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I am homeschooling my 8 year old son, who has a lot for trouble completing his school work in good time. I have tried giving him a nice stretch of time per subject but this doesn't seem to work. How can I get him to understand that there isn't time for everything and we just can sit around all day working on one page of sums and yet there are 5 more subjects to be tackled as well life outside academics?

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    I am confused on how you tackle home-schooling here. Do you give him the task, and then leave him alone with it? – Layna May 29 '15 at 9:32
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    It's not really clear what the problem is. Does he take longer or shorter than you want to? When too long, is it because he doesn't concentrate or because he is much more diligent and perfectionist than necessary? When too short, is it because he rushes through the exercise as fast as he can missing vital information or is it because he is just sloppy and unmotivated? Keep in mind that 8 year olds can not be expected to have proper time-management skills yet. – Philipp May 29 '15 at 9:51
  • Here are soem web resources that might help: csefel.vanderbilt.edu/kits/wwbtk3.pdf challengingbehavior.fmhi.usf.edu/do/resources/documents/… – DanBeale May 29 '15 at 10:11
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    You haven't told us why he is taking too much time. This is very important to help you. – the_lotus May 29 '15 at 13:01
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    Welcome to Parenting.SE! If you can edit your question to include some of the details mentioned in the comments above me, it will be more focused and help attract specific answers. – Acire May 29 '15 at 16:12
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One of the advantages of home schooling is that you don't have to keep to a schedule the way you do in a school situation. You can do the work in an order and pattern that fits with how your child works. If you think your child has grasped adding, they don't need to sit and do worksheets or problems that cover material they already know. If you think your child hasn't grasped adding, you can work adding practice into all your other topics. Doing geography and looking at some property of the cities in a country? Add them up to see how many whatevers are in the whole country. At the store buying things? Ask the child to keep your running total as you put things in the cart, with a paper and pencil if need be. Heading to the park for an hour of fun? Ask him those same worksheet questions (or ones you make up yourself) out loud on the way there.

If you're just going to recreate a classroom with schedules, worksheets, one subject at a time, and the like, you are missing many of the advantages of being the one who teaches your child. Do it a way that works for you and your family, not the way everyone else does.

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  • What you say is true. Does it answer the question that was asked? – DanBeale May 29 '15 at 21:28
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    @DanBeale: Even if it doesn't answer the question as stated (we'll let the asker determine that), it does address a likely underlying problem if I read the question correctly, of which the question is only a symptom. Fixing symptoms isn't going to get very far if the problem still remains, thus not very useful as an answer if that's all it does. Conversely, if it solves the problem, then the symptoms will likely go away on their own, thus a very useful answer. Upvoted. – AaronD May 30 '15 at 7:18
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    @AaronD - rejecting the premise of the question is hostile and should be avoided where possible. meta.parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/123/… – DanBeale May 31 '15 at 8:06
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    @DanBeale - I see your point, and I think it's valid. But coming from a more technical background where foundational corrections are welcomed, I hope you see that side also. Even in "softer" situations involving people more than things, there's something to be said about the voice of experience coming out and saying, "I understand and agree with your goal but you're doing it wrong. Here's a better way..." I think that's the intent of this answer, though not stated directly. I'd be more hurt if everyone knowingly withheld the better way because I didn't know it was there to ask for. – AaronD Jun 1 '15 at 6:01
  • @AaronD - rejecting the premise is also considered harmful on the main stack overflow site, and others. Obviously feel free to ignore this. But please do be aware of the corrosive nature of that kind of post. There are many blogs on the WWW about it, and some meta discussion. – DanBeale Jun 1 '15 at 7:00
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Remember to ground all of this in core principles of "reward good behaviour" and "see from the child's point of view".

Children are not good at understanding time and your child doesn't know the workload. You do understand time, and you know what the workload is, and so there is a tension created.

Here are some things you can try:

1) Have a large, clear, clock, with easy to read numbers. Keep making reference to the clock. Say "It is eleven o'clock now, and it is time for our lesson on arithmetic. We have half an hour! Let's start!".

2) Introduce an element of competition. Try using an egg timer. "Wow you've worked really hard at this lesson. Here are some problems. Do you think you can beat the timer? Do you think you can solve this problem before the timer runs out?" The competitions should start as very easy to win - 3 minutes for each problem. You increase the difficulty as your child increases skill.

3) Keep referring to time. "We have twenty more minutes for this topic! How many problems have you got? How much time do you have left for each topic?"

4) Make sure that the child is not bored by questions that are too easy or frustrated by lack of understanding of complex questions. Always check your child's understanding.

Hope this is useful! (Let me know in a comment if I have misunderstood your question!)

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    We not only had a clock, but each had a timer as well, which they could set. All of your points are critical - the small increments of time to manage initially one problem add up to larger time management skills. If one problem takes an unusually long amount of time, focus on working on that kind of problem with the child until you're sure they've mastered it, and skip the stuff he already is good at. That's the beauty of homeschool. Oh, and bribes, I mean rewards! – anongoodnurse May 30 '15 at 16:31
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Have you tried posting a schedule and a clock predominantly in the room?

In schools teachers set schedule of the activities students will be doing throughout the day. In younger grades it's written on the board up front, and in older grades each student has their own schedule and they change classrooms for their classes.

Schools (in the US anyway) have large clocks in each room and around the hallways and then alarm for the various periods, forcing students to keep their schedule.

To mimic this I would put a clock on the wall in the room that he works in and then just print a schedule of what you want to do that day.

(You could set of a periodic alert / alarm to signal time but that's probably more than you're looking for. However procrastination becomes a HUGE issue you could always try it.)

Then when the time for some activity ends, stop the activity. In a school if you are in Math taking a test and the bell rings, the test is over. What you didn't answer is wrong. If this seems tough, remember if they were working for a company and had a deadline, if he doesn't finish on time then the project fails.

(Not that you have to fail your homeschool student :) Just that you could make him stop doing something when the time is over.

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There is a productivity technique called the Pomodoro technique that you can adapt to try and help your son focus. Get an egg timer and give him 20 min sprints. Have him work for 20 and if he's made good progress give him a 5 min break. Remove all distractions from his area, no outside books, posters, tv, etc. You might play a little quite symphony music as a background noise if he needs it. After a couple of these sprints have him do whatever he wants for a 20 min sprint. Let him read a book of choice, ride a bike around the block, etc. I would suggest something active for 20 min as kids in general do better after exercise concentrating (it's a big reason why cutting gym and playgrounds is such a horrible idea for school districts).

The other thing I would do is sit him down and talk to him. Let him know your thoughts on his education and why you think his studies are important. Then get his views. Is there a subject he would like to learn instead? There are various ways to integrate his interests into his studies and still get through what you need to for him to meet grade level. Have him help you plan out his daily schedule, that way he learns a little about organization and maybe feels a bit more part of the entire process. If he can start to set his own goals, and really take ownership in his work day, that can have longer lasting effects than the base memorization of facts.

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The other answers provide sensible suggestions for improving time management skills, and you should certainly give these a try first. However, if your son does not respond to those techniques it could potentially be due to an underlying medical condition. Learning disabilities are extremely common and, although not curable, respond well to the proper treatment if caught early enough.

I have given links to more information about two possible conditions below, but it is important that you seek professional guidance if your are concerned. Discuss the situation with your doctor, and if your doctor agrees, discuss it with your son (but make it clear he had done nothing wrong).

Dyscalculia - difficulties with arithmatic (or "Dyslexia for maths") http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/dyscalculia

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) - difficulties with concentration and time-management http://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/attention-deficit-disorder-adhd-in-children.htm

If your son does have one of these conditions then it is certainly not "the end" and it doesn't make him "stupid". These conditions are common, relatively minor, and should respond well to proper treatment. However, early diagnosis is important to prevent more serious secondary problems developing such as depression or low self-esteem. You must recognise and appreciate that your son is making a genuine effort, even though the results may not be what you (or he) wanted.

If your son does have one of these conditions most aspects of life will not be affected at all. Many children struggle with maths and time-management skills even without a diagnosable condition. If your son struggles with maths then there are plenty of other careers out there to choose from.

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Other answers have successfully 1) addressed helping him find motivation for completing his work; and 2) pointed out that the time constraints required by one teacher educating a group of disparate kids are not required here, suggesting ways you can -- if you like -- make the problem go away.

My suggestion is for helping him grasp the concept of passing time, since, as most have pointed out, 8-year-olds don't really understand it. Even my 11-year old thinks she can fit way too many non-essential tasks into the next twenty minutes she has before bed/school/soccer/etc.

Tell him that you need to do several other things today, then make time more concrete by pointing out the movement of the sun. Say, "When you got up the sun was here, when we started math the sun was here, and now it's here." Point overhead and swing your arm to demonstrate. "When the sun gets to here, you have to get ready for bed. In that time we have to ..." and list the tasks, including play time, swinging your arm to show how much time you expect them to take. "I want to spend only twenty more minutes" --here you can show it on the clock (assuming it's analog) as well as swing your arm-- "on math before we move on to" ...whatever.

I also used to tell my daughter that time is sneaky, and it tries to sneak past when you're not paying attention, whether or not you're doing anything. I think the point here is to challenge her to pay attention to it, so she can get done the things she needs to.

Hope this helps.

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Kids need four things to learn self-regulation skills like time management:

  • Tools to help, such as posted lists and verbal reminders.
  • Autonomy to make decisions about the use of their time.
  • Constraints that set the limits of that autonomy.
  • Immediate consequences for failure or success that are personally meaningful.

Usually what parents skip is the autonomy. They tend to micromanage children's time on the things parents find important, forcing children to resist in order for their own wants to receive consideration, and giving children little practice in making good decisions.

For example:

It's time for math. These problems should take you around 15 minutes. I've allocated an hour. That's when the little hand is on the ten and the big hand is on the twelve. If you finish before then and do it correctly, you can play for the remainder of the hour.

Here you're setting constraints: math must be done before playing and if you dawdle you'll lose the play time. However, you're also granting autonomy within those constraints: he can choose either to maximize his playing time by working quickly, or mope the entire hour. The consequence of success or failure is personally meaningful, and felt immediately.

Then after fifteen minutes, you check on him. If he hasn't made any progress, don't get angry or nag him. Just emphasize that it's his decision. He can control whether he will play this hour or not. If he has obstacles outside his control, he can ask you to help remove them.

Oh, I thought you might be done by now. I guess you decided to be sad instead of working quickly so you could play. Are you stuck needing help on something? Okay, well I hope you'll choose to work quickly so you can play soon. I don't like it when you're sad.

It might take a few weeks of doing this before he really starts to view it as under his own control. Then you can gradually relax the constraints.

You didn't mention how long you've been homeschooling, or whether your son was previously enrolled in school. This might be applicable anyway if you've been following a school-at-home approach. Many kids do a lot better after a "deschooling" period, especially if their school experience has been mostly negative. That basically means you take a break from anything school-like for a while, several weeks or months, even. Then reintroduce it slowly, maybe an hour a day at first.

Kids with negative schooling experiences often get into a habit of resistance, basically from being burned out. The deschooling break helps them get out of that habit. If they are only burned out on one subject, maybe just take a break from that subject.

Also keep in mind that this is a sign that the material is uninteresting, or being given at too slow or fast a pace. Try different curricula, find games that teach the concepts, adjust the challenge level to match his abilities. Try to tie his interests in with what you want him to learn. Math worksheets are boring. Figuring out how many stacks of cobblestone he needs to build a certain house in minecraft is interesting, and may actually require more challenging math skills.

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    In sources I've read, having this problem with independent work at this age is very common, and if the child has never been taught to be efficient from parents (that means you focus with your child, set small goals that become larger goals, in other words, good time management and goal-setting skills instead of leaving him on his own), he's just being set up for failure. Kids aren't born with this skill. Punishing him (in the form of "make a free choice to do it in my time frame" or else) without teaching him the skill is just unkind in my book. (I homeschooled as well.) – anongoodnurse May 30 '15 at 16:23
  • Finishing a fifteen-minute task in an hour, with reminders from the parent at the start and at regular intervals, is a small goal for an 8 year-old. It's also not a punishment to give kids the option for a play time the rest of the hour, at least if they haven't previously had that option. – Karl Bielefeldt Jun 1 '15 at 2:16

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