
Me: (remind) "I know, but we're a family and we help each other out remember"
Child: "But it's not fair"
Me: (warn) Please don't make me ask you twice (they know there is a consequence if I have to ask them something twice- they almost always obey by this point).
Child: "Why do I have to do it?
Me: (give consequence): "Please just pick them up, and since I've had to ask you twice I'm going to have to have you practice working by picking up 10 more things after you put away the things on the coffee table."
( I like to use the 10 item pick up as my "go-to" consequence in general - time-outs were too time consuming for me - although I still use them on Basinks - having him pick up 10 items is too time consuming for me!)

If they still refuse to help, Nicholeen Peck would say they are "out of instructional control".

Bill and I went to a parenting seminar by Nicholeen Peck last summer. She is really great. I've read a lot of books about parenting (for my degree and because I am a parent) and Nicholeen's ways are the most helpful that I've seen. I like that she takes a complete approach to discipline (looks at the larger vision, treats the kids with respect and love and allows them to have a say, but has high expectations). I highly recommend her seminar or her DVDs to anyone who is having trouble with disobedient kids.

For "out of instructional control" behavior, Nicholeen recommends that you give them 3 opportunities to get themselves back in control. For example (I'm paraphrasing):

"Jane, it seems like you might be out of instructional control." (Usually this is enough to get a child to obey if they've experienced what happens next)
"I'm going to give you an instruction. If you don't follow the instruction, you will earn (a consequence) (she suggests an hour of "major maintenance" which is an hour of hard labor like cleaning out the garage or wiping all the baseboards, etc.). Then I will give you another instruction. If you don't follow that instruction you will earn (a second consequence). Then I will give you a final instruction. If you don't follow that instruction you will earn (a third consequence - for this final one she suggests 24 hours of no "privileges". Privileges are anything that is not a necessary thing to have like 3 meals, a bed and shelter, and clothing. Anything else is taken away for 24 hours - snacks, electronics, toys, etc. The 24 hours starts after the child is ready to follow the original instruction - until then, you keep our of their way until they calm down.

Then you give them the first instruction (your original request or taking 3 deep breaths etc.) and you follow through with the rest.

I could go into more detail, but that's the basic picture.

Two of my kids earned a "major maintenance" once and one made it to the 24 hours without privileges. After following through with those consequences- all that it takes now is for me to say "It seems like you might be out of instructional control"- and they shape up pretty quickly.

What other ideas have worked for some of you in helping your kids follow directions?

Inspiring Work

This post is part of my thoughts on how to teach your kids to work .

The best way to inspire work is to work together. It's not very fun to work alone - we learn sooo much as we work together and bonds are forged.

"Family identity is built moment by moment amidst the talking and teasing, the singing and story-telling that often attend such work sessions. Daily repetition of tasks allow the words and actions that accompany each day's labor to gradually form our most basic beliefs."

"Unfortunately, when family members no longer cooperate to feed, clothe and care for one another, they tend to grow further apart."

"Children learn to care for others by doing work that helps them think about others"

"Learning to patiently and lovingly work out disagreements is a vital part of linking family members through family work."

-All quotes from SoF

After asking Bud to do something for me one day he asked, "Mom, why is it so important to you to have a clean house? Aren't we more important to you than a clean house?" Yes!!!! That is why I am having you clean the house. It's important to my kids to see the big picture. The house being clean is an important end, but the more important end is what we are establishing as we clean. So I've been trying to teach them about work.

I try to teach them this (from SoF):
1)Life creates need (things get dirty, people get hungry, etc) and calls upon us to help.
2)When a need calls to them, it is the right, moral and necessary choice to respond.

We've had family home evenings and devotionals about why we work, about the quotes above, and about the scriptures below.
During family home evening yesterday, after discussing D&C 58:26-28, I asked them, "Do you guys understand that work is about so much more than a clean house?" They all nodded their head thoughtfully. I hope they are starting to see the big picture.

Here's some great scriptures about it:
D&C 82:19
Matthew 25:31-40
Alma 34:28
D&C 58:26-28

When a Child isn't Working During "Family Work".

This post is part of my thoughts on how to teach your kids to work .

For a while, it seemed that whenever I expected everyone to work together to get something done - there would be a complainer that would sit around and ask why we had to do a particular thing right now, or this way, etc. OR the kids would get distracted and start playing and forget the task.

I knew I needed to figure out a way to help them learn to work even when they didn't feel like it, and to stay focused despite the many distractions around them. I don't mind it all if they play while they work. I think this is great - we're forging bonds and leaning that working can be fun. I do have to do something when they're only playing instead of working.

Playing while we work :-)

I decided that they needed some "work practice". Here's what I do when I see someone is not contributing:

1) Remind - I do this in different ways. Sometimes I just say their name (I've explained that this is one way I'll remind them to get back on task) or I say, "this is a reminder". Sometimes I'll praise a child that is working. If it's really a hard day for them, I'll give them a quick reminder of why we work.

2) If they continue to neglect the task, I tell them that they need some "work practice". For work practice they get to pick up 10 extra items from somewhere else in the house. If I catch them dawdling again during the family task (tattling is not allowed - it's only if I happen to see it - which is easy since we're all in the same room!) I add 10 more items. I keep track of how many items each child has earned during the task and then they go pick up that many items after we're finished with the family task.

At first, I had to keep tally marks by their names on a little paper on the fridge. After the first day, though, they learned to stay on task much better, so it's easy to keep track in my head when I do have them do "work practice" after a task.

A couple of warnings:
It's easy to focus on the negative when I am focused on catching them NOT working. I try to remember to praise them a lot when I do see them working and thank them for their contribution to the family. If a child is particularly difficult that day (this happened to me yesterday) - it can be tempting to spend time arguing with him/her. I try to remember that arguing causes us both to get off task. Instead, I'll just add more items for them to pick up or I check to see if they are "out of instructional control"". I was proud of myself for not loosing my temper, but remembering to follow through with the consequences instead.

This "work practice" (or 10 item pick-up) has worked really well for us.

Anyone else have any ideas about how to help your children stay on task?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teaching the Kids to Work - Part 2 - How?

I read this quote this morning and I love it!
The observance of four simple things on the part of parents would in a generations or two turn our societies around in terms of their moral values.
They are simply these: Let parents and children (1)teach and learn goodness together, (2) work together, (3) read good books together, and (4) pray together
-Gordon B. Hinckley

So how do we learn to work together? I don't claim to have this down, so I would appreciate any comments on my posts with suggestions, but I do think I've learned a few things through trial and error as I've tried different ways to get the kids to work. (By the way, I think the experimenting in itself has been great - maybe some of the charts and reward systems I've tried have only served to motivate for a few weeks, but the kids learned to work in the process and that was what I was trying to accomplish in the first place! It seems to me that even when I repeatedly fail in my attempts, as long as I keep trying - the failures come less often and I see improvements over time. The trick is to not get discouraged and quit trying).

I suppose every family has to experiment with systems that work well for them, but I'll share in upcoming posts what has worked well for us and then I'll link them to this post. Here's what I plan to write about:
(If it's linked - then I've written a post on it, if it's not - then I'm still planning on getting to it.)

Why work?
Inspiring Work
**When a Child isn't Working during Family Work
**Following Directions
Meal Times
Daily Jobs (we now have new list and new stewardships  here)
Weekly Jobs (on our new schedule we now do these during family work time)
Project Time  (we also now do this during family work time)
Our New Schedule)
Involving the Little Ones
Kid of the Day and Making Time for Each Child
Reward Systems
The Ladder  (A reward system) and a nice addition from a friend's post.
The Cure for the Lazy Bug
Work and Respect

** I've learned a few things since writing these posts that have changed how I do this.  Here are my new thoughts on this:
Letting My Kids Make Mistakes
Consequence Ideas
To Spank or Not to Spank...
Motivating Children with Money? (The Right Motivators)
Without The Slightest Bit of Frustration

Our latest system:
Family Work
Principles I've Learned about Work and How it Looks at Our House (including our current schedule)

Also, we've incorporated these things into our schedule very gradually. We are able to do them all now (for the most part), but we had to start by focusing on doing one thing well at a time. If we were to try to do all of these things at once - there would have been some major resistance. Some people may have the mental strength and fortitude to persist with it anyway. I don't - so we had to get to where we are (and where we eventually want to be) slowly but steadily.

Please share anything that has worked well for you - and feel free to ask questions if something doesn't make sense.  I appreciate comments!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Spice!

Spice is a girl of many talents!
Among them are:
Spice once said to me, "Mom, it's really weird, but I feel like I can't walk by a sharpened pencil and not pick it up to draw with it!"
She drew this picture of Little Miss shelling peas as a final project for her art class last spring.

Her oil pastels teacher was really impressed with this drawing of a lemon:

She spends most time drawing "cartoon" type pictures for her stories or of characters she makes up (like fairies, little girls, different animals, etc).

She has asked me to teach her how to sew, but since I don't know too much about it myself, I've put it off. I did teach her a basic hand stitch once though, and she took off from there - designing clothes and accessories for her dolls. She makes them from old pants or shirts we were going to get rid of. Apparently old pant legs are just the right size for 18" doll dresses! Here's some of the outfits she has created (she made everything they're wearing):

She made the monkey shirt out of a sock. Notice the hand-stitched flower on the skirt :-)

She also designs jewelry:

She loves to write stories, funny sayings, poems, cards, and in her journal and her diary. Bud thinks her books sound like something you'd read from the library. She describes things so well that you can see them in your mind.
Here's one of her poems called "My Made-up Friend"
By the golden sunset where the rainbows end
There lies a person a very good friend.
She is a pleasher (pleasure)sight
and no she does not bite.
She has jewels galore
A billion or more!
She has hair that's the coler of gold
and she is very very bold
She has wings that are the coler of rainbow in the sun
and I'm glad to say she likes to have fun
She only comes when the sunset is up.
I never asked her what was her name.
Well, we were playing such a very fun game.
Her name might be Ashly or Mary or Glistery
I guess her name shall forever be a mistery.
She is a very good friend I should say.
I wish I could see her every day.

I love her all her poems and stories. When she asked me if she could have a notebook just so she could write her made-up poems and songs, I tried to contain the excitement in my voice as I said, casually, "Oh, sure."

She is also an avid reader. Some of her favorite books so far are: the Harry Potter series, A Little Princess, and the American Girl book series.

Yes, she is a girl of many talents, but the best thing about her is her kind, good, honest heart. Here are some examples:

Me: "Spice, could you please get Basinks dressed for me?"
Spice: "Come on, Basinks, let's go get you dressed."
Bazinks: "No! I don't want to get dressed! I want to stay in my jammies!"
Spice: "Let's get you dressed so we can fight bad guys! We have to hurry or they're going to get us!"
Bazinks, "Okay!!"
(She doesn't get these great ideas from me - I'm not nearly as creative.)

At dinner:
Bazinks: "I don't wike sawad! I'm not going to eat my sawad."
Spice: "Okay! It's sooo yummy, I'm going to eat it!" (reaches for his plate)
Bazinks: "No! I eat it!" (Laughing to get it before she does).

She helps a ton with Ray - getting him dressed, keeping him happy when I'm trying to get things done, making him laugh, walking around with him when he's fussy. He smiles whenever he sees her.

The other day she was in a grumpy mood and she made some snappy remarks to me and her sister. I told her to leave the kitchen (we were making cookies so she did not like this at all). She went to her room. She came out a little later and apologized to us. She said she knew she had a bad feeling in her heart and so she went to her room to read some scriptures so she could have the Spirit with her again. She felt peaceful and wanted to be better now. I wish I'd think to do that more often!

Here's some pics of her birthday:
She got rollerblades:

We took a couple of her friends to a bouncy place:

Her cake:

She is an amazing little girl. I thank Heavenly Father every day for the privilege I have of knowing her and of being her mom. I love you Spice!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Teaching the Kids to Work - Part 1 - Why?

I knew I wanted to raise hard working people, but I didn't quite grasp the importance until recently...

I had been feeling like I needed to have the kids work more, but I wasn't sure where to fit it in. There were so many things I wanted to teach them during the day, plus I have a household to run - and teaching the kids to work more takes TIME! (In fairness to them - they do work more than your average kid - they have more time to do so since they don't go to a school).

Then, I was talking to my friend, Lara, at the park. She told me that she and her family were doing a "work-camp" (You can read about it here) They basically work from 7 am until noon every day, with a break for smoothies in between. I thought, "If they can work for 5 hours - surely we can do more than we're doing!"

Then I had to decide: Do I want to spend more time working when there are SO many other things I want to teach my kids?

I set out to find the answer. What is it, exactly, that they learn from working? If it's just skills - I'm sure I could teach them those in a short amount of time, when they're a little older and more capable.

I was intrigued that one of the first things God told Adam after he ate of the fruit was to get to work. Why? Why not tell him to get studying about how to return to Him? Why fill up his time (and ours) with weeds and all sorts of things to do? Wouldn't it be great if we could just sit around and study great books and scriptures all day?

I asked my Sunday School class this question and asked them to help me think of traits that are developed in a society that works the minimal amount in order to play (ie. ours). Some traits mentioned were: flightiness, superficiality, the tendency to be swayed about, "ever-learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7).

Then I asked them to help me think of traits that people who work hard have. They mentioned: Sturdiness of character, gratitude, appreciation for others' efforts (compassion), ability to value those things that matter... after a while I realized that every good character trait we develop - comes from working - from doing hard things.

That's when I realized - reading and studying good books inspires us to become good people and to seek for good things, but working is what makes us become good people who do good things - even when they're hard.

The two go hand in hand of course, but my kids (and I) are not going to BECOME great people if all we do is read about those people. We have to do the work - the hard things in life (especially when we don't feel like doing them) to become like those people.

I explained this to the kids after reading about Alma - how hard he worked and all the hardships he endured, but how much joy he had, and good he did, because of it. He was one well practiced in doing hard things.

This has very much changed my perspective on my work. Now when I go to clean the kitchen when I'm not feeling like it, I remind myself that I am not doing a temporal thing that will need to be done in a couple of hours anyway. I am building something eternal (me).

The kids have complained a little (okay - there has been a couple of fits) about the higher standard I have for the work they do, but I remind them that the more they don't feel like doing something, the more they are practicing doing hard things, and becoming the people they were meant to become.

*Just to clarify - what I mean by "work" is putting forth the effort to accomplish something. If we practice doing so in our housework - we will be better able to do so in any other are of our lives - school work, church work, occupation, etc.

Click here to see more on how to teach work.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall Fun

I just love fall! We let the kids stay up too late the other night because they were just having too much fun playing in the leaves. Bud said, "This is the best day EVER".

Then today we went to a pumpkin farm. I love them. We went to 3 last year. This year we'll probably just do one, but it was great.
On the way there, Spice was inspired to write a poem.
Leaves are falling down, down, down
It is pretty - it's no frown
My Birthday! My birthday is in the fall!
Birthday fun! Fun for all!
Leaves fall upon the ground
Making it a leafy crown
I like to rake a big huge pile
and jump in it, it makes me smile!
Fall is fun, very fun.
Plenty of fun for everyone!

Spice and Bud are almost done with the Harry Potter series - so a corn maze was the perfect place to play Harry Potter 4

Yes, those are straws their holding - wands.

Voldermort's trap:

They had to raise their hand when they found the pumpkin they wanted - then someone would come cut it for them:

They had a great time.

On the way home, Spice was inspired to write a second poem:
I am a pumpkin orange and round
Waiting for someone to get me off the ground
Here comes someone with a yellow bow!
I can't wait! No, no, no!
She's coming toward me yessireedoo
I really really can't wait! Can you?
She has picked me up yes she did,
now I'm in her house, My! It's really big!
What is she doing? Oh! She's carving me!
Look she gave me eyes now I can see!
Now she gave me a great big nose!
Mmm I think I can smell some rose!
Look she gave me a mouth a jagady one!
To scare everybody and make them run!
Do you know who that girl is do you know who?
She's the one who gave me a mouth to say BOOO!

Hermoine, Harry and Ginny (notice the scar on Harry's face)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Task

There's nothing like finding a warm, cozy spot and settling down to read a book:

"The Task of Educators is to discover what an education is and then to invent the methods of interesting their students in it"- From "The Great Conversation" (an introduction to The Great Books).

I recently read this quote. I love it. I've been working hard this last year to try to figure out what an education is. I used to think it was having a great knowledge about math, language arts, music, art, history and science, but I don't think that's the crux of it anymore.

Anyone have any ideas?

Here's what I've come up with so far:

1. A good education builds a virtuous character - the most important thing I want to teach my kids is to be virtuous people. I want them to be hard-working, honest, courageous, truth-seeking individuals. If they are - they will learn those things of value for their lives and then use them for good!

2. A good educations provides an exposure to many beautiful, good, true things - so that when they encounter the counterfeit and false - they will know the difference.

I am learning to see that there is much beauty, goodness and truth in things like math, language, science, music, art, etc. I think my job as the mother is to delve into those subjects, find the inspirational within them, and then invite the kids to come and see.

I've learned through TJED that no one can force someone to else to get an education. I may be able to force them to learn something for a test, but it will leave them - it won't become part of them unless they choose it. All I can do is inspire them to do so.