Archive for February 21st, 2011

Awhile back I read a magazine article about a mom who decided to award her kids for learning some basic life skills with scouting-type badges.  She made a sash and badges to go on it for things like learning how to pack a suitcase, sewing, navigating with a map, etc.  When they’d earned all their badges, they went on a family backpacking trip.  I think that’s a great idea for encouraging kids to learn and parents to be intentional in teaching life skills.

As a homeschooling mom, I’m planning to use this strategy both to motivate my kids to work on some remaining educational goals this spring, and encourage them to work toward their own goals.  Since our kids don’t get grades, this is a nice way to acknowledge their achievements.  Our goals are broken down into 4 areas:

  • 10 educational goals based on some remaining Idaho state standards my kids still need to work on
  • 3 physical fitness goals (jump rope, throwing/catching, learning to rollerblade or ice skate)
  • 2 musical goals (sing in the children’s choir at church, name musical notes on a staff)
  • 5 goals chosen by them (learn internet/word processing skills, sew, cook 3 meals and a dessert, etc.)

To encourage the kids to keep working on them, we’ve established both short-term and long-term rewards.  For each achievement they check off, they’ll get to pick a movie and dessert for family movie night – their favorite treat!  When the 10 educational goals are completed – essentially the end of their “school year” – they’ll get a week of vacation and a day trip to some fun location nearby.  (I actually prefer to do a little school each day year-round, since my kids don’t do well with more than a week of unstructured days.  Breaks are good, but I’d rather spread them out and take them when we need them.)  When all 20 goals are completed, they’ll get their choice of either a slumber party at Grandma’s house or a sleepover with a friend at our house, plus a toy from my goody stash.  I’m excited to see how this will turn out.  After explaining it to the kids, they were both ready to dig in to some of the goals.  My son decided to tackle one of the math goals, and I took my daughter to the craft store to buy a sewing project with a gift card she’d received for Christmas.

Our educational philosophy most resembles the Leadership Education model, so we don’t have a set curriculum that we follow.  Our kids are naturally curious and motivated to learn since we’ve stepped back and let them take charge of their own education.  But from time to time I step in and target a few areas for further study in order to keep the “What if my kids end up missing something?” fears at bay.  So this kind of goal-setting with rewards helps to balance the interest-led learning that takes place most of the time with a few priorities I set for them.  They still choose which goals to focus on during the time we’ve set for school, and they have a lot of input and flexibility as to how they want to accomplish the goals (i.e. learning math skills through games, worksheets, playing grocery store, computer programs, etc.).

If all goes well, I’d like to work with the kids on developing another set of goals for this summer that are less education-oriented and centered more on personal growth and development.  But for now, I’m looking forward to celebrating their achievements and watching them continue to grow.

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