Saturday, February 24, 2007

How to Organize Free-Thinkers!

One of my favorite resources for homeschooling is the book, The Way They Learn, by Cynthia Tobias. When I started figuring out all the learning styles in my family, it helped me become a better wife and parent.

David is definitely a concrete-random thinker, abstract-random in second place, with a kinesthetic memory style. He is a blend of Ralph Moody of Little Britches (concrete random) and Anne of Green Gables (abstract random). He tends to perceive concretely (real world, practical, things) and randomly (sees rules as guidelines and schedules as straightjackets) as indicated in this online questionnaire for this model of learning styles.

Inventive. . . Independent. . . Problem Solver. . . Discovering. . . Seeing possibilites. . . Experimenting. . . Creating

Look at what are considered weaknesses for a highly concrete random person, which spells disaster when trying to knock out the subjects required on a transcript for entrance into college:
Restrictions and limitations
Formal reports
Re-doing anything once it’s done
Keeping detailed records
Showing how they got an answer
Choosing only one answer
Having no options

In fact, some concrete-random or abstract-random thinkers who are highly kinesthetic get diagnosed as ADHD in traditional schools where their strengths cause problems in the classroom. If you have a child like this, you may want to read another Cynthia Tobias book, You Can't Make Me. When authority figures fail to appreciate, much less see these strengths, kids can become burnt out with school and troublemakers at home:
Inspire others to take action
See many options and solutions
Contribute unusual and creative ideas
Visualize the future
Often a different way to do things
Accept many different types of people
Think fast on their feet
Take risks

Now that David is a freshman in high school, I need him to learn to work on his own without *ahem* nagging from me. One factor in my favor is that he plans to attend college and major in history. Thus, he knows he must do well enough in math (his least favorite subject) to score decently on the SAT. I have also explained to him that homeschool laws require me to cover very specific subjects, regardless of whether or not he is interested. He does buy into these requirements.

Rather than come up with a system I think he ought to use (afterall, that is the whole thing--sequentials like me think we can fix randoms by inventing systems that work for sequentials), I decided to let him brainstorm. He likes the computer, so I had him type up things he wants to accomplish every day. Then we added school habits, personal hygiene, and house chores to it. We estimated how much time different activities ought to take (and know this may need adjustment--but, as he likes to experiment, that possibility is up his alley). We wrote up some guidelines, not rules. He would rather pick and choose the order of getting things done, so schedules and organized lists are too boring. We agreed upon these ideas:
Use the timer to stay on track.
If time is left, convert to computer time.
Computer time can be saved; he chooses when to use it to play.
If an activity takes too long, make it up evenings and weekends.
If the same activity takes too long, do it in Mom's presence.
Discuss if we need a time adjustment.
He chooses a room to work unless he dawdles or makes many errors.
For now, put each time block on a post-it note.
Time self and bag the note when done.

My job is to inspect and gently ask, "So what are you doing now?" We brainstormed the system on Monday and implemented it on Tuesday. The past four days of homeschooling have been more trouble-free than usual with much more accomplished than usual. Four days does not a habit make, but David remarked on Thursday, "Mom, that system of mine works great!" He has taken ownership of his system, which is promising!


Anonymous said...

This was a great post for me. Thank you. Sincerely, diane

Unknown said...

Oh... great plan.

I just started a home made "chore pack" system of sorts with my kiddos. I was a list maker... But I don't think my kiddos are list readers. ;) I love getting new ideas. Thanks for sharing!

walking said...

The key was to ensure my son (a teenager) was the driving force behind developing the system. He knows he has to learn to manage his time better because the clock is counting down to college in less than four years. Because he knows he needs it and thinks he owns it (most of the ideas are his), he is more motivated to make it work!

Tick, tick, tick!


Anonymous said...

I thought this was a great plan...and I've dealt with inattentive type ADD and am a concrete random thinker...myself.

Kathy E.

walking said...

I am always inspired to meet concrete random thinkers who have been successful in life. It gives me hope for David.

My most favorite choir director was CR, too. Every time she did something ditzy, we'd laugh about it and I'd tell her, "That's okay! It's more hope for David." The best one was when her cell phone played some classical tune very loudly during one of the readings during the very long and elaborate Holy Saturday mass. Luckily, the congregation could not see her face from the choir loft, but we all had to stifle our giggles, big time!