Sunday, December 7, 2008

Work timetable for the holidays

Usually during the major school holidays, I want the kids to do schedule some work either to revise past topics or learn a little of new ones. You may say, "What? Do work during the holidays?" but like most parents, I know that if I leave my kids to go wild and play throughout the month-long vacation, the few brain cells that have been dedicated to academic work would have perished from disuse by the time school re-opens (overpowered by the brain cells in charge of computer games).

We all know that getting kids to do work during the holidays can be a real chore (I can envision the moans and groans even before they happen). But after a few years, I've found a solution that has worked for me and minimised the pain.

What I do is let the kids come up with a holiday time-table. I will impose what I think is a reasonable workload, like for this vacation, I've asked my kids to include one heavy and one light activity every weekday. An example of a heavy activity would be a maths assessment paper or a tuition session and a light one would be reading or practising the piano. Weekends are exclusively for finishing work doled out by the Chinese tutor.

This is Andre's timetable for this holiday period:

There are some "off" days like when the kids have playdates or when there's a party. Of course no work is assigned on Christmas and they're let off the last few days before school reopens (I'm not an ogre!)

I think it's reasonable - most of the work in a day can be completed within 1½ hours, which isn't a lot to ask. The rest of the time, Lesley-Anne and Andre can do whatever they like - watch tv or play computer games, within a sensible time limit.

I've found that having a timetable is very useful, for several reasons:

1) When you don't have a timetable, it's much harder to assign work. From your kids' perspective, you will be seen as trying to "eat into" their holiday time and this inevitably causes resentment. When I tried this with Lesley-Anne in the early years, I often had to cajole or nag and the work, if done, would be done reluctantly. Whereas with a timetable, since the work has already been assigned and negotiated, it's more readily accepted.

2) When coming up with the timetable, I give my kids a certain level of leeway, eg. they can choose which day to do maths or english. If Lesley-Anne wants specific days to be free, she can opt to load up on another day instead - it's a tradeoff. Since my kids have a say in how the timetable is drawn up, they take ownership of it and also take more responsibility in ensuring the work is completed.

3) A timetable also creates structure and certainty which is sorely needed in this family of procrastinators! Eg. by noting how many sessions of maths I have with each child, I can plan beforehand what I want to cover by the end of the holidays because I don't need to negotiate for extra sessions when needed. On the part of the kids, they prefer this because they know exactly what needs to be done and won't have the dread of not knowing whether mummy will spring another test paper on them at the last minute. In fact, Lesley-Anne often looks at the schedule for the next day and asks me for the set work the night before, so that she can complete it in the morning and get it out of the way.

I normally use construction paper to draw up the timetable and let the kids use stickers or markers to dress it up. The objective is to make it look as unintimidating and as fun as possible. Afterall, it is the holiday season!


Lilian said...

I've always wanted Brian to work out his own timetable but we've never gotten round to doing it. It's very much go with the flow here; can go full-force for a few days, then for many days after just do nothing.

With Brian, it's all very much about "Equal Misery". He's happy to do tonnes of work IF I'm there beside him; just accompanying him or better still working on the same testpaper as him. He says he loves the feeling of being able to solve problems I can't @#$%^&!

So sacrifice my time lah...just for this year. The downside of this is Sean gets neglected a lot.

monlim said...

I guess with Brian, since he's motivated to do tonnes with you there, you don't need a timetable! Doesn't matter what the incentive is.

Not the same here...

Susan said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


monlim said...

Always happy to welcome a new reader. Thanks for reading Susan, glad to have you on board!

eunice said...

I have to admit that I'm the one that lacks discipline when it comes to work during the hols. The 1 thing I do make Sean do is his Chinese. School hols start next week! Yay. Monica, have to admire your creativity and discipline!!!

bACk in GERMANY said...

And I wonder why my kids were so wild right during and after the summer break.

You are so right. Kids need discipline. A routine. Actually, we adults need discipline and routine too.
Time-table it is when we get back to Sg.
But right now, it's really tough with this child requesting for a play date and that child requesting for play dates... Why are there so many play dates???

breve1970 said...

Wow Monica.

You are so organized and structured. I have a time table drawn up for the kids on normal school days but never one for the hols (anyway this is the 1st year of hols that we are having following 4 terms of formal schooling:)). Will definitely try it out.


monlim said...

I have to do this cos I'm so disorganised!! This is the only way I can ensure work gets done :D So it's as much for me as for the kids. And for most of you ladies, your kids are still very young so no worries. It's more important as they get older.

Cindy: welcome back!! I think it's easier to arrange playdates when they're younger. Now Andre only has a couple where I book a badminton court and he invites his kaki to play. For Lesley-Anne, she arranges for her friends to come over, but it's only once during the entire hols.

Alcovelet said...

Hi Mon, could have sworn I left a comment yesterday, but maybe I was half asleep and didn't press the send button, haha!!

I tried with the schedule, but it's hard to follow cos I get angst about having to complete. No shiok leh, so we pretty much go with the flow here. But my situation is different - my son's technically preschool and I like the fact that we can take our time. I bet if he were in school, I'd be a lot more chop-chop-get-with-it!

monlim said...

Ad, it's really about catering to the kid. In my family, we all lack discipline so the structure is much needed. For you, RK seems to rebel against structure plus he's so young, so going with the flow is probably better. Hey, whatever works right?

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