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Scaffolding: structuring schoolwork

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

Hey, so here's your not-quite-weekly reminder to check your voting registration, check the status of your absentee ballot and find your local ballot drop box/election office to get your signed, sealed ballot in on Nov. 3rd, well before the deadline of November 13th.

Back to our non-election season programming: schools are starting. Most of the school districts in the DMV are virtual, at least through Thanksgiving. Despite socially-distanced hangouts and three-times-a-week rowing on the Anacostia (Washington Rowing School has been a lifesaver), my middle-schooler is reeaally feeling the isolation.

Because even as long-haul homeschoolers, we're doing this:

Instead of some of this:

And he's a teenager. Which means his organizational abilities are currently offline, while his emotional volume is set to 11.

As with every school year, we have a schedule. He's not sitting for crazy-long class times. And while we've strongly encouraged him to work at the table with us, he only likes lessons there, migrating all over the house as he gets work done. Like most teens, he struggles with organization, time management and trade-offs. Some weeks he's unbelievably organized but has zero idea how long any of his assignments will take. Some days his time management is on point, but he can't find stuff. Sometimes, all he can do is manage his feelings.

Our first stab at organizational scaffolding is a blackboard-based kanban. (Here's a free electronic version. Or a comparative list of e-kanban programs.) Originally an intermediate step between us chasing specific chores and Z's awareness of his chores, he is now trying it out for assignments due later in the week.

Part of its success, of course, is that we're all three working with it. Literally, it's in our work room: we see it all.the.time. And that lets us gently remind Z that his kanban needs attention. Your student may have a planner, or a planner plus an LMS system of some kind. If s/he is managing several different LMS platforms, a kanban or more concrete task manager can help, especially if you're able to support it.

We are absolutely anticipating a kanban fail at some point. Adjustments will happen. It's hard not to view a week, a few weeks, or a month of more support or a complete change in support as steps backward. It is frustrating. Draining, when you thought the end was getting closer. But always we look back and see there was progress on another level, with another skill.

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