Saturday, January 9, 2010

It's Saturday morning here in West Michigan and it is a beautiful day. Bright blue skies and sunshine. This is a nice break in the grey snowy weather we have had for awhile. When I sat down at my desk this morning, I looked around and thought about all of the things I "needed" to do today in contrast with the inviting, sun-filled freedom outside my windows. This might just be how our children/students feel when they look at their homework, extra curricular schedules, upcoming exams, study time and responsibilities at home. All of these things to do "instead of" doing what they "want to do" or seeing no free time in their day.
Let's address this as a preamble to the test anxiety discussion. It will help us lay some foundations for how we view our tasks at hand.
When talking to your child about scheduling and time management, it is a nice idea to have a visual. We have access to all sorts of time lines, block schedules etc or home made graphs blocked out in 1 hour increments.(Microsoft Office, Palm, or google "schedules")
Grab some colored pencils or markers or highlighters of different colors if you have them which are best.
Now, approach this with the concrete times first. Anything that is set (like hours in school) can be blocked off with one color.
Then chunk out the practices, rehearsals etc. Don't forget to include sleeptime, some kids need to be guided in their sleep patterns and have to be given a time for lights out.
You'll see open areas of time then, that you can fill in approximate homework time or the agreed time you have as a family.
Now the important part:
Show your child the "empty spaces" These are times where they can fill in the "what I want to do's" Showing your child the free time they do have is very important, especially in our busy world.
As your child has things come up that they'd like to do, you can both "see" where they will fit and an even more advanced skill can be taught which is shifting times.
So, if John wants to go to the gym on Saturday with his pals and shoot hoops, or Amanda wants to hang out with some friends at the ski hill, they can see with your guidance if there is room to shift say a 2 hour block time they have for homework over the weekend. It all has to fit, so they learn to schedule how long they hang with their pals so they have time for the homework.
It is empowering because they are in control rather than having that homework hanging over them and feeling anxiety or pressure, or for the procrastinator, they can see when exactly the homework choice-fully fits in their day.

Show them the free time. Let them know they have choices of when to plug things into their day. This is not to say you'll never hear, "I never get to do anything fun."But that is human nature.
I'm off to bundle up and take a walk on this beautiful winter day. I'll shift that straighten my desk time to when I come back.

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