Whether you are homeschooling by choice or due to COVID-19, you may find that your child is struggling with the concept of time. Time Management is the thinking skill that helps children to prioritize tasks and complete duties in a timely fashion. It involves accurately judging the amount of time it will take to complete a task and knowing how to stick to a schedule. You are using this skill when you complete a project on time, accurately determine how long it will take to complete a task, are able to prioritize essential tasks over leisure, etc.
Without the rigid structure provided by traditional schooling, some students find it difficult to gauge how long a project will take, how long they have been playing Fortnite, even what time they need to be online for a Zoom chat with their friends. These are all issues surrounding Time Management, which is the Executive Functioning skill that allows students to prioritize tasks and complete chores or assignments within a designated time frame. Good Time Management skills allow students to know how long an assignment will take, how long they have been playing a game, or even knowing what activities to avoid when they need to concentrate.
Complications arising from the coronavirus pandemic have made time management an even bigger concern for parents, whether they are homeschooling or struggling to cope with remote learning. Uncertainty, anxiety, and the lack of familiar stability can lead some students to struggle to compete against the almighty clock. This is a serious issue because Time Management affects so many other areas of a child’s life; their ability to answer standardized questions within a limited time, setting their own schedule, and completing important tasks are all linked to a strong control of time. The good news is that there are tools and strategies that families can implement starting today that will guide your student to building good time management skills. Here are four Time Management strategies for homeschooling and remote learning students:
1. A To-Do List is a Must!
Having a family calendar with a To Do List component is essential to any family where kids are learning from home. Some people have a command center in a prominent area of their home while others prefer using digital family calendars with built-in task lists like Homey or Calroo. Whichever method you use, having all family members on the same page is necessary for modeling and practicing good Time Management. When your children know what events, projects, tests, etc are coming up in the week/month they will be able to break those events down into more manageable tasks. Set up the system for your children but encourage them to check in by themselves and add events as soon as they become aware of them. This will allow them to take responsibility for their own task lists rather than relying on you to make it for them. For children who need more scaffolding, go over their lists with them at the beginning of the day and ask how they plan to tackle the day’s assignments/chores.
2. Everything Has a Home!
Every day children are faced with a wide variety of “time suck” activities; things that soak up precious minutes and can then lead to a feeling of frustration. At LearningWorks for Kids, we like to call these activities “time sponges,” due to the fact that they absorb all of your time but seem initially unobtrusive. If your child has ever said they didn’t have enough time to finish a chore or study for a test, they might be a victim of these time sponges. Aside from digital time sponges (such as unlimited social media, gaming, etc.) time sponges can be scattered throughout the house. A lack of organization leads to wasted time. If your child cannot find their purple binder and spends 10 minutes looking for it, only to find the assignment they needed wasn’t even in it, the amount of work they can accomplish is restricted. The same goes for students with online learning. If a student needs to look up their teacher’s email address six times because they don’t have it saved, they are also falling prey to the time sponge. Students are not the only ones who may struggle with this. The homeschooling blog Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers features a very down-to-earth post by Tara Mitchell of Embark on the Journey about a time when she forgot what needed to be done and lost valuable time trying to play catch up. Parents can help by modeling good organizational habits and talking with their children about the importance of having a “home” for everything they own, including digital information. Additional homeschooling websites such as Joy in the Journey and The Homeschool Scientist have treasure troves of ideas on how to organize your physical space. For digital organization, using an app like My Homework or Google Keep can help your children keep their information organized and up to date.
3. Focusing on Focus
How many times can you count in the past month alone your child saying they just need “five more minutes” online with their friends before they begin their English homework? Part of good Time Management is knowing how long you plan to take on a task and having the willpower to stick with that task for a set period of time. For students (and adults!) who have trouble with this skill, a timer app that uses the Pomodoro Method such as Be Focused can be extremely helpful. Your child sets the timer and knows that until the timer rounds are complete that they need to focus on the task at hand. A kitchen timer works just as easily but with some apps you can track your focus and chart the activities, providing you and your child with some data about their weekly/monthly productivity.
4. Make Time For Breaks!
Whether you are an old hand at homeschooling or new to the entire process, your child needs breaks! Part of Time Management is knowing when you need some down-time. Tracker apps such as Be Focused have built in short and long breaks for sustained tasks but again, a simple kitchen timer will suffice. Try to encourage your child to vary up their break time (i.e. don’t move from one screen activity to another.) Students should be responsible for setting their own breaks and having the willpower to come back to a task when the break time is over. Students who need some additional scaffolding might need a gentle reminder or a parent-led activity to get them back into the “work mentality.”
If Your Child Is Struggling…
Time Management can be one of the most challenging skills for a child to learn, especially during this unprecedented time. But with these four strategies in place, parents can begin to encourage good working habits that will serve their children well through their academic and professional careers.
If you are concerned about your child’s Time Management skills, Learningworks for Kids has a wide variety of classes that mix the fun of games with real-life executive functioning skills. Click here to learn more about our current offerings!