Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Student Contracts

Do you ever feel like “the bad guy” in your home schooling efforts? In this twelve-year adventure I frequently have felt like a mafia-style “heavy,” laying into my kids when they were not remembering their assigned work, when they were not getting their work done in a timely manner, or when they were not making their best effort in the work they submit. I would scold, cajole, encourage, bribe, discipline, punish, and demand from my children a certain quality and quantity of work, but the effort always seemed to end back in my hands, though we are trying to raise children who are self-motivated and self-disciplined in their academic (and physical) labors.  

Finally, about five years ago, and after an entire summer of prayer and reading respected authors for organizational suggestions, it occurred to me that having my children sign a student contract at the beginning of the year would be a way to place the responsibility for accomplishing their work in their hands. So I created an individualized contract for each student and required him to sign it at the beginning of our school year. Yes, this is one contract my children are forced to sign, but they do have some freedom to approach me about studying a different subject area (within reason) than what I have listed for that year. And they do have some freedom within the contract to determine what day(s) they will accomplish certain subjects, if it is not a daily subject.

The idea behind the contract was that if my students balk at an assignment or whine that I am demanding too much of them, I can pull out their contracts and point to the fact that they signed and agreed to the given guidelines. Accompanying the contract was an explanation (verbally, though it would be wise to include it in writing so everyone “remembers” the same rules) of what the consequences would be for not fulfilling the requirements listed in the contract. Computer privileges seem to be the element of life that most motivate our children, so we have used that in our consequences. For example, if our children are late in getting up, they lose a minute of computer time for each minute they are late getting to breakfast. Since they only get an hour of free computer time a day, they are fairly motivated by that time constraint of being up by 7:30. If our children are late getting school started (which it is supposed to begin at 8:00 A.M.), they lose double time for each minute they are late in starting their schoolwork.

Granted, this still makes for some hassles for me in keeping track of time and the number of minutes that the kids are late, but I’m no longer the “heavy,” I’m just the clock-watcher. I just have to keep a little pad of paper next to me to write down the times my four students are up, and when they start their schoolwork. Then, my kids have to blame themselves for not getting up and at ‘em; and I don’t have to keep barking orders or demanding obedience from them. If they choose to disregard the rules or the guidelines they signed in their contracts, that’s their choice. But there are consequences for those choices, just as there will be consequences in the real world if they choose not to abide by the hours and contract stipulations in their work place.

The prime advantages I see in having students sign a schoolwork contract are that:
  • Students learn self-motivation and personal responsibility. They must abide by a given set of guidelines.
  • Students realize there are consequences for foolish choices, and there are rewards for wise ones.
  • Parents do not have to be drill sergeants or puppet masters. Rather, we are more like supervisors, expecting quality work from our children and inspecting their efforts on a regular basis.
  • Each student has a one-page summary of their goals for a given school year. Those goals can be reviewed periodically (by parent and child) to see how successfully those tasks and goals are being accomplished.
I’m including a sample of the student contract I’ve devised for our children. Obviously, your state’s home education requirements may be different than ours in the state of Ohio, but at least you will get an idea of how a student contract can be worded. And then pray for God’s grace and wisdom to know how to make the start of each day less stressful for your entire family, while enhancing each child’s self-discipline and personal accountability in life. Remember, God promises to give wisdom “liberally and without reproach” to anyone who lacks wisdom and asks for His help (James 1:5). We just have to ask...

Download a copy of the contract in a Word.doc format here.

Sample Student Contract
[Name of Your School]
2009-2010 Student Course Work
I, [student’s name], a high school student at [fill in your school name or your family name], agree to complete the following schoolwork on a weekly basis. (Daily, twice-a-week, regularly, etc. activities are indicated with particular subjects.)

  • Geometry – daily
  • Spelling Power – daily
  • Daily Grams – daily
  • Silent Reading (assigned British literature & pleasure reading) – daily for 30 minutes
  • Writing Assignments (due as assigned)
  • Chemistry – daily
  • Logic– 2 times a week (2 lessons a week or one book per month, whatever works for the given list)
  • Physical Education – regularly
  • Bible Study – daily
  • Geography/History – daily
  • Art History – 1 time per month
  • Vocabulary – 3 times a week
  • Volunteer Work – monthly
  • Home Economics – 3 days a week
  • Piano – daily
  • Choir (through church)
  • Spanish – 4 times a week for 30 minutes each time (or a min. of 120 min./week)

I will be up at least by 7:30 A.M., then have breakfast, accomplish my chore(s), and be ready for school by 8:00 A.M. each school day. I am agreeing to complete a minimum of 182 days of 5 hours of schoolwork a day (the equivalent of 900 hours of education). I commit to complete my assignments and activities to the best of my ability, to God’s glory and honor!

Signature                                Date

Download a copy of the contract in a Word.doc format here. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this promise contract. I am going to do one of these for my 10 year old. I am now following you. I would love it if you would follow my blog as well. (Even if you don't have time to read any of it :) I have admired your family from afar since we began homeschooling 6 years ago. Your booth is always one I visit and buy from at the annual homeschool convention. God Bless.