Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Our Summer Incentive Program

Summer break began yesterday, much to my relief. Sending my boys to school this year has been wonderful for them. They have really blossomed socially and each has gained confidence in a new area this year. I can't say that this would be true for any neighborhood school-- our charter school is one that teaches values, studies the classics, encourages service, and emphasizes the heroes of the past and what made them great. Thus, not only are these things taught, but the families who send their kids to the school all support the same values at home. It has been a wonderful blessing for our family.

Contrary to popular opinion, it has not been "easier" for me with my kids in school this year. We spent lots more time in the car, doing homework while I was making dinner or after bedtime (which is a real drag), meeting other people's deadlines, volunteering, and attending all sorts of meetings, field trips, and class parties, etc. I would say we were busier than ever, had less time for the kids to spend on chores and piano practice, and spent less time together as a family for sure. It was the right thing for us this year and probably for a while, but it has not been easier. And I welcomed summer break.

My kids, however, were not as excited, particularly as they heard me rejoicing in how much work I would have them help me with around the house. However, when I unveiled my incentive plan for the summer, they were very enthusiastic. They didn't even realize that it was not only an incentive plan for them to get the things done that matter to me, but that it will help me regulate their media time while allowing them to self-regulate within my parameters. Perhaps since we have had a "no media on school days" policy for our boys this won't be a shock to their system.

It goes like this. Each morning, each school aged child (including Bronwen, who starts kindergarten in August,) must complete the list of our morning routine. This includes: family devotional, breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, make bed, pick up bedroom, do a chore (different each day, but assigned by me), practice the piano 30 minutes, and schoolwork (a 20-30 minute drill in math most days, also assigned by me. Bronwen is doing handwriting or reading practice).  If they complete this list by noon, (they can easily complete it by 10 am if they are focused), they receive 2 "Screen Time" Tickets, each worth 30 minutes.

In addition, they can earn up to 2 more ST Tickets each day. To earn one ticket they can do 30 minutes in extra chores chosen by me, 30 minutes of extra piano practice, 60 minutes of reading, etc. They can also earn a bonus ticket any time during the week by memorizing our Scripture of the Week and passing it off. Jared & I can also award one MVP ticket for exceptional behavior every day, although we may not give them every day-- it depends on the behavior.

To make things even more interesting (and to help them choose things other than Wii and TV for their free time), I am also offering a Buy-Back Program. They can turn in accumulated, unused tickets for other things. For 6 tickets they can go get an ice cream cone, Jamba Juice, or frozen yogurt. For 8 tickets they can skip a chore one morning and reduce their piano practice to 20 minutes that day. For 15 tickets, we will take them to a movie or let them choose a new book; 25 tickets gets them $20 to spend and a trip to the LEGO store (where I never want to go because it's half an hour away). 40 tickets earns a new Wii game. If they save up 50 tickets, they can have $50 cash or a day at a waterpark with their dad. We will probably have more Buy Back items and Extra Ticket options added as the summer progresses, but so far they are busy earning new tickets cheerfully and saving at least half of them for other things.

I know when things are fresh it is easier to be excited about them, but I am hopeful that this will keep us on track this summer to be productive, have fun, and not rot in front of the TV. I hope it will teach my kids the pleasure of delayed gratification and the importance of being industrious. Most of all, I hope this will help us have a great summer together.

What are your summer strategies with kids at home?