One Benefit of Going to School

From the Timberdoodle archives: Deb wrote this article in the early ’90s when she was still in the thick of homeschooling her children.

What could your child possibly miss by not being in school? Well, obviously not the dark and shady side that is depressing to anyone who cares about children. But for years, attendance at school has yielded a hidden benefit for countless children. It is an advantage that most homeschool settings lack.

No, I’m not thinking of band or gymnastics. Instead, what I am most concerned about is the lack of time management skills taught.

It is easy to see that because home-taught children are not hemmed in by school bells, tests, and homework due dates, they are more apt to squander their time. What doesn’t get done today, will be accomplished tomorrow. With no real consequence, time seems to be infinite. Apart from the Sunday morning scramble, these children drift through their days randomly choosing and discarding, putting off until tomorrow what doesn’t suit them today. Certainly not keeping a schedule means less stress for both mother and child, but only for today. Children who never learn the importance of time and how to manage it will grow up to be irresponsible, self-serving adults.

So what is the solution? Let me emphasize, it is not sending your children off to school. Neither is it becoming chained to a rigid timetable. Rather, it is to plan unchanging deadlines, with definite consequences.

How? Here are a couple of examples from our family.

At the first of the year, we have a private conference with each child. Because we teach our children all year long, we examine our goals for the year. During this conference we are focusing on academic goals only. We discuss which subjects each will cover and how they will go about it. After setting yearly goals, we set weekly goals and list out for each child where their responsibilities are.

Those children who accomplish their weekly goals by 5:00 PM Friday earn a special privilege. (Right now that privilege is going next door to Grandma’s Saturday morning and learning how to do handwork.) Those who do not finish in time have their free time curtailed until they have successfully caught up. This is all done without a lot of hand wringing on our part. The girls know their assignments, they know the time frame, and they know the consequences.

Another way we are trying to achieve this skill is through Scripture memory. Every Monday morning we select three to five new verses to be completed by 5:00 PM Saturday. Those who can say their verses by that time are entitled to dessert that evening. Those who do it flawlessly get dessert Sunday also. Those who cannot say them get no dessert, but may try again on Sunday. If they haven’t recited them by 5:00 PM, then the free-time restrictions go into effect. By the way, Saturday and Sunday are normally the only two days desserts are served at our home, which certainly adds to the motivation!

Again, although we impose deadlines and consequences, arriving at these goals is entirely in the hands of our children. And, although there are scheduled times during the day, set aside for achieving these targets, they alone decide if they will use these times, or fritter them away. Our experience has shown that as our children learn to manage their time, they will not be slaves to it.

We still struggle with time management. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one struggling, the others are quite willing to give up.

Having seen too many families’ peace and reputation destroyed by a lack of this vital skill, I press on. If our children leave home without knowing how to manage their time, it will not be because of a lack of passion on my part!