Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ticket System

This has been our most successful week ever of homeschooling. I don't know why, perhaps it's because of being more organized (and having a better idea of what we can realistically do in a day), perhaps it's because I am leaving the house every evening to prepare for the next day's work instead of assuming I'll have time the next morning, or perhaps something clicked over in my head. We've done everything on the list for three straight days which has NEVER happened before. And the kids are having a great time! I am too, actually. Today's branch web project came out beautifully. I used a ball of yarn I had rewound from a partially done knitting project that my Aunt Betty left behind... waste not, want not. It's a nice multicolored rainbow yarn and looked beautiful on the branches. We went over to Jefferson Patterson Park and the kids collected clover flowers, fallen leaves, and small sticks to add to their branches. Then they ran around in the field by the visitor's center for a while.

I have been on a real cleaning and organizing streak this week... today I went through three more boxes (still didn't find my passport) and I've been restlessly walking around the house picking things up and putting them away. Never stop moving, that's the secret. I am having to wear shoes in the house because my feet hurt.

We also implemented a new discipline strategy today. Previously it was a behavior chart on the white board by the front door consisting of three signs for each child. Every morning we replenished the signs which, throughout the day, got erased for bad behavior (after a warning was given). Then, at the end of the day, each sign equaled a bedtime story. This is because Steve wanted something concrete he could do when redirecting didn't work (and we are trying to avoid spanking at all costs) and the main reward we wanted to give them was extra time with Mom and Dad. The signs worked for a while but we found some problems. First, once you've lost all three there are no more consequences for the rest of the day. Second, once you've gotten your bedtime stories, there's no reason anymore to be good. We had lots of problems after they went down to bed!!! So Steve came to me asking for a change and now we are trying that age-old classroom standard: the ticket system. He came home with a big roll of tickets last night (you can get them at WalMart, Office Depot, etc) and I went to Michael's and bought three quart jars and three sheets of stickers (heart, fish, butterfly). We hashed out the whole thing in a long phone conversation and came up with exactly how we wanted it to work. This morning I made a chart with drawings of three tickets on the left hand side (all the kids can already count to three, since there are three children, so I don't think it's too much math) and all the things you can "buy" with 3 tickets. An extra story, a special food, one-on-one time with Mama or Papa, and a bubble bath. The other column shows a full jar. If you save up until your jar is full, you get to go to the Zoo! We wanted, in part, to see if they would learn the value of saving to get something you want (something I've never seemed to manage). This morning when I introduced the system, Natalie immediately started talking about which treats she wanted to buy as soon as she got three tickets and Leah stated quite emphatically that she was saving for a full jar so she could go to the Zoo. :-)

Anyway, the idea is a steady stream of positive reinforcement and we'll see how it goes. I'll keep you posted!

After this weekend, life gets very busy. The first three days of next week are Natalie's first summer camp (mornings only, at Kings Landing Park). I think I'll do a "Recycling" theme with the two who are home and I'll plan those activities in a minute. Gini Newcomb suggests topics of Food Chains, We Can Help Animals, We Can Help the Earth, Endangered Species of North America, and Endangered Animals of the World for this week. We'll just do "We Can Help the Earth." Then some time off from school for the 4th of July festivities, which go from June 29th through July 4th. We'll head over to the little cabin to be closer to the action. (That means no internet connection, no blogging.) On July 5th Jenn arrives and she leaves the morning of the 8th. So after the early part of next week, I don't anticipate writing school plans until the week of July 9th. In that week is Leah's summer camp (also mornings only, this one at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp -- it's a Hand in Hand camp and she'll go with my mom and my Aunt Janet) and so I'll have to have fun plans for the kids who are remaining at home. Our curric. states that Australia is the theme for the early part of July (which is nice since we were planning on going to the National Aquarium in Baltimore when Jenn is here -- a field trip where I definitely need an extra pair of hands -- and they have a new exhibit on Australia) and Oceans for the latter part. Really nice! Lots of time at the beach. Hurrah! August is Antarctica and the Arctic Circle. I don't know if that is going to happen. At some point I'd like to move back into being more Waldorf-y. Maybe August is the time for that. I'm going to Barbara Dewey's Early Childhood teacher training which should prove super-inspirational.

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