Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Block" Scheduling ~ or what we're trying when the first schedule epically failed

Remember this post?  The one where I displayed my middle three boys' assignment charts?  We made a valiant effort to make them work, and I kept encouraging the boys, son L in particular, that it was a time management thing more than an "I can't do it" thing.  But in the end, it was just not going to cut it.

Son C has done fairly well with his assignment chart, so for now we are keeping his the way it was.  Why fix it if it ain't broke?  But for son L, he struggled all throughout the day to switch gears between subjects (note to self, he has always had trouble with transitions, why did I not expect this?).  I thought I had given a reasonable amount of time for each scheduled subject, but for him it was NOT enough.  Each day, according to the little squares on his assignment chart that were not checked off, he fell farther and farther behind.

Many tears.  Many late night conversations.  Many prayer times together.  Many pep talks, especially when the dreaded "I'm stupid" words came.  I was and am committed to helping him succeed ("success" in his mind being completing a day's worth of work in one day with enough time left to play before dinner, "success" in my mind being putting forth his best effort most of the time and finishing assigned work before dinner) but I wasn't convinced he couldn't succeed with the way his assignment chart was currently written.  I made myself more available to him.  I played quiet praise music in the school room.  I gave him a signal that meant "focus" whenever I saw he was being distracted.

No significant improvement.

One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is the ability and freedom to change things midstream if they are not working.  And clearly, this was not working.  An assignment chart is simply a tool.  Not our task master.  If this particular tool wasn't working, maybe I could change it to make it fit more closely the way he worked.

Enter "block" scheduling.  His new assignment chart has a morning "block" of 2 hours, and an afternoon "block" of 2-3 hours.  He now does his 4 academic subjects only twice a week (during a morning or afternoon "block") instead of every day, doing 2-3 days' worth of work each time.  This way, when he gets  in the zone he can simply stay in the zone, and not have to switch gears to another subject when the first subject was not yet completed.  We made the switch mid-week last week so the jury is still out.  But so far, so good.  This schedule also gets rid of the 3 subjects he was "supposed" to do on Tuesdays, in between classes at co-op.  So now during his co-op "off" hours he can just hang out with friends or work on things he wants to do, which will make Tuesdays much more fun for him.

(click on picture to enlarge)

Son L is our child who lives with Sensory Processing Disorder, so certain aspects of learning have been challenging for him his entire school career.  We have tried a variety of things to help him over the years, including professional therapy.  The physical and occupational therapy he received was excellent and definitely a piece of his school success puzzle at the time, but the thing that has probably helped the most was just doing lots of reading and then experimenting with various "tools" and routines that might help him.  Each child that lives with SPD is wired so differently, it is often a process of trial and error to find the right "cocktail" that best helps your particular child.

Things we are currently trying:  I am letting him use a tiny little mp3 player I got in my Christmas stocking a couple years ago, to see if music in his ears will help him focus.  Music in the schoolroom is great for 2/3 of the family, but a couple people work better in quiet, so this will accommodate everyone (he may or may not be receiving his own mp3 player for Christmas, but you did not hear that from me!).  I have also given him a new "desk ball" to use.  This is a squishy palm sized ball that he can play with at his desk.  He likes to hold on to something while he's working, and this makes no noise.  It is also something he can squeeze hard without hurting himself, and it "pushes back" to give him some tactile pressure.

He used to sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair, but he has outgrown the old exercise ball and I have yet to purchase a bigger one.  That will be the next thing.

He also still responds well to a set routine, with predictable meal times and bedtimes (and lots and lots of snacks!).  As noted earlier, he tends not to transition well, so if I can give him lots of warning and lots of time to move to the next thing, he does much better.

My job as teacher/mom is often tricky, as I work to give him the appropriate tools for success, while also holding his feet to the fire and requiring him to do the work, turn things in on time, finish things completely, etc.  I pray constantly for wisdom, and am so thankful that God has promised to give it!

Son G also asked for block scheduling, so I have switched them both over to this type of daily routine.  I am letting the block schedule play out for another week or so, and if it proves to be helpful I will then take about 27 blank copies back to FedEx/Kinkos and have a new book of assignment charts made up.  Hey, it is only $5 so we didn't waste too much with the first book now going unused!

Live and learn.  :0)

(and as before, feel free to email and request a copy of the new block schedule.  If my family has to do this any more times, chances are good that one of our schedules will work for YOU!)


Mary said...

Hopefully this will work out better for everyone!

Teacher/Mom said...

This looks great! So glad that God gave you the wisdom to do what he needs, and that you are able to understand L more and more each school year. We are trying something new music wise during school hours. Some like it and some don't, but it comes highly recommended, so we're going to give it a long try. We're using Sound Health CDs by Advanced brain technologies. I'll let you know how it goes. Blessings.