6 tips that help homeschool procrastinators with writing assignments

by | Dec 14, 2009 | Reluctant or Struggling Writers, Teaching Homeschool Writing

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
  • Guilt

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.

Tips that help homeschool procrastinators with writing assignments | WriteShop

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!

8 Comments

  1. Lisa

    I am a big procrastinator but I always get the task done! My 8th grade daughter however NEVER gets assignments done on time! She avoids tests especially math and I have to nag her to take the test which usually results in failure for her. She is not a poor student-she is an avid reader and very creative! But when it comes to written work she puts it off and her grades show it. I’m worried that she will have to repeat the grade. HELP!

    Reply
    • Kim

      Lisa, thank you for your transparency. Your situation is a tough one. Whether your daughter procrastinates or is just plain lazy, it’s time to nip her behavior in the bud. I don’t have easy answers, but I do know you need to take back the control that belongs to you as the parent. Your daughter needs to learn that she must earn the right to work independently, and until she does, you’ll need to exert more control over when and how she does her schoolwork.

      Here’s a math test example: Your daughter should not be the one to determine when to take a test. Instead of nagging her, may I suggest you try this strategy?

      1. Pick a date for her next math test and give her sufficient notice to study and prepare.
      2. The day before the test, remind her of the test time, such as “I’m giving you a math test tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.”
      3. On the day of the test, at 9:00 sharp, administer the test. Have her clear her work surface. Give her a copy of the test. Then set the timer for 50 minutes (most math tests are designed to complete in a class period of less than one hour). For a quiz, allow a shorter time.
      4. Stay in the room with her to supervise. Let her know that she may not get up for a snack, a drink, or a bathroom break. She should take care of these needs before the timer starts.
      5. When the timer rings, collect the test from her—even if she didn’t finish. Grade it before the day’s end and return it to her in the morning.

      This puts you in the driver’s seat, not your child—and rightly so! As her parent and teacher, it’s your job to call the shots no matter how stubborn she may be!

      For writing: Give your daughter frequent deadlines for each part of the writing process. Help her work within time limits, and teach her to respect due dates.

      Since procrastination is something you also struggle with, it will be important to make some significant changes in your behavior, too. For instance, edit or grade her work promptly and return it to her in a timely manner. Failing to return work to her on time (or not at all) simply models the same bad habits you’re asking your daughter to change. It’s the old “Do as I say, not as I do.” Helping your child become more disciplined should be wonderful incentive for you to do likewise!

      I pray things improve for both of you, Lisa! Please let me know how it goes.

      Reply
  2. Kim

    Bravo, Amy! I love to hear personal success stories!

    Reply
  3. Amy

    This used to be a problem for me personally, but I have changed my ways… hopefully permanently. For my kids so far, we have no trouble in this area because all the assignments I have given are finished the same day, no biggies yet. But as soon as we start officially with some bigger writing projects, maybe we’ll have some issues in this area. I hope not! 🙂

    amy in peru

    Reply
  4. Isabelle aka Canadianladybug

    “Work on adopting a “do it first” attitude”

    I find that doing something that is less interesting in the morning is better anyway because the brain is more awake… I even do that myself. Besides, it helps to not forget about it either. My son loves his math but writing and reading in both official languages is not so fun for him. So I try to do it in the morning so he can enjoy something he really like later…

    Reply
    • Kim

      Very wise, Isabelle!

      Reply
  5. Kim

    Good goal, Tammy. I know how hard it can be to follow up on our kiddos, especially when we’re homeschooling several children and juggling multiple extracurricular activities to boot. I have every confidence that you’ll see improvement in this area!

    Reply
  6. Tammy

    Thanks once again for the uplifting lecture. Now, if I can get better at the follow up, our assignments will be less stressful.

    Reply

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