Thursday, August 30, 2012

Keeping Us In Line {Our Homeschool Behavioral Plan}

So last year there were some behavioral issues during school.  And some of them were my own.

As you can imagine, when you homeschool the students feel very comfortable expressing their displeasure to their teacher.  When teacher is mom, the floodgates open.  There is little-to-no filter (whatsoever) when it comes to what they want to express.

And sometimes because the teacher has an invested interest in her students (beyond what a normal teacher might have) she lectures and talks too much because she really wants to drive her point home.  And sometimes she gets sucked too far into the issue and allows the issues to suck up school time.  Even when she knows she should disengage and back off.

This is what happened last year sometimes.  One of my students would get frustrated.  Not with being unable to actually understand the work, but with staying focused or just not wanting to do the work.  So they would procrastinate, goof off and complain.  This would distract and upset the rest of the "classroom" and push. my. buttons.  A lengthy discussion would ensue, including threats to take away privileges which often turned into reality (if you know me, you may know that I don't bluff).  This would leave the student even more discouraged and distracted and the cycle would repeat itself through the remainder of the day making for a lousy school day to be had by all. 

Why did it take me so long to change up my tactics?  I don't know.  Maybe because the problem became more of a problem at the end of our school year and switching gears and starting something new sounded too exhausting.  Being completely honest: I might have been being lazy, just wanting to get through the year.

After having the summer to think things over, I decided to look for a plan that used earning privileges versus dolling out punishments.  I've always known this is a preferred method of behavior modification but for some reason I failed to implement it.  After a fairly thorough search online, I found two separate tools that I thought would work for us when used together.  Here's what we're using and so far (we're three weeks in) it's working really well.

This can be found here

At the beginning of each morning, the kids start in the "Ready for Team Work" section.  If there are problems or if they are working nicely, I move their clothespin down or up.  The best part of this system is that they can change their behavior and improve it, getting moved back up if they've been having a rough time.  At the end of morning and afternoon school, we take a look at where they ended up.  If they are at "Think About It" or above, they get a sticker for that half of the day.

Earning a certain number of stickers per week earns them privileges.  At this point, we're using a weekly family movie night as the major reward with a smaller prize (a new bookmark, mechanical pencil, etc.) as a bonus if 7 or 8 stickers were earned (we do a 4-day school week = 8 possible stickers to earn).  We don't actually give a punishment or make them lose a privilege if they hit those bottom two levels (that could get mighty complicated)- it just illustrates the severity of their current behavior, hopefully motivating them to move back up.

This can be found here.

Miriam (who is three) has a clothespin so she can have see how her behavior looks alongside the faces.  She doesn't do school yet (although she usually paints or "writes" in some pre-school workbooks at the table with us) but her behavior is paramount to the rest of us being able to get work done.  She doesn't earn stickers, though, because while I think she could understand it all, it's hard being three.  So we leave it at that.  She always gets to join in movie night.

The other morning, the student who had the most trouble last year started having the same kind of trouble- in earnest.  Instead of launching into a lecture and threatening a consequence, I simply reminded them of the plan and how much time they had left to complete their work.  They turned around and headed back to work (albeit grumbling) and earned a sticker for the morning.  Whoo-hoo!

Now, I don't expect this to work like that every time, but even if they have a rough morning or afternoon now and then, they still have the potential to earn the reward.  Being able to see a response to their behavior (through a clothespin, of all things) helps them to regulate themselves a bit.

Do you use any kind of reward system for school or for homework time if your kids go to school?  Not all plans work well for all kids, but we can all always use fresh ideas now and again. Pin It


  1. THANK YOU for putting this out there so honestly! We are having the exact same issue with our homeschool and this mom is getting so. frustrated.
    Going to try using your solution. Please keep us posted with how it is working! Thank you!

  2. I love that you don't have to stop what you're doing to discipline. You can just move the clothespin and continue teaching.

  3. This looks like a great idea! Good luck with your new school year!

  4. My grandsons are in public school, but our elementary teaches all use something very similar and it works well with our boys ;) My daughter has made the charts and clothespins to use at home.

    Thank you for being so honest and thoughtful!

  5. I am curious to know how things go over time if your children get down into the "punishment" section at the end of the day but don't actually receive a punishment. Does the child still take the system seriously? We are struggling with so many issues in our traditional after-school routine that this looks like a great idea, but I'm pretty sure we would need to back it up with consequences. We are dying to find a way to turn our afternoons into a more positive experience. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Good question. If a child's clothespin is in the bottom section at the end of the morning or afternoon school period, the consequence is that they do not get a sticker for that time period. With the way we're doing it, if you miss just a couple stickers in the week, you can't participate in the movie night. One of our kids didn't earn a sticker the other morning and, trust me, they were devastated. If I would have given an actual punishment, it would have made them angry and take on an "I don't care anymore" attitude (it's been their pattern). Instead, I encouraged them to focus on having a great afternoon and earn the rest of their stickers. And they did. But I know all kids are different- you could at least start out using the incentives only and see how it works for your kids:-).

      Maybe offer a sticker for each homework subject completed without issues? You could then determine how many mess-ups you'd allow for them to still earn the reward.

      Also, I will note that the movie night incentive is pretty attractive to our kids. They get very little video time (we don't have TV reception on purpose) during the week and the movies we're showing are new ones I've recently purchased just for this purpose. So, choosing an incentive that they get really excited about is key in motivating them. When we need a break from movie night, we're going to hold game night or park night or ice cream sundae night. It doesn't have to cost a lot or anything- just be something you're kids really want to participate in.

  6. So funny.........the school where my oldest daughter goes uses the exact same system! They used to have a punishment only behavior wheel but just changed to the chart where you can move up and down and go above and beyond. Hope it goes well for you all! We pray each morning on the way to school and Fia always prays that everyone stays on green or goes above....................we will see what happens when her siblings get to school......the prayers might change to just trying to keep Francesca and Nico on green :)


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