Tag Archives: self-discipline

100 Days

When a new president takes office, we watch to see what he does in his first 100 days. Often political commentators will discuss how he measures up as a leader by what he can accomplish during that time. The idea actually began with Franklin Roosevelt, who saw 15 bills become law during his first 100 days. And we’ve continued with that tradition ever since.

This past January, my sister-in-law gave my daughters a music assignment: they are to practice their violins for 100 days without missing a single day. The only exception is if they are very sick or the family is traveling for the entire day.

I’m not sure how much a president can accomplish in 100 days, especially if Congress is controlled by the opposing political party. But it’s been great to see how much the girls have done. Not only do they sound better and play better, but they’ve developed some great habits in  self-discipline, something they’ll use their entire lives.

To help them put the idea into practice, my sister-in-law created charts for them — 100 day charts — which have 100 little squares on it. Each day they practice, they can put a star sticker on that square  or simply color it in. The charts on hanging on the wall where they practice so they can keep up with them. If they’re able to fill their whole chart and practice for 100 days, they’ll receive a special award during the recital.

Seeing how well it’s worked with music practice, I decided to try that method with myself in areas I want to improve on. I have a chart for 100 days of exercise and 100 days of drinking enough water. And, because I’m learning the violin now too, I need 100 days of practice.  And if I make  it, I’m planning on rewarding myself for a job well-done. 🙂

Do you or your children need a visual method of encouraging yourself to reach a goal? Make a chart and plan out 100 days. It might be for chores,  computer time, math practice, or morning devotions —  whatever area you might need to strengthen your family’s self-discipline muscle. Then keep track of your progress. If you miss a day, don’t worry — just start the 100 days again. I’ll bet you’ll make more lasting changes than a president ever could.

A Disadvantage to Homeschooling?

While homeschooling offers many opportunities and advantages for students and their families, every once in a while I come across a disadvantage. This week was one of those times.

There is something to be said for the accountability that a traditional classroom affords. While all homeschooling situations are different, with some stricter than others, ours tends to be on the less-strict side. I don’t always feel the need to administer tests if I know the children are learning the information; if the kids are a day or two late completing an assignment, I’d accept it from them just the same. It was helpful to us, then, when we joined a co-op last year; now, for some subjects, my children have someone else to be accountable to, someone who won’t let them “slide” by. It has helped encourage self-discipline and time-management skills.

But this week, I taught a class in which a student just didn’t want to participate. While the rest of the class was working on the assigned project, he just sat there. By the time the other students were finishing up, he had only completed half the project, and he left with it undone.

What’s a homeschooling parent to do? If the parents of this student force their child to attend class, he will be difficult to teach, and it will affect the other students. If they don’t make him go, they will be giving in to his disobedient and rebellious attitude.

Parents of students in a traditional classroom aren’t faced with this type of dilemma; a student must attend class and must do the work in order to make the grade. They may not like math or history, but they must pass those classes in order to make it through school.

Then it occurred to me: while parents with children in school don’t have those issues to contend with, the teachers still do. In one class they may have students who are eager and ready to learn right beside those who won’t do any work at all. Often, teachers can’t move ahead with the material because some students are continually (and intentionally) behind.

As both the parent and teacher, homeschoolers are forced to deal with all sides of the issue, no matter how difficult it might be. But then, isn’t that what being a parent is all about?

Piano Lessons

keysWhen my oldest son John (now 13) was small, my husband purchased the book The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. Although John was just starting his schooling years, I read through the book, and I really liked what I read. Since then, I’ve implemented some of the ideas the authors suggest. One of those ideas was to have every child complete at least two years of piano study.

We’ve done this with several goals in mind. One is that they learn to read music and understand what it means to play an instrument. Research shows that learning music  often helps students do better with math, so that was another benefit. I also wanted them to learn the self-discipline that would be required for practicing.

So far, three of my children have taken piano lessons. Here’s how it’s gone:

John started when he was only five, took a couple of years off, then started again. He does well with it, and though at times he wants to quit, I tell him he’s too far along to quit now. So, he’ll probably be working at it until he graduates.

Cassie took lessons for two years, then wanted to quit. There was a lot of sibling competition going on,  as she often compared herself to her brother who was both older and more experienced. She has since taken up the flute and is doing well with it. She now even wants to add piano back in again.

Lillie was very enthusiastic at first, but her enthusiasm quickly waned as she, too, began comparing herself to John. She has wanted to quit for quite some time, but I told her she had to finish two years. She did, though they were not a good two years of practice — more often that not she would try to get out of playing, and instead of learning self-discipline, she experienced Mom’s discipline. So, I added on one more year, hoping to end her piano career on a higher note (no pun intended).

Then…I talked with my older brother, an accomplished musician. And he gave me more to think about…

Every child, he said, should learn to play the piano. Of all the instruments, it’s the one that people who don’t make music a career tend to continue playing on into adulthood. It’s a skill you can always use, no matter what your occupation. You can play it at church, for holiday gatherings, for family sing-a-longs. You can play as your children dance around the room, or you can play for a friend’s wedding.

Besides, he continued, you never hear anyone say, “I wish I hadn’t learned to play the piano,” but you often hear people say, “I wish I had stuck with it.”

So now, I’m rethinking their piano lessons. Perhaps Lillie will have to continue on with them and keep practicing. And when she complains, I’ll tell her she can blame it on her uncle.