The Five Rules of Engagement – This Is Basic!!

by Mary Ann on May 10, 2010

In order to have a true success with The Spark Station as an educational tool which can create a magical learning space you need to understand the five keys that make it work.

1. Structure time and be consistent. In home school it is “structured family learning time. On Sunday it is “at home rest and worship time”. In any family it might be “family time”, either once a week or every evening after work and school public or other wise. It could be a set time in the car while traveling to grandmas or another long trip. It might be the days of a vacation. It is anytime that your family plans to meet together for a specific purpose. In all of these situations you structure time not content. Now on a vacation you may all be doing the same thing at the same time but there is still latitude for structuring time not content. Possibly one child will choose to record the family trip in a journal and another will choose to take photographs. Another may choose to just be part of it and not record anything. On a long car trip the parents may have 3-4 CD’s to choose from. Maybe the family sings together but doesn’t chide the one who just listens. Maybe they all listen to a book on tape and materials have been provided for note taking [yes I like to take notes on books], picture drawing of what they hear, hand sewing to engage in while listening, coloring books or dot to dot or …you get my drift.

2. Be present. Being present means that you are engaging with your children, you are in the same space with them. It doesn’t mean getting them settled and then going off to do your own thing. It means, being together as a family. You learn together, play together, and have fun together. When you are present, whether we are talking about using “the closet” or any other family activity, it helps with management and order. It does not however, mean micro managing everyone’s activity or efforts.

3. Keep it special. It is only available during the structured time. If we are talking about The Spark Station, then it is available only during structured family learning time. If we are talking about a road trip the items you bring are given out at the beginning of the trip, collected at the end and saved for the next road trip. Or new items are provided each time there is a road trip. There are special things that might be available during vacations but aren’t ever used at home. Possibly you have a game that you always take on vacation and don’t play any other time. This may seem silly to some but whatever is not always available is more special when it is available.

4. Keep it simple. When you add an item remove an item. This rule keeps The Spark Station from becoming a mess so that it isn’t usable. It keeps the closet exciting. We can however expand this idea to other areas where we need to create an atmosphere of inspire. Let’s look at the vacation. Don’t over load it. A few activities, well thought out and engaged in beat a schedule that wears everyone out and leads to misbehaving, irritation and contention. A few well chosen activities on a long road trip will always trump a messy car filled with everyday toys that we hope keep everyone happy and quiet.

This also applies to life. When we add a new commitment we should remove something else. One of the great tragedies for families is that we are so “booked” that we do not have time for one another; we cannot enjoy one another. Running from one thing to the next until we are totally worn out is a good way to miss our family life, which is really the life we want.

5. Regular planning. This planning schedule can apply to home school, the closet, daily family reading time, or any activity that occurs daily or weekly. As Stephen covey has said, weekly planning is not too big a chunk of time and no too little. It helps keep the activity manageable and enjoyable. If you are talking about a road trip, vacation or life, then planning is an obvious necessity.

I don’t care whether you are talking about home school, family solidarity, Sunday observance or any number of other “family engagements.” The principles that make The Spark Station work make families work.

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