Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Time yourself

“It’s too much! All I do is schoolwork all day! I never had this much work in public school. I never had to read books for history. I just read a textbook. You give me 20 pages to read for history, 20 pages to read for English. Then there’s Geometry and Spanish and all the other stuff! I can’t do it! It’s too much!!”

The whining has been going on for some time, but it came to a head on Monday. I can see that Jacob is learning so much more for history by reading a book (Stalin: Man of Steel, by Albert Marrin at the moment), yet he complains it’s too much. Everything I give him is “too much,” but reading for history especially irks him.

“All I give you is 20 pages of reading for history,” I explained. “You said it takes you an hour to read 20 pages. That is your class work for the day: read the 20 pages. Then for English, read another 20 pages in another hour. Believe me, the reason you’re doing schoolwork ’round the clock is because you’re staring out the window, chasing the cat, squirting water on the wood-burning stove to ‘raise humidity’… You don’t work continuously. I’m always hunting you down and telling you to get back to work! In school, you sat through your classes, and whether you paid attention or not, class was over in 50 minutes. Here you have to work for the 50 or 60 minutes per subject.

“You were in school from 7:30 AM until 2:30 PM with, say, an hour for lunch. That’s six hours of school. Then you always had homework,” I said, frustrated by Jacob’s complaints and by his poor time management. “You don’t have more. You’re just not managing your time well.”

Jacob’s younger sister once said that she could do the work I assign him in two hours; he spends all day at it, all evening, and then takes a book to bed to “catch up.” And indeed, I do believe that Larissa could do the work in two hours. She’s that fast a worker. She rarely has homework not because she doesn’t have assignments, but because she finishes them in school or on the school bus. She’ll even use an extra 5 or 10 minutes of unproductive class time to do her homework assignments. Jacob, on the other hand, stretches out the smallest assignment by playing with the cat or finding a variety of other distractions.

He angrily took the list of assignments and put a time against each item:

It added up to 8 hours 25 minutes – which equaled his former six hours of school and two-and-a-half hours of homework. I didn’t even mention that I work eight hours per day for my company; look over his schoolwork, schedule assignments, and read books until I can’t hold my eyes open so that I know what to assign him; and I cook supper. So how many hours do I “work”? Life is not about having fun.

My husband was listening to all this, and he challenged Jacob: “You take the timer. Set it going when you’re doing schoolwork. Shut it off every time you stop – when you add wood to the stove, when you go to the bathroom, or if you take a break. Then let’s see how much time you really spend on schoolwork.”

Jacob did that yesterday. For all his complaining, the timer read 6 hours and 20 minutes.


a kelly said...

Oh this made me smile, it is so familiar! You can see the vivid difference in your children's "style"...with one child I always lamented what was I doing wrong with this child who was so distracted and unfocused!
You proved your point.
Hope all is well in your busy life. Blessings for Easter!

The Reluctant Homeschooler said...

Wait until fall when I have all three kids at home. Then I'll get to see their different study styles right under my nose. My bets are that the youngest, Larissa, will have them all beat and will have more free time - which she'll probably use for reading more books - than the other two. Alexandra is studious, but more like me: sweating every detail. Larissa just flies through her assignments. What details? Just hand me that book on horses I was just reading...

Marbel said...

That's a great post. I have had to time my kids to show them that they get much more free time than their schooled counterparts. And how quickly they can do things when they stop staring out the window, playing with the dog...

Anonymous said...

This is a great lesson to learn at his age that will be useful to him for the rest of his life! I remember learning it in college, when suddenly my schedule was an hour here, there, and everywhere, instead of all in a lump like high school. I found that if I used those "free hours" between classes to read and study instead of waiting until "school" was "over" to do my "homework", then my evenings were free to go out with friends. Of course, I'm still learning the same lesson again, as an adult, with housework -- like Flylady says, just spend 15 minutes really working instead of daydreaming or putting it off!

Anonymous said...

The timer is a great idea! That helps ~me~ do my ~housework~. :)

For what it's worth, the 40-50 minutes spent in a traditional class is not spent doing work the entire time. There's a lot of wasted time in there while the teacher explains things, answers questions, and while students await individualized attention. If you're son is spending over 6 solid hours on schoolwork, that's more than the average traditionally schooled kid. When he tells you he didn't get that much work in school, he might be right.

I'm not trying to be critical of your homeschool, just pointing out what someone pointed out to me once. :)

Take care! :)

Mrs. N

The Reluctant Homeschooler said...

Hm, so I am "overworking" my son. But I won't let on. I always pushed myself my entire life, and still do. (How else could I work full-time - fortunately half days from home - and homeschool as well as keep up with cooking, grocery shopping, etc.???) A little pushing won't harm him, and I guess I can't see any other way of covering all the material in the couple of textbooks he has. (The other curriculum, like English and History, I'm cobbling together myself.) But to your point, Mrs. N., Jacob stopped attending public school at the end of January, but we left his sisters in. One sister was in the same Spanish One class with him. Even though Jacob does Spanish "class" only twice a week with a friend who offered to tutor him, he is ahead of Alexandra, who is in school with a Spanish class every day! Go figure!

And, hey, I needed to hear that.

Anonymous said...

well pushing your son and over loading him is two differnt thing. Im a homeschooler and I found to by a a curliculum and follow it gives you the the amount of work you child is suppose to son has a very big staying on task and just tell him no break or actiivey until his assigment is done. he then recieves ten minute break after each subject.and if he beats the clock he recieves a bigger break. remember he is not you and never will be so don't compare him to you or your other childern for your son is a unigue person within himself.

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)