When people ask me about priorities or goals in my homeschool, I forego the usual “love of learning, top academic school acceptance, being a rocket scientist” answers for something a little more simple. One of my top priorities as a homeschool parent, is to prepare my children to survive out there in the big wide world. We teach math, foreign languages, art, and history, but how many of us really take the time to teach our children one of the most important skills they’ll need as adults? I’m talking about time management.
Why Time Management Is a Big Deal
When I was growing up, we were never explicitly taught how to manage our time as students. We were told what to do, when to do it, and if we were late, we were docked marks or failed the assignments. In between the giving of an assignment and the successful handing in of said assignment, there was a lot of work to be done, but no one taught us how to manage that work.
In the school day of an average homeschooler, we, too, ask our students to do a lot of work. Once they reach the middle school grades, we expect more work to be done independently. We start to give them more freedom, but that freedom has to come with a strong support system.
If we just hand them the assignments, tell them when it has to be completed, and then leave them to it, there is a strong chance that they are going to flounder. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the ability to manage their time—to be able to look at their schedules, figure out how to break down tasks, and complete assignments on time and with confidence.
When our children are set up to succeed and when they are managing their time effectively, we have given them the tools to go through their studies feeling confident, relaxed, and capable.
So you know that learning to manage their time is a skill your children need. How, precisely, do you go about doing that? Here are a five ways to help your middle schooler get on track and stay there.
1. Model Time Management
We don’t have to be expert schedulers or rock star time managers, to model it for our children. Knowing that we want this to be a priority for our kids means making it a priority for ourselves, too. When you’re sitting down to figure out the logistics of a busy week, let your children hear you work that out. If you have a big project on the go, think out loud about the steps you’ll need to take to complete the project on time. Start a big family calendar, working together to plan your weeks.
2. Use a Structured or Scheduled Curriculum
A structured curriculum like BookShark that divides lessons week by week and day by day is a great way to give your children a chance to learn how to manage their time independently. A pre-scheduled curriculum serves as a checklist for your child to follow. At the beginning, when they’re learning to manage their own time, having a set plan to work from can help them get into the habit of doing consistent work each day towards a goal.
3. Try a Variety of Approaches
There are so many ways that we can manage our time, so don’t feel limited to just a timetable or checklist. When you’re looking at time management systems with your child, keep in mind that what works for you may not be what works for them. You could let them try out bullet journaling, online scheduling apps, or a paper agenda. You might have them use a time tracker app so they can see how much time they’re spending on different areas of their life.
Our middle schoolers are changing rapidly, on the daily. So let them try a method of time management that they think feels right. If it doesn’t work, that’s totally okay. It takes a lot of trial and error to find a scheduling system that works. They are at an age where they really want to try things on their own and figure out their own solutions. So give them the freedom to do just that.
4. Lists, Lists, and More Lists!
For a growing kid who is in the throes of hormonal shifts and sleep adjustments, you can’t beat a simple list. I don’t just mean for school work. I mean for all areas of their lives. Lists can help our growing kids remember those small details which help us have a smoother day.
In my home, we have lists for everything:
- lists for things they have to do before our school day starts
- a list for school work to do each day
- a list for what my oldest has to prepare before his evening activities on each day of the week
Instead of berating our kids and giving them a hard time for being forgetful or sloppy, support them in keeping track of the various tasks they have to do each day. Use lists!
5. Offer Patience, Support, and Encouragement
These big kids of ours are changing, adjusting, and starting to spread their wings. We are at the start of a very important shift in our roles as parents—from being the main decision-maker to being a partner in our kids’ lives. We need to take a look at our days, what our kids needs are, and what their personalities are—and work with that. Helping our kids learn to manage their days and their time is a skill that they will take with them forward into their futures as young adults.
About the Author
Nadine Dyer is a homeschooling parent to two great kids and the lucky wife to one amazing guy. She and her family, which also includes four spoiled guinea pigs, reside in beautiful (and chilly!) northern Ontario, Canada. Nadine is the author of upabovetherowantree.com where she shares her journey, with all its ups and downs, as a secular homeschooling parent. When she isn’t homeschooling or writing, Nadine can usually be found in search of good coffee, good books, and great conversation.