A few weeks ago, I read a fascinating book called NutureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. The authors use new evidence and go over old studies to determine why children lie, why praising our kids backfires, why racially diverse classrooms are not the answer administrators had hoped for, and many other issues.
All in all, I ended up agreeing with much that they had to say, even though I know in ten years there will probably be new evidence and new studies that suggest this book has it all wrong.
Oh well. It’s a very compelling book that I found surprisingly easy to read and I highly recommend it.
The authors spend an entire chapter talking about a preschool and kindergarten program that has created a strong amount of self control and direction among its students. Not to mention a high degree of literacy.
Basically (and bear with me because I’m simplifying things) the students “write” a list everyday of the things they want to do during their playtime. When students get off task or begin arguing with others, the teacher gently asks, “Is this on your list?” The student immediately self-corrects and get back on track.
The beauty of the whole program is that the kids recognize that it’s their list, that they came up with it, and so they are much more likely to stick to the program they have created.
As an added bonus, because the children spend time every day attempting to sound out words and spell them on paper, studies have shown that these kids end up doing quite well when it comes to later reading scores.
Since we homeschool, I decided to try something similar at our house. For the past month, every weekday my children write a to-do list that includes school work, chores, and playtime options. In the beginning they needed help including everything on their list, but now weeks later they are to-do list professionals. (Usually. Occasionally I have to step in and be the To-do List OverLord.)
Frankly, I have been amazed at how well this is working. My yelling and nagging is down about 60%. If I see that my kids are way off target or fighting with each other, I just ask them, “Is this on your list?” And that one question usually changes their behavior. (The key word is ‘usually.’)
Additionally, I have an 11 year old son who speeds through his chores and assignments, often leaving entire sections undone in his haste. I make him take the time and break his list into a higher number of smaller steps which has helped him to complete his projects and chores more thoroughly.
(Which is nothing short of a parenting miracle.)
Best of all, everyday I get to watch my five year old sound out words and attempt to spell them on her list. Quite frankly, it is awesome. And because I love you, gentle reader, I thought I’d share today’s to-do list with you, translation included.
iPad (Playing the ipad is on her list every. single. day.)
bffist (Breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day.)
Liv room (Her main chore is cleaning the living room.)
my roOm—cosit (Clean her room, with emphasis on the closet.)
Explode The CodE (This is her phonetics book, and she copies the title down when she thinks I’m not looking. Someday soon she’ll be the only 5 year old in America who can spell ‘explode’ without help since we do this workbook everyday.)
we wf mom (Read with Mom.)
siLWeR (Empty the clean silverware out of the dishwasher.)
Isn’t this all kinds of awesome? And I get to do this everyday. Sometimes I can’t believe my own good fortune.
Although wouldn’t it be something if, in fifteen years, my children are in therapy because they are simply incapable of going about their day without writing a to-do list…..