We just finished our first “official” week for this year, and started the second. I spent time each night with our plans (because this past spring, I started using this method of planning. It is amazing.). Each of my girls had the majority of her subjects assigned. I chose not to include a few things last week, because with other things going on (the boys starting in a new school, for example), our schedules were busy and tight. Before Monday even came and went, I knew this was not a week for a full-load.
What I didn’t realize was how much time would be spent on responsibility.
Doesn’t it seem like responsibility is such a key life-skill, but so hard to teach and instill? Please tell me I am not the only mother struggling with teaching responsibility.
Sarah of Amongst Lovely Things once wrote that “homeschooling is all about relationships and relationships just aren’t efficient.” They take time to cultivate and nurture. Little can be rushed in a relationship.
Likewise, little can be rushed in building character. And when the time is right to have these lessons in building character, in growing, in relationship–it’s usually inconvenient. It’s when dinner is almost ready, or when you’re rushing out the door, or when other lessons are on the schedule, or when you’re on the phone to a friend you haven’t spoken to in weeks, or…
My carefully crafted plans of each night? Not a single set of daily plans were completed at the end of the day, or week. I’m pretty sure the Latin books didn’t even make it off the shelf, even though I planned for Latin each day. Work on spelling took a backseat. Math drill? Got that done once.
Why did this happen?
I decided to let my girls start taking responsibility for how they spend their time. I took advantage of opportunities to teach responsibility for actions. The result? Lessons are pushed to next week. Playtime suffers because wasting time early in the day means having to finish up lessons until clearing the table for dinner. Incomplete lessons means no chance for staying up on the weekend to watch a favorite show.
On Friday, after a turn of events when my 4th grader found herself needing to take care of a small, silly task to take responsibility for some actions, she complained to me “I could have had most of my school work done by now!” Yes, dear, you could have. “It’s your fault because you’re making me …” Nope, sorry. Not my fault. “Sweetie, this is a time for you to take responsibility for your own actions,” I said, as I completely turned my back on the blog post I was writing (and is yet unfinished) to give her all my attention, “You’re right. You could have finished nearly all of your lessons by now. It was and still is completely your choice to do the small thing I asked and then get right to your lessons. I am ready for you as soon as you take that step.”
This was a situation I could have “fixed” more quickly, because I could have done the small, silly task. But I saw how it could be a valuable learning experience for my daughter. She was, after all, responsible for a lost item, and even though I could have “helped” and replaced it in under 30 seconds, I didn’t. I had a good feeling she would choose stubborn refusal over quickly helping, I knew it would delay her lessons for some time, but the book lessons are always less important than the life and relationship lessons. After all, how good is book-learning if a child doesn’t gain self-discipline, kindness, responsibility, and a host of other good character traits along the way?
Responsibility can be learned in all sorts of ways: with a special job around the house (aka chores), getting school things ready the night before (when children participate in a co-op, for example), helping make lunch, putting away clothes.
Responsibility can be reinforced when a child feels the effects of not being responsible, such as missing out on playtime when chores aren’t done, or clothes aren’t clean because they weren’t brought to the washer, or they’re missing out on playing outside when time on lessons was ill-spent.
This year, I’m going to nag less, and let life speak more. My girls are certainly old enough to experience and learn from those life lessons. I’ll remind them, but not all day long. And when life speaks and they grumble, I’ll calmly remind them how being responsible with time and actions makes a difference.
Do you have any tips for helping children learn responsibility? I’d love to hear them!