Christmas break is over, the fun music has been put away, the decorations are down, the sweets are practically gone, and here in the Northeast there is cold and snow. And now it’s time to start doing school work again. Ugh! On the other hand, some students have gotten bored with their new toys and gadgets from Christmas and are ready to start working again on their PACES!
This is a good point in the year to evaluate how much progress has been made thus far and how much more needs to be done before the end of the school year. In our Christian school we start the last week of August and our graduation is the first Saturday in June. So coming back from Christmas break we have two weeks left in the 2nd quarter which means that by mid-January every student should have completed 6 of their 12 PACES per subject. In a structured school environment, with all the various positive (and negative) motivations available to us, we do tend to keep most students on track.
However, motivation slumps in the winter months and a few students may have fallen behind in a subject or two. Here are a few time management and planning tools we use to help students refocus and stay on track.
The Calendar Method
For a student who is feeling discouraged because they are a PACE behind where they should be, it helps to pull out a calendar and just pencil in the target test dates. Spread them out evenly. Block off any known vacations and field trips. Then go back and figure out how many days are available to complete each PACE. Maybe they had been counting on 3 weeks (15 days) per PACE, and now they need to work with 12 days per PACE; instead of 3 pages per day, they may need to do 4 pages per day, which is not a mountain of work. Usually a student will sigh with relief when they realize that it won’t be that hard to make up for lost time (if they make that slight increase in their daily goals).
The Three-Week Goal Card
Students need to learn to think further ahead than just a one-day goal. I urge all of my students, especially as we head into the last few weeks of a quarter, to pencil out their goals for the next 2 to 4 weeks just to make sure they will be done on time. The penciled goals can be changed as needed without consequence (the daily goal, set in pen, must be met every day or there are consequences). I will even let a student flip through the next PACEs they will receive next so that they can set goals in pencil. Letting teens do this themselves (rather than the parent or teacher doing it for them) gives them a sense of ownership and the feeling of accomplishment when done. Here is a link to download a Three-Week Weekly Planner.
Daily timed schedule
Have you ever heard of the saying, “Any job will expand to fill the time allowed”? It’s very true! It’s too easy to get distracted, start day-dreaming, or even work ahead in a favorite subject and let the hard one sit till last. I give my students a time management tool of a daily schedule marked off in 15-minute increments. In the left column they are to quickly plan their day, blocking off time needed for scoring, studying for check-ups, accomplishing goals, etc. In a school setting the students have Bible class, set times for break and lunch, and elective classes in the afternoons that have to be blocked off. But the 2nd column is for them to keep track of how they actually spent their time. For example, maybe scoring and correcting English took 30 minutes and they only planned on 15. Or maybe they estimated 45 minutes to do their Math goal and they were done in 30. The feedback that they get by doing that evaluation is very helpful! Over time they become better at estimating the time needed for each task. They also learn to prioritize what subjects need to be done first (Self-tests, check-ups, etc). And a third benefit is that they learn to be more conscious of the passing of time and the how easy it is to waste time. Here is a link to download a Daily Time Planner.
This is a popular time management tool that involves working on a task, 100% focused, for 25 minutes and then taking a 5 minute break. Then start another 25-min period of focused work, followed by a longer break of 15 minutes or more. The key is to use a timer of some sort. The original idea was a mechanical timer, like an egg timer, that clicks and keeps counting down, so that you are consciously aware of how much time remains. The other key is to not allow any distractions during the focused work time. The following article gives a more complete explanation and has links to apps and timers you can use. http://lifehacker.com/productivity-101-a-primer-to-the-pomodoro-technique
One of the strengths of using the ACE curriculum is that you are constantly learning and using time-management skills. That is a life skill that will benefit your child for years to come! What other tools and techniques work well for your family? Share them in the comments below.