One of the amazing benefits of homeschooling is that school does not have to take seven hours a day. Don’t get me wrong, we have an occasional long day that stretches to the length of a traditional school day but those days are the rare exception. One downfall of this benefit is that sometimes I find the boys rushing through their work in order to just finish up their day earlier – anyone else relate?
This rushing results in horrific handwriting, silly mistakes and pure sloppiness. The kind of work that isn’t remotely acceptable in this house. One of our homeschooling core values is that quality matters – we will do things with excellence. We stand firm on each of our core values and this one is no different. So, how do we make sure that our boys work is full of quality? We set up rhythms. checks and balances.
- Handwriting Comparison – Every six to eight weeks each child writes a sentence that is seven to nine words long in their best handwriting. We then repeat the same sentence but this time they write it as nicely as they can in thirty seconds. These sentences are our comparison sentences. If one of us feels like maybe the handwriting is lacking on a particular assignment, we pull out these sentences and compare. The expectation is that the handwriting on the assignment falls somewhere between the extreme neatness of the best handwriting and the quickly written sentence. Either the child himself can call out his handwriting or I can. More often than not, they call it out before I do because they’d rather recognize their mistake early than me recognize it later because the consequence for sloppy handwriting is rewriting the mistake.
- Extra points for neatness and completeness – I’ll be writing more about our point system soon but for now it will suffice to say that the boys earn points for assignments based on completion as well as on neatness and depth of thought. The goal is to earn as many points as possible and therefore get to the rewards faster. Writing neatly and answering deeply are quick ways to bolster the point total since each is worth an extra 50 points meaning for some assignments, they can double the available points.
- Reminders that quality matters in real life – Every year we go through an Oreo lesson and let’s just say that crushed cookies aren’t nearly as desirable as whole cookies.
- Time minimums – Instead of going through one “lesson” each day and then moving on to a different subject, the boys are required to spend a minimum amount of time per subject. Sometimes this means that they get through more than one lesson in a day but more often than not, it means that they take the time to make sure that their work is of the highest quality because there is nothing to rush off to.
- First Answer, Second Answer, Best Answer – For anything that does not have an exact answer – think math problems and literal questions – the boys need to come up with their initial answer, a second answer and then choose a strongest answer which usually lies somewhere in a combination of the two answers. By having to consider two answers, the quality of the work naturally increases.
Rhythms, checks and balances help us keep quality in the forefront of minds. They make sure that quality isn’t something we think of at the end of an assignment. It is something we pay attention to through our entire day – moment by moment quality matters. Hold tightly to your core values. Cling to them in a way that is smart and in a way that is simple. Keep everything smart. Keep everything simple.