Every week when I conduct the webinars for new Calvert families, I speak about the skill of executive function, and how colleges are looking for that skill from homeschool students because they seem to have it more often than their public/private school peers. So, I have to ask myself, how can that be?? How does one foster the skill of “executive function”?
Well, one of the components of this global skill is being able to manage your time. So how do you really teach that? I know that any sort of teaching requires some element of getting the student to “buy into” the teaching process. The more engaged in the process you can make your student, the easier the process will be.
I have done a WIDE variety of things over the years, and some have been more successful than others. However, after 4 kids, I think I might have hit upon something good the fifth time around.
We have created a “Time Bank” this year for my 5th grader. Here are the principals:
Each component of Duncan’s daily lessons is discussed before he begins the lesson. We decide, with each succeeding component, how long he thinks it will take him to complete it. There is usually some negotiation going on – frankly, since I want him to learn three things from this exercise, I am seeking for his success:
(1) How to know when a period of time has passed? (Do YOU honestly know when thirty minutes has elapsed? I think this is a learned skill.)
(2) How to focus your energies so that you can concentrate for a set period of time.
(3) How to gauge, with increasing accuracy, how long a component of the lessons will take.
If he begins a task at 10AM, and he guesses it will take 30 minutes, I write down 10 AM start and a 1030 AM finish. Barring a challenge – misunderstood directions, etc., his “contract” is to finish by 1030AM. IF he makes that, THEN he can have 10 minutes in his time bank. Completing the task in the required time gets him 10 minutes. When he has accumulated 30 minutes in the time bank, he can withdraw them – to play Wii, watch TV or play video games.
Duncan’s time bank Why does this work? First of all, because during the school week we do not allow things like Game Boy, Wii and television. The only access Duncan can get to these things is through the time bank. Second, he is practicing the skill of time estimation.
The rules of the time bank are this: Once gained, you cannot “lose” the time you have banked, until you “spend” it. You cannot “spend” the time until you have at least 30 minutes of it. There is no “overspending” – if you decide to spend 30 minutes, once that time is elapsed, you are done. In this way, since September, Duncan has watched TV, DVDs, played e-games and Wii with the “investment” of knowing he has earned the time he spends. If he wants to watch a 2 hour-long movie, he has to “bank” at least 2 hours of time. The benefit thus far is that we are successfully completing an academic day without frustration. I will give you an update in a couple of months.