Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rules? And the Role of Dad!

This is a link up to The Homeschool Village. The topic reads as such--
Link up your homeschool rules! Share your post about how you keep your ducks in a row. What is expected of your children? How do you handle interruptions or poor behavior? Do you have homeschool detention?
Of course, I knew immediately what my rules are, what my expectations are, and what the usual consequences are.

I expect morning and afternoon chores lists done in a timely manner. We have lists of these posted on the fridge, and the kids put a dot on the chart each day when they complete each task. At the end of the week, we count up points, and whoever has the most points tallied up gets to pick a fun family activity that everyone participates in. If they tie, or come with in two points of a tie, they both pick an activity and we have two fun things we do. Its a win-win situation. A more complete description of my system can be read in this post.

I expect good attitudes through the day and good efforts put into learning. Electronic entertainment is suspended until school work is complete. Each child has a mail box which they put their completed work in to be checked by Daddy. Blatant refusal to do work, or blatant negligence to do work often results in an email to Daddy, followed by a phone call from Daddy, followed by a 24 hour suspension from electronics. (Video games and computer time are big motivators in our house. Don't judge us.)

I word about this. When I was much younger, and had no children of my own, (read totally naive), there were a few things that I swore I'd never use or say to my children. Among them were---spankings, "You have till the count of ___ to do and a half...." ;  "Because I said so";  "I'm going to give you something to cry about" ;  and, "Just wait until your father comes home." Of all of these, I am proud to say that I still refuse to count at my children. But what I want to talk about is using my husband's authority to support my own.

I used to be against this concept of using my husband as the ultimate authority in the home for several reasons. One, I wanted the children to respect MY authority, not to just respect me by proxy. Two, I wanted my children to see my husband and I as a team of equal partners. (Ok, really that one isn't about my children, its about me. I wanted to see myself as an equal partner with my husband.) Three, I didn't want to play good-parent, bad-parent games where my husband was the only enforcer in the family. And, four, I didn't want my children to be afraid of or intimidated by their father.

I could write a long, long post on any one of those aspects, but in the interest of having any one actually, you know, read what I'm writing, let me keep this brief. Let me start by saying that my children are not afraid of or intimidated by their father. Both kids love to do things with Daddy, are excited when Daddy comes home, joke and laugh with Daddy, and have a great relationship with their Daddy. Because they know how much Daddy loves them, and because they also really love their Daddy, it is important to both of them that Daddy is pleased with their work and their behavior and their characters. When he does need to speak with them about any poor choices they have made that day, he never raises his voice. He never displays anger. He is never harsh in his tone or in his words. He sits down and very calmly states, "I understand that you had trouble following Mommy's directions today. I'm very disappointed to hear that. Tomorrow, I hope to hear that you made better choices." (Notice that he doesn't say "I'm disappointed in -you-" he makes the distinction between the child and the behavior.) So, my children are not fearful of their father, that's one concern of mine that turned out to be unfounded.

In regards to another concern, that one parent would always be the enforcer while the other was the fun parent, I almost sabotaged myself. (Again, a long, long post could be written...and yes, this is the short version, thank you.) To prevent this, on those occasions when I do feel like I could use a little back-up, I try to set the consequence with the child at the time the infraction occurs. So, if someone balks at doing math, or goes into their room and plays on their DS when they should have been reading, I set the consequences right then. And most of the time, that's then end of the story. I'll tell the Jedi about it if he asks, but most of the time, I don't need to bring him into the situation. However, if I set the consequence, and that doesn't seem to produce the desired change in behavior or attitude (the child who bulked at doing work is still pouting and bulking or the child who chose playtime instead of reading is later playing with stuffed animals instead of xyz), THEN I make a phone call or shoot an email off to the Jedi. When he calls, or when he comes home and discusses the issue with the child, he doesn't have to set the consequence....that has already been done.

The other thing that off-sets my husband being relegated to the sole role of "home school enforcer," is that I make a conscious effort to point out all the good things that happened during our day at the supper table that night. That way, my husband gets to hear about, and respond to the positives every day, instead of only hearing about the occasional negative. Likewise, having the children put their completed work in Daddy's box means he gets to see and be aware off what they are doing on a regular basis. I want to include my husband in out homeschool journey as much as possible, so I'm making an effort to find ways of doing so even though most of our formal schooling and our field trips happen during the days when he is at work.

Lastly, I'm finding that involving my husband in this area does not in any way diminish or demean my own authority, value, or respect in the home. Quite the opposite, in fact. Again, a long dissertation could be written on this topic. While it would be easy enough for me to say, oh look, God's plan works! I want to address this phenomena in more bite-sized pieces. One, keeping my husband as part of the complete picture, in both the good and the bad, does demonstrate and model to our children a unified partnership between the two of us. Two, my husband reinforces to my children my value and my importance in our family, just as I am reinforcing his role and his importance in our family. (Just this week, my husband had a talk with one of the children who had fallen into a pattern of waiting until the second or third time they were called to decide to begin responding. He said, "I need you to be prompt to listen to Mommy. I need you to respect Mommy. Mommy cares for you and is trying to make sure that everything in our home runs smoothly, and we need to respect and appreciate her efforts by doing our part to co-operate with Mommy.") Three, we are modeling and demonstrating that family members help each other, are concerned with what concerns each other, and offer our support and affirmation to each other.

Having said all that, and assuming that anyone is still reading, let me add that we do not have a written list of homeschool rules and expectations. So, I wondered if my children would be able to identify our unwritten rules and expectations. How much of this was actually being communicated effectively to my children?

I called them into the living room to find out. I told them I wanted to interview them for a blog post I was working on. They sat on the couch, and i sat in the chair by the window with my netbook, typing as I listened.

Mommy: "I'm writing a blog post about the rules and the expectations that we have for our homeschool for other homeschooling families to read. I know that we don't have a written list of rules, but I'm wondering if you could name some of the rules that we have for our homeschool."

Toa: "You didn't tell us yet!"

(So much for effectively communicating with my children. I went back to explaining what I was after. After a repeat of this with Toa, I looked at Sweetling.)

Sweetling: "Try your best."

Toa: "Don't give up."

(Woo hoo! We are on a role now!)

Sweetling: "There are a lot, and its kind of hard to narrow it down. Are you writing this down?" (She looks suspiciously at my fingers flying over the keyboard.)

Toa: "Take off your shoes before you go on the waterbed."

Sweetling: "That's more a rule of the house than a rule of homeschooling."

Toa: "I do go on the waterbed everyday."

Sweetling: "Do you get tickled everyday?"

(The conversation and interview dissolves into a brief tickle fight. I take a few moments to catch up on my typing then try to call a time out on the tickle fight to get children back on topic.)

Toa looking at Sweetling:"Don't karate chop my arm off."

Sweetling: "Thats not a rule of homeschool, that's just something you made up right now because you're annoyed with me." (Debate which results in Sweetling announcing the next rule-- "Stay on your side of the couch.")

Sweetling: "Pay attention."

Toa: "Follow Mommy's directions."

Sweetling: "If your sister tells you to leave her alone, leave her alone."

Toa: "Don't destroy the blanket?" Toa grins a big cheesy grin as the blanket throw cover slips off the couch and falls on his head.

Sweetling: "Like you're doing right now?"

Toa: giggle giggle

Mommy: "What about be prompt to come when Mommy calls?"

Sweetling: "Yeah, that's a good one."

Sweetling looking at her brother: "If your feet are above your head, that's a problem."

Mommy: "Get off the couch. You're finished with the couch for the day."

Sweetling: "No Wii until we're done with all our school?"

So, are they getting it? Yeah, I think so.

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