Tuesday, September 27, 2016

When School is your Job

My little Drama Queen started middle school this year...  seventh grade! Ack!  My attention has been so focused on Tiny for the last year that I feel like I've missed the point at which she suddenly grew up.

Middle school presents a whole new set of problems with the social structure restructuring as elementary schools funnel together, and with academics getting split from hybridized subjects taught all at once to six rigid stop and start of six different subjects taught by six different teachers in six different styles.

DQ has always been a little lazy about schoolwork.  I'd say she's pretty smart, catches onto new topics quickly, but she is a Bigger Picture person and often misses important details like writing her name on the paper or seeing that it must be minimum 300 words.  In the past, with an elementary grading system, they were a little more flexible if she showed true comprehension of the lesson.

But middle school is straight points.  Miss an assignment?  Sorry, your A average is now a C.  Didn't get all of your participation points because you were sick? Oh well, you didn't need those anyway.  Pop quiz the day after a new concept was introduced?  Hope you didn't have any questions!

In the end, I think this is probably a good thing to transition to at this age, because high school and college are both numbers-driven, and she needs to learn how to survive before it is really super important to her eventual career choice. 

When I was in school, the competition of the grade itself was incentive enough for me to hold my 4.0 throughout.  When a teacher announced that only five students would earn an A in his class that quarter, I made sure I held the highest A.  But DQ isn't like that.  She's a THING person.  She responds to getting things and experiences and making memories by doing fun stuff.

So how do I enable her to work hard and feel like she has a reason to push herself to do better?  Every kid needs a reason...unmotivated kids, whether unmotivated internally or externally, tend to do poorly and simply not care enough to participate.

We've decided to pay for good grades.  Let me make something clear:  I'm 100% against paying kids to contribute to housework ("traditional" allowance) when they live, sleep, and eat in the house they're cleaning.  They should help because they live there.  So we have run into this tiny problem where we are facing difficulty teaching effective money management because...DQ doesn't have any.

So.  The Dollar System was born.  Every Friday, I check her grades.  For every A+ she has (over 100% in the class), she earns $2.  For every regular A, $1.  For every B, $.50.  For C's, $0.  And for D's and F's, she pays us $1 and $2 respectively.  So this last Friday, when she had four A's and two A+'s, she earned $8.

There's a couple rules, though.  ANY overall C or below gets her removed from all of her extracurriculars until her grades come back up.  And she must save 25% of her allowance in a separate account.  She is responsible for paying for her own fun extras (Starbucks when she's out with friends or dance tickets or a yearbook, e.g.).  We use the RoosterMoney app, which also allows her to set her own savings goals and add to them.

So far, it's been a good exercise for both of us.  Every week, I check her grades, which keeps me on top of what's going on in school, and award her allowance based on them.  And when an A slips to a B, or a B to a C, we discuss how averages work, go over the syllabus together, and open the grade book to talk about whatever is dragging her grade down.  She's become a little bolder in asking for extra credit, and she's also been exercising better personal responsibility over her homework and making sure it's in on time.

And this last weekend, when we attended Geek Girl Con downtown, she was thrilled to have her own money to spend.  So I think all around, this has been a great way to start the school year.

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