Just found out that The Wired Homeschool is doing a weekly posting of homeschool related or friendly apps that are FREE!! He’s calling it "Free App Friday."
…continuing from last post
Since I’m not really good at most of the world yet (I only just got all 50 states memorized by shape/location recently!), I need some training first, so here’s where I will be going first…Sheppard Software has an excellent geography section of their website that includes all different levels of learning all the different areas of the world. Just choose the area you want to learn, then start with the tutorial and work your way through up to 9 different levels! Its fun and its FREE! (*note: I couldn’t get Firefox to play some of the games, so I had to use Internet Explorer…So if you have a similar problem, try switching to a different browser.)
If you have an iPhone, there’s an excellent app called “GeoMaster” that I highly recommend once you’ve become familiar with the area you are studying. This is a great game for drilling yourself on the area in a fun game format. Through this game alone I’ve managed to finally master all the U.S. states! The free version is just the U.S. and the paid version, only .99 when I bought it, has the rest of the world! Well worth the money!
Facebook has a game called “Geo Challenge” that is also fun for drilling yourself on geography facts in a game format. I’ve really enjoyed this game a lot, and even get to learn country flags! For a small fee you can upgrade to “Pro” and have more specific maps to work on.
Another thing I’ve found really neat are laminated maps. I find them in the dollar section of Target every year around “Back-to-School” time. They come with a dry erase pen and on one side is the map of the U.S. or the world continents with labels…
…on the reverse, no labels for drilling yourself or your child. They are really fun to do challenges with the kiddos to see who can fill in the most states or areas correctly! (Target always has really neat things in their dollar section around “Back-to-School” time…I check them out regularly!
There’s also lots of places online to get blank maps for printing. A quick Google search turned up this one by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishers.
Another great thing for learning geography, I think, is the “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” phenomenon. They used to have a tv series, both cartoon and game show, and computer games. Searching online I just found out they actually have a new (to me) website! And there’s a link there to their Facebook game. Unfortunately, like all Facebook games, it does require you to involve friends…here’s a website that talks about why you may want to skip it.
It is a shame, though, since it’s really a neat game!
More to come in the next post…
As promised, an update on how things are going in the Smith home with the star charts in iRewardChart, a wonderful iPhone app I highly recommend.
*see my previous post for my original info on this app.*
Its been nearly week now of the new rule that chores MUST be done daily or they lose stars. Things are going quite well, I am happy to say! Stars are being earned quite regularly and are even building up to a level that my daughter has decided to save some to earn a bigger reward!
The way I do it is that I have 2 chore charts for each kid. A chart of “base chores” (mandatory) and a chart of “extra chores” (optional). The “base chores” MUST be completed every day by bedtime or they lose half the stars they might have earned if they had completed them. They earn 6 stars if they complete their base chores, lose 3 stars if they don’t. I didn’t want to take all 6 stars away for non-completion because that could very quickly get very discouraging (we’re trying to motivate here, not discourage), so my husband and I decided on half the stars. Or if they only do part of their chores (which hasn’t happened yet), I may only take away 1 or 2, depending on how much were done. The biggest thing for them is that if they DO their chores, they each get 6 stars.
The amount of chores they have to do is dependent upon their age. My 5yr old has 5 base chores daily and my 10yr old has 10 base chores daily. I’ve worked with the children to determine these chores and I have made sure they know that I am always open to hearing if they would like to swap out chores for more desirable ones. The one stipulation is that if they want to choose to swap an undesirable chore for a more desirable one, it has to be approved by me which means it HAS to still be a chore that will truly help around the house daily. My 10yr old has swapped out a few chores and we’ve had mutual agreement on the changes, so things are going smoothly in that regard.
I also break chores into small, very manageable pieces. So instead of one chore for my 10yr old that would be “do laundry”, I have broken the chore into 5 separate chores:
The rest of her base chores list looks like this:
My 5yr old’s base chores list currently looks like this:
What I’ve noticed from the week of them being forced to do these chores daily is that they quickly learned to not fight the new rule and after initial whining (more from the 5yr old than the 10yr old), they seem very motivated to get their chores done and get their stars and cash them in for computer time. (They get one computer hour for 5 stars.) They’ve quickly figured out that their chores are actually quite easy when done daily because there’s not much to do so long as they stay on top of it! THAT was a wonderful realization for us all, let me tell you!
And my house is less messy and their having to work every day is motivating ME to get MY work done daily!
There are also quite a few behaviors on the chart that I regularly use as motivation or punishment. For example, for about 5 days in a row Tyren lost a star in the “no hitting” category. He tends to hit (though not actually hard, more of a swat, but it has to stop) his sister when he’s frustrated with her. Over time, I’m hoping this will help curb this behavior. He’s a stubborn one so I think it will take some time with him.
Also interesting is that both the kids are motivated lately to make a show of kindness & helpfulness now and then because they will then get even more stars. They do ask for them after doing something kind/helpful, and while that’s not what I was looking for…I am still of the mindset that no matter what the motivation, they are still getting the experience in being kind & helpful and hopefully this will lead to intrinsic motivation.
It simply feels good to be kind, so I think this will be a natural progression over time. For now, the threat of losing stars has sometimes deterred some unwanted behavior, and sometimes motivated positive behavior.
I’ll wean them off the stars as time goes on and I see more and more intrinsic motivation happening. For now, the iRewardChart star system is working well for us.
Next, once the routine is in place for getting chores done, which will probably be in the next week or 2, I will focus more on the school work on the star chart. I don’t yet require specific things daily of them, but that’s going to change. I plan to implement the same system for the school work as the base chores requirement. Losing stars for work not completed. But I wanted to tweak this system and have it work well with the chores before I instituted this. So, more updates to come! 🙂
Getting an iPhone has really helped change some things in my life. But since I know not everyone can afford one (not really sure we can either, actually), I will try not to spend too much time on posts about apps.
But I just had to post about 2 apps that are really changing things in the Smith household, since there will be others reading this that might benefit from these too. The first one I am using to write this!
There is a WordPress app that allows me to, with some limitations, post to this website! That’s particularly handy right now as my son is on my computer and my daughter is typing on her typewriter (a freebie from a freecycler…If you don’t know about Freecycle, I highly recommend Googling it and find a group in your area! We’ve gotten a lot of fabulous stuff for free from people on there! Hm, there’s another post I must write at a later date) in her room and wants me close by to help with spelling. So here I am sitting on her bed writing this! Ok, significantly slower than if I were at my computer keyboard, but very cool that it’s possible. Especially since right now I am feeling so inspired to write and now I can, without my computer!
(Note: this post took 2 days to write so in the end I wrote this in a variety of places around my house.)
The other app that is making a difference in our lives, and even more so, is iRewardChart:
This app allows you to create star charts for your children and add tasks for them to complete to earn stars and rewards for them to cash stars in for. Really handy in that you can use this on the go, wherever you are!
Now, I would like to say that I have agreed in the past with the philosophy that rewards and punishments can be detrimental to children. I do really understand this and agree that intrinsic motivation is preferable, but in my life I just have not been able to get my children to be intrinsically motivated to get the things done that I think they need to be doing on a daily basis. I know this takes time but I’m finding that I can now see the merit in EXtrinsic motivation, and here’s why: I have been a believer, in my own life, in the idea to “act as if” and eventually it will follow. I first read this in a book by SARK called “A Creative Companion”
Here’s what she quoted in her book that I’ve always remembered:
“Katherine Hepburn said in an interview ‘Oh, I’m scared all the time! I just act as if I’m not.'”
“To live creatively free: Do what you know how to do NOW then ‘act as if’ you know how to do the rest.”
“I met someone who had been paralyzed in an accident, and was told she would never walk again. She said, ‘I just acted as if I could do it, and then I learned how to embrace the micromovents.’ These micromovements led her to complete recovery.”
Very “Law of Attraction”, don’t you think?
Ok so now you’re wondering how this relates to a rewards chart for my children. 🙂
Well here’s how I’ve come to think about it. For now, anyway, this makes sense to me. If these people are suggesting that “acting as if” can actually cause your feelings and actions to change, it seems to me this might work even if you’re not necessarily the one motivating yourself to “act as if.”
I could be wrong but it seems to me that in so many things, “practice makes perfect.” So if a child is encouraged to practice something, whether it’s playing piano or riding a bike or cleaning their room or being kind to a sibling…even if the motivation comes extrinsically (from rewards or threats of punishment/consequences, or whatever)…barring any extreme situations (like abuse)…the child should still benefit from getting practice. And subsequently, gain experience in whatever you are requiring them to do.
I think this is a good thing. And also important here is that this helps to build a good HABIT–Something helpful in getting us to continue to do something even when we are unmotivated.
Whether intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, I think building good habits is a very good thing. And perhaps even one of my most important jobs as a parent–teaching good habits such as wearing a seat belt, brushing teeth, eating healthy foods, being respectful and kind, etc.
Now, like I said, I do realize the best motivation is intrinsic. But for the life of me I cannot get my kids to feel regular intrinsic motivation to help around the house or work on some of the educational activities that I know they need practice in (like practicing spelling or handwriting or math. And yes, I work very hard to offer educational lessons that are quite fun. I’m a firm believer that learning should always be fun and interesting to the learner,) and other such things. And I’m simply not comfortable waiting for them to come to it entirely on their own. I know people that completely trust their kids in learning what they need eventually and that’s great if you’re comfortable with waiting and trusting. It does indeed seem to work quite well for some people. But I’m not there. Maybe someday I will be but not today.
Today I’m frustrated with my kids simply not caring about all the messes they make and not being interested in practicing their lessons. *I* care. I care very much and it affects my own personal happiness and concerns me greatly for my children’s present and future.
For awhile other ideas worked but their effectiveness wore off and I’m back to looking for new ideas. Right now the star chart works for my children and I. Right now extrinsic motivation works for my kids. And my hope here is that eventually extrinsic motivation will evolve into intrinsic, after they’ve had time to mature and experience the benefits of the things I’m asking them to do.
Because of our star system, my kids are clammoring to do all the things I feel they should be doing, or doing things without a fight. I have all sorts of things on there, from household chores to responsibilities like brushing teeth and hair to behaviors like being kind and not hitting.
I do not, however, put things on the chart that my kids are already intrinsically motivated to do. For example, my daughter doesn’t fight us on brushing her teeth nightly, so this is not on her list. My son, however, fights us daily on this, so on his list “brush teeth without a fight” is something he can earn a star for. It’s his choice then as to whether or not to cooperate and earn a star. Either way, his teeth WILL be brushed, we make this very clear to him. But he chooses the easy way or the hard way. Not all things on the star chart are nonnegotiable, though. Many are up to them entirely as to whether or not to do them.
Either way, the kids have choices, which I think is very important.
An equally great thing about this app, in addition to being able to AWARD stars is that you can also DEDUCT stars, even making negative stars. So if one of them hits the other I can assign a negative star in “no hitting” (which is it’s purpose for being there).
Of course in conjunction with the stars, we have ongoing discussions about right and wrong and why it is important to do the things I am asking of them.
I am also deciding to make certain items on the list required each day (a base set of chores for example) and as such they will receive negative stars at the end of each day if they do not complete these tasks by bedtime. I haven’t completed instituting this new rule so I will post after we’ve tried this for awhile and let you know how it’s going. (*update posted here*)
For now, both my kids are only interested in cashing stars in for computer time. They get 1 hour for 5 stars. You can edit it to whatever you want. We are still continuing to tweak a lot as we are still figuring out what works. So far my kids haven’t yet tried saving stars up for some of the higher ticket items like 75 stars for a Webkinz. But that’s ok by me because computer time doesn’t cost me anything! 🙂
I would never suggest that this system would work for every child or every family. Or even for one family all the time. But for now it’s working for our family and helping this mommy tremendously. I hope some of you will find something here in my thoughts and experiences that might help you. Please leave a comment if you do!
This is me completing this post in bed this morning.