Problem: Your student is a procrastinator who waits till the last minute to work on writing assignments.
Solution: Consider breaking up lessons over time while also keeping your child accountable
The Pressure of Procrastination
If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done. ~Author Unknown
Laziness has a close cousin in procrastination. As you’ve observed in your own homeschool, procrastination can be a debilitating obstacle to writing.
When we feel overwhelmed, we tend to put off distasteful tasks—or those that seem big and scary—such as cleaning the garage or getting everything ready for a big party.
Claiming we work best under pressure, we shop, bake, clean, and decorate in a last-minute frenzy. As time rushes forward and the deadline looms, we sweep piles of laundry and schoolwork into drawers and closets, abandon the balloons and streamers, and purchase a hastily chosen gift card because we never got around to buying a present.
“It’s a myth that [procrastinators] work best under pressure,” says Joseph Ferrari, professor of psychology at Chicago’s DePaul University. “The vast majority of times, waiting until the last minute doesn’t work.”
In truth, procrastination can result in:
- Health and sleep problems
- Mental exhaustion
- Anxiety and panic as tasks pile up
- Poor performance and inefficiency
As William James aptly put it, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.”
Six ways you can help your homeschool procrastinators with writing
The best way to get something done is to begin. ~Author Unknown
Putting off a writing assignment till the last minute leads to a rushed and sloppy paper hastily written just before it’s due. It may also leave your child feeling too pressured or anxious to do a good job.
As with the lazy student, the procrastinator needs a strategy.
When your procrastinators keep putting off homeschool writing lessons, try these proven tips to help them make wiser use of their time.
1. Work on adopting a “do it first” attitude.
Tackling unpleasant or disagreeable tasks earlier in the day—when the kids are fresh and alert—often means greater progress in shorter time.
2. Divide the assignment into smaller chunks.
While a deadline is important, it doesn’t guarantee your kids will pace themselves. So in addition to assigning a far-off due date for the whole composition, give more frequent due dates for parts of the project.
- For a short composition, assign separate due dates for brainstorming, rough draft, self-editing, second draft, parent editing, and final draft.
- For a report or research paper, add topic ideas, note cards, outlines, etc. to the composition requirements.
The writing process, by nature, is a series of steps. But the procrastinator is prone either to skip steps or cram several steps into one last-ditch writing session. Assignments spread over several days or weeks—with mini due dates scheduled along the way—help train students to spread out their work rather than save it till the last minute.
A schedule or plan that outlines each step makes the best defense against procrastination.
3. Establish a deadline for the writing project.
When you don’t give a cut-off date, you imply your child can put the task off indefinitely. Set a date and stick to it.
4. Hold your kids accountable.
There’s a lot of wisdom in allowing drafts to rest between writing sessions. But since procrastinators wait till the last minute, they typically don’t leave themselves time for revising or refining. Make sure you hold your students accountable along the way with checklists and deadlines, and check their work regularly to keep them on task.
Own your role as the parent-teacher by making sure your child is doing the work and sticking to deadlines. We homeschoolers can get lax about this, can’t we? If we say “I’ll check over your work later” and then promptly forget, we perpetuate the problem of procrastination.
By not following up or asking to see assignments, we may be modeling the very behavior we’re trying to correct in our kids.
5. Set up task-appropriate rewards.
Come up with ways to reward your student’s steps of progress. Completing brainstorming on time or writing the rough draft may earn your child some computer or trampoline time.
Finishing a task ahead of the due date could merit even more time to spend with friends, read for pleasure, or work on hobbies. Incentives like these can help struggling homeschool procrastinators do better with writing tasks.
6. Keep a “success list.”
Guide your kids to keep track of writing projects they’ve actually finished. Don’t forget to pepper these completed assignments with stickers, smiley faces, and positive comments. Refer back often, helping them remember all they’ve accomplished.
You might have heard that completing tasks can trigger an endorphin release in the human brain. Whether or not that’s true, the knowledge of success is a delicious feeling. Every writing project your students finish will motivate them to move forward and complete even more!
WriteShop provides homeschool moms with schedules and checklists that give direction and help to writing procrastinators. Parent supervision is also a key element of the program.
Train your little ones early using WriteShop Primary. For older students, choose WriteShop Junior (gr. 3-7) or WriteShop I and II (teens) to help you equip and inspire successful writers!