We usually start a new school year by giving our kids a clear list of guidelines, limits and expectations. We are two weeks into the new year and are taking a decidedly different tack this time around.
Our eldest, Zack, is in his Senior year. He does well when expectations and guidelines are clear, but we won’t be close by when he’s in college and he needs to learn how to regulate himself to do his work well and on time, without our regular input. He’s going to take a gap year after graduation, before heading out to university, but it’s now or never for us to get in the last bit of molding him into a self-sufficient student.
Dwight is a Freshman and is extremely self motivated at the moment, so it really was this attitude that helped us, his parents, feel that the best system for his brothers and him would be a laissez-faire policy. Since the middle of last year, Dwight has worked hard and efficiently, to learn a lot and get good grades. Earlier this month, when it came time to set school year limits on screen time, we decided that we should show him we admire his hard work and dedication and tell him we think he is driven enough to set his own limits.
We are doing the same for the younger two sons, to a certain extent. Bob entered middle school and has a lot more homework than he’s ever had. We told him that as long as he does it well and his grades in school reflect his efforts, we will let him set his own limits. So far, so good.
Harold is in second grade, so his homework is minimal in comparison to his brothers. He has a good 30 minutes per night, including math, reading and Mandarin, though, so it’s a significant load for an energetic kid. We let his brothers model good study habits for him and we continue to read with him every night. He is eager to get through is homework in the afternoons because he wants to get outside to play with his “club” friends. At age seven, he still needs help forming good habits. If he rushes through his work, he has to do it again, more carefully. Hopefully he will learn from this routine and it will serve him well in the long run.
So far, the boys are all getting their work done and getting good enough grades as a result. Zack likes to go over his game plan with me, every day, so that I know what he’s doing and when. I think it helps him to say it out loud. Dwight just checks in once in a while to let me know where he stands in getting though it all, and Bob just tells me when he’s finished, unless he needs some help along the way.
We are a bit more than two weeks into the school year, but I feel, in my gut, that we are off to a good start. All the boys know that if they veer off of the straight and narrow path, they will have limits put on them, but as long as they put in the time and good efforts and the grades reflect their hard work, they are free to manage their own time.