I was plagued with grief, depression, and exhaustion (click here to see why) during most of my son, Trenton's, first-grade school year. Sadly, because of these factors, I did not spend much time with him on school work and extra educational enrichment. Our family had gone through a lot that year, so I'm sure Trenton was having some of the same feelings as well. As a result, he was pretty much an average student that year, which isn't bad, but I wanted better for him. So, I developed an incentive program for him to read books, write book reports, do math papers, and go above and beyond helping around the house and helping our friends and neighbors. Guess what...it worked!
Now, ending his 2nd grade year, he's an excellent writer, his reading is two grade levels above, his handwriting is perfect, and his math has come a long way. One thing that wasn't lost in all the chaos was Trenton's eagerness to learn, which is one reason why I started this fun little program. Like most children, he was/is full of questions and absorbs information so quickly. So, enough of the backstory, here's what I did to keep his fire burning and get him on the right track.
- I went to my local "teacher's" store, called 3R's to buy a workbook to reinforce what he had learned in first grade and give him a jump on second grade. These books are amazing; matter of fact, the store was all out when I went the first time. The Summertime Learning workbooks have an eight-week program already designed, where your child will do one to two worksheets from a different subject each day. We didn't follow their program (more on that later), but the worksheets were very helpful.
- Next, Trenton and I sat down to go over some of the things that he wanted and some of the places he was dying to go. We came up with: a puppy; ice cream for dinner; going to places like CoCo Key, Magic Waters, and Great America; Wii games, a tool kit, going to the movies; to name a few. I was able to get many free tickets to the water parks or go on discount days, I purchased used games from Game Stop, and the puppy was not going down (more on that later as well). Also, these are things that we would do in a typical summer anyways, it's just that now he had to earn it. I urge you to direct your child(ren) in the way that's most affordable for you and also a great incentive for them. Here, are some very cost effective suggestions that I have: cool Dollar store toys to make a treasure chest for the kids to choose from, Princess/Prince for a Day, a date with mom and/or dad alone, a decked out Movie Night (in or out), or slumber party with lot's of friends, to name a few.
- It's important to have the "smaller" incentives up front and the "larger" incentives towards the end of your summer rewards program, so they have a reason to keep working hard for the duration of the program. For instance, our program ran from about June 10 to August 10, and we had a 1,000 points total. I assigned a points value to everything that I wanted him to excel in. About every 100-200 points, he earned a different thing that we had chosen together. At the time, I did NOT want a puppy. As I already stated, I was coming out of depression and grief and I did not need one more responsibility. The puppy was assigned a value of 1,000 points. Unbeknownst to Trenton, I made the puppy pretty much unattainable, however, if he would have earned that many points, then he would have really deserved a puppy, and I would have obliged. He didn't reach that level, but I'm sure he will want to put it on the schedule for this summer. This leads me to my next point.
- Be sure not to hold the carrot out too far. The older your child(ren) is, the better they will be able to understand what you are doing. It's clear that you communicate they have to work hard to earn the things they want, but don't make everything out of reach. Really assess how many points any particular item should be; the points are also building upon each other throughout the duration of your program.
- Have fun with this program and don't let it take up a lot of your summer. I never forced Trenton to do any of the things to earn points. He was eager to do it on his own, because he knew what was at stake. I would update him and let him know how many points he had to go to earn the next prize. I would also encourage him and make suggestions about what he could do to earn more points, especially if he was very close to the next level. For instance, we hosted two lemonade stands over the summer at his request to raise money for the people of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Because of this kind gesture, I gave him the "Caught Being Good" award and he earned 20 points each time, which was a significant boost to get to the next level.
|Face Painting from a Fun Fair|
Lastly, it is my personal belief that whether you homeschool your children or not, as a parent, we should all be homeschooling, at least part time. Homeschooling part time ensures that your kids learn what you want them to learn, and it doesn't have to be a formal schooling either. Doing simple things, like a summer enrichment program, or doing research together on their latest questions are all part of providing them with the much needed educational enrichment from home.
I am always open for ideas...do you have any type of incentive program for your children?