Works for Me Wednesday: No More Dawdling Over Schoolwork

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This past weekend, I left a comment on someone’s Weekly Wrap-Up post and it occurred to me that my comment might be something that would be helpful to someone else.  We were discussing kids dawdling over schoolwork and I mentioned something that worked for us when Brianna was younger.

When Brianna hit about 3rd or 4th grade, she would take forever to do a page of math.  She could literally spend an hour or two dawdling over a page that shouldn’t have taken her more than 45 minutes, tops, to complete.  It became my job to hover over her and say, “Do your math. Do your math. DoYourMath!”

No amount of reasoning with her that, if she’d just do it, it’d be over seemed to faze her.  So, I finally resorted to a solution that worked wonders.  I printed off a blank bingo card and got myself a timer.  I told Brianna that, for each day that she finished her math before the timer went off, she could put a sticker on one square of the bingo card.  When the entire card was full, she could trade it for a list of prizes I’d come up with (lunch out, a small toy, etc.) or she could save up the cards for a bigger prize (She was saving for “be the teacher for the day” so that I’d have to be the student!).

Then, I set the timer for a little longer than I thought it would reasonably take her to finish the sheet.  We started with 45 minutes.  After to many days of successfully completing her work in a timely manner, I shortened the time, working toward 30 minutes.  We never quite got down to thirty minutes because, after a few weeks, she was doing so well, we’d both forget about setting the timer.

I guess it was those few weeks that showed Brianna how much easier it was just to get busy and do the work because dawdling over her work has never really become a problem for her again.  There are days when she doesn’t finish all of her work or takes more time than she should over an assignment, but that’s not the norm.  More often than not, she’s the first one up, getting her schoolwork out and getting started before anyone else is up, or finishing her work for the next day in the evenings.

This solution may not work for everyone, but it was a life- and sanity-saver for us. Visit Kristin at We Are THAT Family for more Works for Me Wednesday tips.

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. I read that comment and though it was a great idea, I used it myself with Fox when he was younger. I think it's great you shared it here also.

  2. I will try it…or something like it. My fifth grader can take FOREVER…though she is getting better about it since I started giving her a "check list" of the work she needs to accomplish on any given day. Thanks for the advice!

  3. Great idea! My daughter is doing 2nd Grade this year & I'm having issues with her talking to much & taking forever to get her work done. This will work great with her!

  4. I think I might try that with Luke's Homework. He literally makes me insane! He will start on 30 minutes worth of homework at 3 and still be whining about it at 5. Making me nuts!

  5. I had to laugh at this! I read this post to my now 6th-grader – who, in fourth grade, would get the same "Do…your…MATH!" prodding over and over! She laughed as well!

    We set a timer also, but that didn't work for her. She still dawdled. I sought the help of a math teacher, and she said 4th grade math was a time of transition and was often difficult. We managed to get through it. Now she does her math first thing, and often works ahead – which gives me more to check, but I won't complain!

    I have another third-grader this year, so we may be repeating this scenario!

    Thanks for the smile!

  6. I think I am going to steal this idea and apply it to chores. That is where it usually takes forever to get things done! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  7. Kris, I used to this for myself. I found that the race against the timer kept me focused. And I still do that in a sense today, even as a college student.

  8. I just had to share this little story about my dawdler. My 8yo has always been very good at math, he's always liked math, and he's always completed his math work quickly. About half-way through the year this past school year, however, he started taking a very long time to complete his math work. I started questioning whether he was struggling, whether he really understood what we were doing, whether we needed to slow down…. On a particularly slow day, I was lamenting my concerns to him. I was telling him that we were not going to finish the 2nd grade math book before we were scheduled for summer break. I started to say, "… and we still have to cover fractions and geometry and money and time…" as I flipped through the book to show him… and to my astonishment, the last third of the book was completed! Turns out, he was tired of the multiplication we were working on and had decided to move on to time, money, and fractions on his own. He had most of the book completed, and all correctly! Just goes to show, that sometimes dawdling isn't what it seems… Even so, I do like the BINGO idea, and am going to try it with both of my boys this year…

  9. We've done the timer before, but I love the idea of pairing it with a reward system. Thanks for another great idea.

    I gave you an award today on my blog.

  10. Kris,
    I think I am going to try this for my oldest….he takes SO long to do his work…I love the idea!!! I will need to come up with some appropriate high school BUDGET CONCIOUS ideas, but I am going to see if it makes a difference…
    I'll let you know what happens!

  11. This is a great idea! Thanks for sharing. I've been struggling with my son's dawdling and had tried a timer, but the reward to go along with it just might do the trick.

  12. Great tips Kris! I have your post up at the current edition of the homeschool carnival at my blog HomeSpun Life. I tweeted out your link too and found women who thanked me for sending it out. It's helping them.:)

  13. This is such a great idea. We've used a timer before, but I've never attached a reward as a motivation. I'm filing this one for future use.

  14. Why is it that MATH tends to get the brunt of most Dawdling? (I also love that word — dawdling!)

    I've certainly been known to pull out the timer. I like your bingo card idea.

  15. I use a timer for so many other things, I don't know why I didn't think to do it for this. Beginners writing is the issue for us. She hates to practice, but she so needs it.

  16. What a FANTASTIC idea! We too use a timer, but we don't have it tied with any reward type system. I will put it together tonight and brainstorm rewards with my hubby. THANK YOU!

  17. Great thoughts! Thanks for putting this in the Carnival of Homeschooling. 'Teacher for a day' sounds intriguing — would be interesting to hear what she does with that. 🙂 I have a major dawdler, too (especially on math, or cleaning her room, lol), and the timer has been effective for her at times. Her younger brother loves math and is basically at her level now, though, so this year I'm trying teaching them both together, and that seems to have given her a little more incentive in that area so far — a little competition. 😉

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