Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Self Directed Learning with Goal Charts

 This is how study time is organized at our house right now.

Our family moved to a farm where we take care of 6 cattle, 2 burros, 100 chickens, 2 turkeys, 4 dogs and 3 cats. Our biggest venture on this 35 acre farm is the growing of food year round to sell along with breads and eggs.

The boys have been learning how to drive tractors,sky tracs, skid steers, backhoes and the car. :)  They have been learning to forge with their Dad, build long bows, stoke the wood boiler, weld, fix electrical problems, take care of all the animals, run farm stands, build garden beds, etc.  All of this learning has been taking place just about all day long. There are periods of play but it has changed for my 13 and 14 year olds. Their play looks like study now. :) That is what I was told this process would do, and it has.

To the left are the goal sheets from 4 of my 5 boys for the week.  They chose the goals themselves. I prompted them with, "What kind of reading goal do you want?" or "What do you want to write this week?"  They chose, and I wrote them down for them.

Our schedule allows for about 2.5 hours of solid uninterrupted study time after chores are done. Then we do more work and play according to how the day needs to go. Like I said, my older kids continue with their goals as play time whenever they can. They beg for more time to study and I do my best to make sure they get that time.

The picture to the right is my 6 year old's list. I have made pretty ones on the computer but somehow the simplicity of lined paper is perfect for us right now. How it works to my advantage is that he is proactive about the goals on his own. He wants to get all of his goals done and I don't have to do ANY coersion because it is already built in.

When Josiah reads his page in McGuffey's, he marks off the little check box. When all of them are checked off, he is finished with that goal and I make sure it has been done and give him a star to stick next to that goal on the chart and give him a treat. We have done different things for the treats. Fruit snacks are pegged as candy in my house and that is the treat for this week. Sometimes it is calcium chews, fruit popsicle, or anything that is small but is able to be an immediate reward. We try to have about 5 to 8 goals per kid. The older they are, the more things they want to add to it. (If they are free to choose what they are studying.)

At the end of the week if his goals are all finished, he gets a bigger reward. That can be going to the dollar movies, spending $5 at the grocery store(our rule is no junk food), going swimming, a day at the park, and so on. These are real motivators. They mean that I never have to remind them about their goals because it is up to them. As they get older the stickers and goodies don't matter as much. They are used to working hard at their studies or chores and are truly interested in meeting their goals. I am a big fan of goals and love to see the progress that we make. Josiah is also really excited because he is the youngest of the 5 boys and the last to be working his way through the McGuffey's Primer. When he is finished he will join the ranks of owning a pocket knife that his Grandpa will send him. This is huge in the mind of a boy! :) When he is done with the Mcguffey's he will be able to read quite well.

One thing I must say about the goal charts is to make sure that the goals are measurable. It has to be, "I will get this many things done." Not, "I want to work on this."  If it is not measurable it is hard to know when reward is applicable. It is sometimes hard to come up with a measure for some goals but is worth doing in the first place so a sense of accomplishment can be had, and the finished goal can be rewarded.

This is my 13 year olds chart. These are the goals he chose for himself for the week. He spent 3 hours today studying the constitution because he wanted to.

I love the education my boys are getting at home and on the farm. We haven't lived on the farm very long (6 months), and they were good workers before, but now we work all day and they beg for study time. I love how that works out. We also don't have t.v. in our house except for a movie for the boys on Saturday night while my husband and I go out on a date. It makes natural rythms possible like going to bed when you feel tired, and picking up a book when you have down time instead of vegging out in front of the t.v.

My boys are learning life skills along with getting a book education. Beautiful mix.

Our family goes to a Commonwealth school in Fort Collins once a week. When we are there the older boys are taking a few classes and the younger ones are exploring new things and learning new skills. Some of the boys' goals go along with things they are wanting to do in conjunction with what they are doing at the Commonwealth. They also make goals that go along with their scouting or other extra curricular things they are involved with. I also ask them what they are going to do to work on being a Stripling Warrior (spiritually strong) this week. We have talked about the spiritual power that comes with reading scriptures, prayer and fasting. They tell me which one they want to work on. This week most of them chose personal prayer.  It was so cute today when my 6 year old came up to me and asked if he could say a prayer. "But of course!" says I. :)   Then later my 9 year old asked if I would be with him when he said his last prayer on his goal sheet. We went into my room and shut the door. He had questions about being respectful to God in kneeling. I love being in a position to kneel with my son in prayer in the middle of the day. Oh I am blessed!

I am still thinking of good incentives for goals and making this education for myself and my boys be the best it can be. I fail often, but surrounding those failures are huge triumphs!