How a Rocket Chart Changed My Life

Here's little Mack, determined to be the first one to the moon!

Here’s little Mack, determined to be the first one to the moon!

Every now and then I have a great idea. Quite often, I have a thorny problem that I can’t figure out the solution to. It absolutely makes my day when these two events occur at the same time. It happened a few weeks ago: I figured out a great solution to a thorny problem.

The problem was twofold: I’ve wanted for some time to learn how to play the banjo, yet I couldn’t fit in the half-hour per day that I figured I needed to make some progress each day. I’m a busy woman. I have responsibilities. Big house, big garden, big family, blah, blah, blah.  So after nearly two years of banjo ownership and daily longings to play the silly thing, I still wasn’t making the time to practice.

Sad fact: I knew, at this time, one lousy song.  (“Bile Dem Cabbage Down,” if you’re interested.)

The second part of the problem? Motivating Amalia to practice her cello (she’s taking lessons) and Malachi to practice the piano (he’s taking lessons) was a daily pain in the neck. Music education is an important part of our homeschooling–both kids enjoy the practice time when they get started–but I was tired of it always being my responsibility to motivate them.

Things got ugly one day. Little Mack burst into tears when I asked him if he had practiced his piano yet. Amalia rolled her eyes and stomped out of the room when I had asked her if she had practiced her cello yet, and this about the fifth time that day. Oiy. Enough. I had to Do Something.

Then, suddenly: I had an idea.

Enter the Rocket Chart. I pulled out a piece of paper and a pen, and drew a very simple chart (pictured below). It took me, roughly, 30 seconds. 30 seconds that would change the trajectory of my life–at least in the music development business in our home. I should put this up for sale, it’s such an excellent idea. But you, Gentle Reader(s), because I love you and appreciate your taking the time to read my blog, get this excellent idea for free.  Ready for brilliance?

Okay, here goes: on the sheet of paper, I drew three rockets heading toward the moon.  The rockets and the paths to the moon were divided up into an equal number of segments. I wrote each of our names under a rocket, and the time I wanted each of us to put in every day: Malachi, 10 minutes, Amalia, 30 minutes, and me, 30 minutes.  I announced my plan to the kids, cheerfully, though (truth is) I had absolutely no idea if this scheme would work for them or for me, either, both, or neither. Who knows when brilliance will stick?

Here's our rocket chart, with all three of us nearly all the way to the moon!

Here’s our rocket chart, with all three of us nearly all the way to the moon!

“Each time we practice,” I explained, “we fill in one segment. Whoever gets to the moon first gets a treat–anything they want–at Dairy Queen. My treat! If we all get to the moon on the same day, we’ll go to DQ together!” I think I added something like “But hey, it’s gonna be me, so don’t even get your hopes up,” to add a little fuel to the fire. After my little speech, I attached the Rocket Chart to the ‘fridge and immediately marched over to my neglected banjo, tuned it up, set a timer, and started practicing.

This little bit of masterly motherly motivation (if I may say so myself!) has been the smartest thing I’ve done in years, Gentle Readers. You may look down your nose at it and call it manipulation, or bribery, or behaviorial modiwhatnot, or whatever, but jeepers, has it worked.

Today, instead of my constant and unwanted reminders and the resulting exasperation from my children at my constant and unwanted reminders, this is what happened:  I was in the kitchen, just sliding a casserole into the oven. “I’ve got 30 minutes while this cooks,” I muttered, matter-of-factly, to little Mack, “so I’m going to go practice.  Don’t tell Amalia.  Maybe you can go outside and play with the dogs while I practice.”  I grabbed my music, and sat down with my banjo to practice.

He stopped what he was doing, and his eyes grew large. “Oh, yeah??” he said with a swagger, as he strutted to the piano.  “You’re not getting ahead of me, Mom!”  He set a timer and sat down to practice. Within minutes, Amalia, who has heard our instruments, was tuning her cello up to practice, too. All three of us were practicing, and I hadn’t had to say a single nagging word.

Brilliance? I think so, even if I so say so myself.

My life is forever changed, for the better.  Music practice is fun now, and it’s not impossible to find the time to do it anymore. Somehow, as we hold each other accountable, I’ve done what I considered quite impossible before: I have found that elusive 30 minutes to play my banjo every day. And hey, I already know four songs, instead of just one.

Who knows, maybe this will spill out into other areas, too. I haven’t had to remind either one of them since. Or myself, for that matter! And I love hearing their improving their skills so quickly, too, which (as you know if you practice anything on a daily basis–writing, music, math, juggling, spit-and-waddling) is bound to happen.

I’m considering other charts on the ‘fridge to encourage us all to develop good habits:  maybe a sky-diving chart for daily exercise, a submersible chart for daily Bible study (Amalia suggested that one), a hot-air balloon chart for daily room tidying? The possibilities are endless!! We are only limited by our imagination . . . and, possibly, our ‘fridge space!

Do you struggle with motivation in your house? Maybe you need a Rocket Chart on your ‘fridge, too, and some good-natured competition.  Who knows? Maybe it’ll change your life, too!

Ta-daaa! (elegant curtsy)

I’ll be sharing this post with the really awesome folks over at The Prairie Homestead Barn Hop. Hop on over and learn something new today!

2 thoughts on “How a Rocket Chart Changed My Life

  1. Beth

    I know this post is “old”, but I just found your blog and this article (and the one about OUR not-so-perfect days/lives/homes, etc).

    I am a SW Iowa wife, homeschooling momma, and raised-on-the-farm girl. I love your candor and honest look at real life. Thank you for not giving up on your dreams for you & your kids. Thank you for making (not just thinking about or complaining about the need for) your rocket chart. Thank you for sharing it with us…

    This has just become a “I’m gonna Do This Thing” for me, too!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      where in Iowa do you live? We used to live in Story City! Thanks for your kind words and for stopping in. Blessings on your homeschooling!

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