No matter what our intentions are, no matter how lofty our goals, it is the disposition of all of us who live on this earth to forget. It seems it is our natural inclination. We know what we want. We are firm in our resolve. Our values are sure. Nothing can shake us from our goal. Nothing, that is, except time. As time passes, we forget. We can’t seem to recall the fervor we began with. We drift into complacency, once again! New Year’s Resolutions seem like a joke…because by February, most of us can’t remember what we resolved to do.
Accountability is basic principle in dealing with our human nature. We are responsible for our choices! Without a way to report our efforts, our stewardship doesn’t seem as pressing and the natural tendency to forget overtakes us. If we always remembered our good intentions, there would be no need for: speed limit signs, library due dates, exercise programs, college exams, scout badges, electricity bills, budgets, diets . . . and all the other tools we use in remembering our good intentions.
I had a recent experience that reconfirmed the need for accountability reports. I accepted a new responsibility and worked hard, keeping the records as I had been instructed to when I had my orientation meeting. When the weekly report meeting came, I dutifully brought my records, along with my heartfelt commitment. My leader gave my records a cursory glance, and told me to keep at it. Her casualness took away my resolve. It would be nice if I could feel motivated without an accounting, but that is not exactly our human nature. I found myself, the following week, slacking off, not working as hard nor caring as much. A thunderbolt struck my mind—this is what our children feel when we give them work to do and then don’t give them an opportunity to give a thorough accounting of their efforts and praise their work (or admonish them to do better)!
In order to help him learn to manage his time, I asked one of my children to make up a schedule and then keep a record of how well he was keeping to it. He chose what to do and when on his schedule and he made up a nice planner sheet with the time slots allotted for his work that he could mark off when each activity was completed. The first week, he was full of vigor and vim, feeling the freedom that living your schedule can bring! When we had our weekly accountability meeting, he had some regrets that he hadn’t had a perfect week, but in general, he had done very well. The next week, I was casual about our accountability meeting, letting it slip because we had company. The following week, when I asked for his marked up planner sheet, he confessed he hadn’t kept it at all, and furthermore, why should he if I never ask for a report of it? That was a revelation to me! Of course, we all need an opportunity to report our efforts, and without that accountability, the task gets dull and we forget so easily!
In homeschooling, I have found that I have the very most success when I write up a weekly assignment sheet for each child, with boxes to check off when each subject is completed for the day. The children seem to want to see exactly what is expected, and to be able to give an accounting (by checking it off). As long as I am consistent in carefully checking that all assignments have been done each day and in expecting high standards of work, homeschool goes smoothly and the children do their assignments happily and generally steadily. If I miss a day or two of checking up, for whatever reason, I have learned that they inevitably slacken and feel less responsible.
The same thing applies to chores. I keep a chart so that all my children know their jobs. We have a time of day (just before breakfast) when everyone is working and expected to be doing their chores. But, without exception, if I do not check their chores, they will not consistently be done well. We just need that accountability report so much to help us remember!
Not checking up (or asking for an accountability report and then carefully listening) is a disservice we parents unknowingly do to our children. We are training them to be careless and not to believe the things that those in authority say. As sure as we pronounce the command, they will eventually push things to the limit, to see if what we say is what we mean. Some children are eager and anxious to seek the firm boundary and waste no time doing so. Others are less aggressive and may operate without as much checking up. But all people feel more secure when they know exactly what is expected, and that the leaders mean what they say. And all people work a lot more diligently, and more happily, if they face a regular accounting.
Make it work in your homeschool!
May I recommend: