Do you find your kids procrastinating instead of doing their schoolwork in a diligent and timely fashion? Do your kids dawdle, sharpen pencils, get water, then go to the bathroom and eventually get to their work only after chasing them down? Don’t worry your not alone!
I’d venture to bet that procrastination is probably found in most homes. And it can definitely become a problem for a homeschooling mama with more than one child to teach.
Like if you hypothetically have four children for example.
Fine, it’s not a hypothetical for me. I do have four children. And procrastination isn’t a hypothetical for us either! It was like an everyday occurrence back in the day.
Why children procrastinate.
Honestly I think that when talking about procrastination and homeschooling it has a bit to do with just getting used to a more formal schedule.
And getting used to mom as your teacher.
And figuring out that there are assignments that you actually do need to accomplish.
Sometimes students think that homeschooling will be all fun and games, with easy daily workloads, and totally optional assignment lists. At least that’s what my kids first thought.
There are however occasions where students are procrastinating because they’re truly overwhelmed by their workload. Or it might even be a specific subject that causes them anxiety and so they dawdle in order to avoid it. Sometimes it’s just a poor curriculum fit and changing to something that they can relate to better fixes the issue. In the case of a struggling student, make sure to take a look at their load, or at the subject they’re struggling with and see what changes you can make. Or find a way to help them understand it better.
For my kids it’s usually not that they’re struggling, but it was more of an adjustment to homeschooling. Even though they have never been in a traditional school, it still took at least a good year for each of them, meaning kindergarten, to fully understand that they did have work that I expected them to complete each day. It was like we had to teach them that school wasn’t optional just because we were doing it at home.
Now we complete our school most days without too much dawdling. Mainly because my children know that they’re free once their assignments for the day are done. That puts them in charge of when they’re out of school, rather than me. Which is nice. And has been motivating to my kids for the most part.
How to put an end to procrastination in your homeschool.
My daughters are really good at sitting down and getting through their work. My son on the other hand is a natural procrastinator. He gets it from his father. Who also likes to wait until the last second to complete his work.
And like his father he can be focused when he wants to. Which means he can sharpen pencils for the first half of the day, then bust out his workload in the last 20 minutes easily. So often I’ll find him messing around and doing everything but school. Then rushing to get it done right before I start letting him know his teacher is leaving work for the day.
This is bad on a few levels. One, we might be waiting for him to complete his work in order for us to move on to a group activity. And two, I don’t want him rushing through his work. I’d like him to focus and actually learn something.
One thing that has helped him out has been setting a timer for each of his assignments. I often use my phone and give him a reasonable amount of time to do each subject. I will tell him how long he has to complete his assignment, then set the timer. If he’s messing around and doesn’t finish, then we put it aside and he can do it for homework in the afternoon when everyone else is playing outside after school.
The first time I tried timing him we just continued adding his unfinished work in a pile for homework until his day was done. After dinner he had to finish his work just like regular homework.
I do not stay in the room with them after school hours, so my kids have to do homework on their own. Mom’s school hours are 8-3ish. They can come ask a question if they need to, but mainly it’s a consequence for messing around during class. So they don’t get to work with me in there with them. I like to get out of school at a reasonable time too!
Some other ideas to help kids focus on their work would be to give them some headphones. If you have more than one child working, it can be distracting for them to try and pay attention to something. I’ve found that a good set of headphones to block out the noise can be quite effective in helping them focus.
Another idea is to put up a divider between your students. Since we have one giant desk that we work from, it’s easy for them to chit-chat and distract one another. Most craft stores sell those foldable cardboard presentation boards, which can work well as a divider to give your student a little more privacy to get their work done.
And finally, if all else fails, I will sometimes let the procrastinating student go sit in another room to do their work. Our birds can get loud, and so can the other kiddos, so if someone is having a hard time focusing or getting work done, they can move to the kitchen, or dining room as long as they actually work in there. This isn’t my first choice though because often the procrastinator can’t be seen from the other room and so they might choose to take advantage of their alone time by messing around even further.
What if they’re working diligently, but just taking a long time?
With that said, it’s different if someone is working diligently, but just having a hard time with their work. In that case they get more time, and I’ll help them with it until we’re done then they can move on. Or sometimes we’ll set it aside and move on to other things. Then we’ll come back after school together and work through any troubles they might have had when everyone else is gone from the room. Sometimes a bit of focused one-on-one quite time really helps to help students comprehend the material.
However if the dawdling is occurring because they’re just procrastinating and wasting time, then they can have the consequence of doing homework. My children are well aware that homework is a benefit and a privilege to homeschooling. If my children choose to get their work done during the scheduled day, then they’re free to play when they’re done.
Teaching diligence and respect for others.
My main goal in stopping procrastination in our homeschool was because I wanted to impress upon my children that procrastinating is wasting not only their time, but mine as well. And if we were all waiting for one person to finish something to move on to a group activity, then they’re wasting everyone else’s time too. Part of teaching students how to be diligent with their work includes respecting others time as well.
Not only that, but it’s such a nice feeling to get done with your work first, so that you can then have free time.
The timer method helps motivate them to do their work, and allows me stop worrying about how long their taking. It puts the ball in their court. They get to decide whether or not they want to have homework. And it frees the rest of us up to move on to our other subjects as a group without making everyone wait for one person to finish.
I do want to make it clear that my son was doing fine with the workload and could handle the material easily. And I wouldn’t time a student who was struggling with the workload or tasks assigned. But I knew he could handle what was given to him and he is always given an appropriate amount of time to complete his work.
And I will tell you that my son only procrastinated with his work twice before he figured out that he didn’t like doing school in the afternoons/evenings when everyone else is having fun. Plus he has hockey at night and doesn’t want to miss that because he is stuck home doing homework.
So now he usually gets things done in a timely manner, and though I do have to refocus his efforts here and there, he’s quite a bit better on the diligence front. I don’t even use the timer anymore either. I really only bust it out if we’re having a day when people are messing around, or if I feel like dawdling is becoming a habit for one of them again.
I hope this post helped encourage some of you struggling with procrastination in your homeschool.
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How do you combat procrastination in your homeschool? Leave a comment below!