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Messy, sloppy, disorganized, careless kids...and one EXHAUSTED mama.

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I pulled 2 of my kids out of PS in 1st and 4th last year. In school I KNOW they were required to keep their desk tidy, put their book bags and books where they belong, be respectful of others trying to learn (no interrupting class, using a lower voice, etc), staying on track, and keep up with their supplies (crayons, pencils, etc). However, now that they are home, they are totally opposite. They never put their things away when they are finished and then spend half the day the next day looking for it when it's time (or never having glue, scissors, or a pencil when it's needed). I am going broke replacing these things (I have bought dozens of pencils, at least 10 packs of crayons, and at least a dozen gluesticks in the two mo we have done school). They never put their work where it belongs so I can never find it at grading time. They interrupt class. They work on craft projects (not relating to what I'm teaching) most of the day. They don't listen to instructions and I have to repeat a dozen times or make them redo something. I have provided many tools for them. First I gave each their own binder, organized it for them including a zipper case with everything they needed (scissors, glue, pencils etc), a box/child for their finished work. This was a flop and never got used. Then I made a place on my desk where all finished work goes...never got used. I have our bookshelves meticulously organized by subject and child so they know exactly where to return their things when they are finished. I find them on the floor, other rooms outside the school room, in the wrong places on the bookshelf, or just thrown into a pile of books. I tried getting pencils with their names on them so I could closely monitor who was 'taking" the other person's pencil and loosing it. They were all lost in no time. I finally decided to keep a pencil box on the middle of the school table at all times so it wouldn't be hard just to drop their pencil or crayon in the box when they were finished, but they can't even do that! There are constantly crayons and pencils all over the floor and never a pencil in the box when it's needed. We have made behavior charts, reward charts, etc., for returning their things and they really just don't seem to care. Their work is a sloppy, doodled on, crumpled mess by the time it is turned in. NO pride at all in their work (or is it lack of respect for me?)


I'm at a loss. I feel like the nag police all day long. I have to tell them every single thing all day (get a pencil, you will need crayons, where does your pencil go when you are finished, what notebook do you need every day for grammar) and it is completely wearing me out! I assumed at least my 5th grader would be more independent by now not having to have me follow her constantly telling her what she needs to work on and keep up with. I KNOW they were not allowed to behave this way in public school. Have any of you encountered this and if so, how did you "cure" it?????

Edited by CashCrew
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Here's how I've handled it in the past....


1. School starts at ____. At this time there are no more craft projects on the kitchen table (where we do school). No toys, etc.; nothing but school goes on at this time.


2. Our school shelf is in the kitchen. That is where all supplies go, and all schoolbooks are shelved at the end of the day. If you cannot get your stuff back to the appropriate place, you forfeit the right to do your schoolwork at any place other than the table. Since your kids have already proved that they cannot handle that privilege, I'd stick them at the table for several months.


3. We have "school" crayons, scissors, glue, pencils, etc. and non-school things. The school crayons are in the boxes, the glue sticks have the caps, on the pencils all have erasers, etc. They are only used in school time, then are returned to our supplies box on the shelf. My kids have another huge bucket of crayons, their own glues, markers, etc. They can use these whenever they want, but they are only permitted to get the school stuff out at school time. If you break this rule, YOU ARE IN HUGE TROUBLE!!!!


4. Create ONE folder/notebook for each kid to put their completed work into for you to grade. If they are motivated by bad grades, then knock off points for crumpled papers, or lost work. Do not spend the day looking for it for them. Or if they could care less about grades, then they don't get to do _____ till all their work is in that folder on your desk.(actually this is a good idea regardless) This will require oversight from you. They might need to learn that they do not go off to do things without asking permission. The TV, computer, or Wii doesn't come one without asking mom first. Then you will need to check that they have turned in all their work before giving permission.


I see that you are a very organized person. However, is it possible that your requirements are too complex for your kids to maintain? For years at my house, each child had a crate in which all their books belonged. Yes, they were messy, and all the books were just tossed in there haphazardly, but they were all there sorted by grade and the next day all we had to do was get out that child's crate to find what we needed for that day.


In all fairness to your 5th grader, in the past, the teacher has been there saying "you will need a pencil, a folder, some paper, etc." It will take time before she gets it, that she can do these things on her own. And while she was in school all her stuff was either in her desk or in her backpack. The teacher probably didn't care how organized her desk was, as long as your dd could find her stuff and it wasn't falling out all over the floor.


If I were you I would simplify, and make school happen at the same place everyday, with all the supplies at hand. Nobody goes off to do anything else till the school area is tidy. Perhaps one kid puts up the books while the other picks up all the supplies and makes sure the floor is neat. Then the next day they alternate. However, none of this will happen without some major mommy oversight. It will take YEARS probably for this to become a habit.


Now as far as the nagging....check out some of the threads on obedience. Your kids have become accustomed to the broken record. They know that mom will tell them to do something umpteen times before they HAVE to do it. You will have to be firm or you will drive yourself crazy. (ask me how I know this...)

Edited by fairfarmhand
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Well, we are definitely not perfect in some of these areas but what I see here is that YOU are dealing with the consequences of their actions rather than letting THEM do so.


For starters, whatever is distracting them, say the craft supplies, should get put away and can't be brought out until school is done and done to whatever level of expectation you have. That may mean a few days (or several) of them *getting* that you mean what you say and there isn't any craft time!


I agree about starting school at a specific time because that shows them that it's an integral part of your day and a priority. If, like us, you do not start first thing after breakfast, be sure to give a 5-minute warning to the start of school or have a timer going. The timer is your friend in many ways and aside from our white board, it's been the most important tool in our homeschool for me. LOL Keeps us all on track!


I find that if I have a binder and at the end of each subject request (demand! lol) that they turn in anything I need for later OR put it into their own subject folder (or whatever your system is) that we accumulate a whole lot less mess. We have limited space so starting on another subject before putting everything away from the last one is a disaster!


I have one bin for supplies like glue sticks, but I KEEP THE PENCILS in my own place and dish them out. If I feel pretty sure that they still have 1-2 pencils around that they've misplaced but are still good, I will sit at the table and wait with the timer while they go find them. They learn pretty quickly that the timer is not going to start until they get it together and that means a later, longer school day and longer until they get to do what THEY want to do. (Honestly, though, we go through *tons* of pencils every school year, so I really stock up.)


The hardest part of starting homeschooling every single year is getting a system down that works for you and your family, but once you find it, it's smooth sailing for the most part. ;) Along with that evil, but necessary concept of parenting and homeschooling alike: Consistency!

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Oooo! This is bringing up a dim memory...let me try to remember it...I read an article about teachers and what makes effective teachers in the classroom. A book was soon coming out based on the article...dang it! I wish I could remember where it was or the title of the book.


Anyway: one of the things that was pointed out in the article as making a good teacher was this:


Instead of a teacher standing at the front of the class and saying, "Get a piece of paper and then turn to page 3 of your Science book," it's more effective to do things step by step with the kids (and not just little ones--this goes even up thru middle school.) A better teacher would say,


"Everyone open your desks and get out a piece of paper and your science book." Waits until everyone has. If a kid isn't paying attention say, "Bill, open your desk and get out a piece of paper and your science book."


Once everyone has the paper and book, then say "Now turn to page 3 in the science book." Again, waiting until they all have, and calling kids by name who aren't paying attention until they do.


Basically the point was that good teachers DO tell their kids what to do step-by-step every day. Maybe that's what's going on here in your family. Maybe kids need that. Instead of only providing them with binders and places for scissors--you may also have to tell them each time, "Now, put your scissors back in your bag." "Now put the paper in the binder."



This doesn't help solve your problem, but apparently it's something that goes on with a lot of people and is a problem in schools, too, or they wouldn't have had to have an article about it.

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One thing that helps here is to do a clean up time after school is done so things get back to where they need to be and to implement another clean up time before bed so that the school area is ready for the next day. Now this only works if you actually implement it (which is why my house is a mess, but my kids are older and I don't take responsibility for their stuff anymore.)

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Here's our system: Each kid gets a clear plastic "school box" for pencils, scissors, and colored pencils. Each kid gets a shelf space that holds their books when they are done. The older kid also had a mesh thing that fit in his binder to hold a calculator, compass, etc.


Then.... and here's the tricky part.... School wasn't "done" until everything was put away. And since there was no outside play or computers or tv or free time for crafts until school was "done", they sat at the table until it got cleaned up.


I never did accept messy work - if it was doodled on and too messy to read, they had to do it over at the end of the day (imagine great weeping and wailing!). They hated that because it cut into their "free time". But after a few episodes, things improved.


You have to stick to your guns and - maybe stop being so nice to them?

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It sounds like you've got a great organizing system in place. :)


Now the key is training (not just telling) the kids to use it, and figuring out the battles you want to fight.


Same with a routine that includes transitions to and from schoolwork. School time is time for schoolwork. Break time and after school are for crafts and play.


Again, consistently training the kids into the routine is the key. I'd work on only one or two problems or routines at a time, the most problematic, then tackle a couple more once those are mastered. I'd probably work on keeping the pencils--and scissors!! Where can they possibly go??-- at the table, and separating craft and school time. Then move on to the next issues you want to tackle. (Maybe neat work and where to turn it in. Hmm, I think my issues are showing! ;) )


I also try to set up the environment and routine to deal with problems that keep cropping up. Example: Messy bookshelves. I tried organizing the books. :glare: Now each child has a shelf. As long as each boy's personal school books are physically on his shelf, I am happy. I let go of caring what they look like, whether subjects are together, etc. I have a shelf too, as organized as I please, and I have organized the other school bookshelves to my satisfaction. :) All other school books belong to me and go on my shelves. The boys do their work, set their books aside on the table, and we all put books (and pencils!) away before lunch and again when school is finished.


And I'm with AK Mom...School things: Put away before moving on to free time. Messy work: Sorry, dear child, but you must complete your work neatly before you play, even if it means you spend your playtime re-doing your work. I try to be polite, and even understanding, but it is not negotiable.


:grouphug: And I think that at the ages of your children, you still need to give quite a bit of direction. It could be that in public school they were so accustomed to the teacher directing them through every little step and having classmates to observe and/or to repeat directions for them that they truly aren't in the habit of listening carefully to verbal directions or thinking through what comes next.


It sounds to me, too, like you've got two separate issues: The amount of direction they need and whether or not they are following directions the first time. Work on listening and obeying as a training issue first. You might still have to say every. single. little. thing. at this stage, one direction at a time. Teach them that you will give a direction only once (or twice depending on circumstance, because sometimes they genuinely don't hear or understand), get their attention before speaking, then tell them what to do. Once you've all got that habit re-established, you can start working on multi-step directions.


Hang in there. You can do this, just like eating the elephant, one bite at a time. :)



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I think the mistake here is the expectation that they will just do it. That you only have to teach them once (or 15 times). That they will do it because its easier and more efficient. That they care at all. That they will treat you like their teacher.


My experience is that my kids dont really care, that their default mode is slob, and that nagging makes ME feel bad. If their school area is messy, they dont care. If there are plates and food scraps everywhere- it might take them weeks to notice.


Instead...treat them like the children they are, and train them- preferably cheerfully- including consequences for not doing as asked. Have a routine at beginning and end of school. Be patient, but consistent.


The thing is...until they are really well trained, it's much harder for you. Its easier to do it yourself, and buy new supplies. But...you can do it with a nag or just in a matter of fact way.


I sometimes tidy their areas myself- even now, as teens. Basically, that means I zen their desks back to absolute basics and get rid of toys and ornaments and scraps of paper. I think actually eyeballing what a tidy desk looks like helps somewhat- my dd16 can now tidy her own area and when asked, will do a good job. My ds14...not so much.

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Those things don't magically happen in a classroom. The teacher spends time teaching and training kids to follow the routines, and both the teacher and the class are focused on what's going on--kids aren't finishing work and then running off to play, the teacher's not also trying to get laundry and dishes done, and she's usually not trying to reign in different kids doing different assignments at the same time. So as kids finish an assignment, she's right there to remind them/enforce the routine. I had an "aha!" moment a while back when I was frustrated with my kids for not meeting my expectations for behavior in one area--and I realized I had never explicitly told them what I expected and practiced it with them. It sounds like you need to do that with your kids. Make your expectations very clear (you might need to start with one or two things at a time) and enforce them *every* time until it becomes a habit. If you want pencils put in a box when they're done, you'll have to explain what you expect, practice, and then monitor closely to make sure they follow through.


Also, you'll need to *explicitly* teach them the process for doing work and turning it in as well as your expectations for neatness. I would totally expect work to be turned in in decent condition and to be redone if it's a mess--but you have to let them know what "acceptable" and "unacceptable" look like and enforce it if they turn in messy work. Again, take time one day to practice: give each child an assignment (something simple, maybe a review of something they already know) and remind them of the expectations. When they finish, make sure they *immediately* turn it in to the right spot. You might want to consider making a requirement that they check with you before they run off to do something else--and that would be your cue to check and make sure they've turned in work appropriately and put away all supplies.


Make sure, too, that your expectations are reasonable for their ages. I know I could expect my first grader to put a book back on the shelf, but making sure they're all in the right order would probably be a bit too much. Make sure there is one place for each thing (i.e., a box for the crayons--and the box has its own spot on the shelf) and that they know where everything goes--don't just assume that they can figure out or remember to put it back where they got it from.


ITA with the suggestion that craft stuff is either off limits until school is done or can be worked on only during breaks and must be put away before doing anything else. If someone frequently works on longer-term crafts, consider giving each child a box or shelf space to hold works-in-progress so they can get them out of the work area for school.

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1.Putting school items away is part of school, not an optional activity.


I think at first they need to be talked through each step of preparation and clean up routines/systems with heavy supervision for about a month. I would also have a checklist they can mark off as they go. I laminated ones for tasks we did frequently and gave them a dry erase marker. I had a complete list of tasks that fall under the category "cleaning the bathroom," afternoon chore lists, etc. They marked them off as they did them and so they knew exactly what I expected of them.


If they give you any attitude, then some sort of swift consequence that you already have planned is in order. Take away a privilege like TV, computer, phone, video games, social events, etc. or assign additional chores to their chore chart. Always reassign inadequate work that day before free time can happen.


Example: My older brothers were doing a poor job cleaning the kids' bathroom. My mother put an end to it by explaining that if the bathroom was not cleaned properly she would make them reclean it until it was done properly AND they would have to clean mom's bathroom as well because, "You clearly need more practice." None of them ever got it wrong more than once.


2. Ask yourself if this is a problem with seeing mom as a teacher, or if this is a general lack of respect for mom.


The first requires focus during school time while the other requires focus all day long in various situations. Follow thorough is critical. Most kids are willing to tune out mom venting her emotions when they know she's not going to DO anything about it. Taking immediate action is the only effective method.


3. Then you can begin to ask, "We're doing Grammar now. What will you need?" Within a month they can answer, "My Grammar book, notebook, and two sharpened pencils." (Or whatever it is you use.) If they try to bluff with "I don't know" you need to deal with that nonsense immediately. I think it's important they move ASAP to stage where they can figure it out and articulate it for themselves. It just doesn't require tremendous brain power to figure it out, they just have to remember what they needed the last several times they did this subject.


4. Never allow non-school projects in the schooling area during school time.

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