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Monday, February 9, 2009

The 5-minute homeschool

by MandyMom

Homeschooling littles can be difficult. You may be new to the game, and you aren't sure what you should do. Should you buy curriculum? Should you set up a schedule? Even homeschooling parents who have been at it for years may find they need to change their tactics down the line. Different children require different approaches.

I see so many parents set out to make their children geniuses. They pile on the work, schedule in hours of education, and have high expectations. Sure, many of these children may do well. They may be able to read third grade level books at age five, but are they enjoying education? Are they allowed free time to play? Is the family so busy doing "school work" that they've failed to do "life work"?

As Christians, I don't believe it is possible for us to separate education from religion and still manage to give our children the proper biblical worldview. In our home, our goal is to raise children who love and serve God, and who, above all else, seek heavenly wisdom. Therefore, as we teach our children "every day education", the main focus must be biblical wisdom and glorifying the Lord.

If we are cramming them with knowledge so they will be the smartest child on the block and "make us proud" then our priorities are not right, and we have lost sight of the goal.

On the other hand, there are those parents who leave their children to themselves to learn. While I may agree with some of the unschooling aspects, there is one point that I whole-heartedly cannot support.

Children left to themselves will learn, but will they learn what is pure and right? While I believe it is good for children to have time to explore, think, and learn on their own at times, I believe this must be done under the watchful eye of the parent, and I do believe it is important that we do schedule in some things.

For parents like myself who don't like to plan every second of the day and who have young children that are not ready for too structured of an education, there is the five-minute approach.

The five-minute method helps put things in perspective. If you take everything five minutes at a time, you don't have to worry about stopping in the middle to make lunch, or putting everything on pause to nurse the baby or run an errand. Little ones will be able to pay attention for five minutes at a time without getting too distracted and wiggly.

Most of all, five minutes is plenty of time to teach younger children what they need to learn without overwhelming them. Sometimes we may spend too much time focusing on a particular subject or task because we feel our child is not understanding. She may not be, but if we teach it in spurts and don't overwhelm her (or make her feel like she is dumb for not catching on), she'll pick it up in no time.

Those with larger families will find this method helps them to give each child one-on-one attention without feeling spread to thin. Your curriculum, should you use something specific, can be adapted to fit.

So, you're probably wondering what the five-minute approach is. The best way to explain this is to tell you how we do it in our own home.

It helps to have a timer, or at least a clock nearby that you can keep on eye on. Here's a day in the life of our homeschool.

After we have pretty much prepared for the day the homeschooling begins. We spend five minutes reading a bible story from a children's book. We talk about it for a bit, go over the key points, and then close in prayer. Now, this usually takes ten minutes. We shouldn't be so focused on the clock that cut things short.

Breakfast usually follows this devotional time. In my household, we usually don't sit down for breakfast together except on weekends. While the children eat, I tidy up a few things, tend to the baby, or complete a few tasks after I've grabbed a banana or handful of granola.

I keep an ear out for the children because they always have interesting conversations going on during this time! If I pay attention here and there to what they are saying, I can use that "information" later in a biblical lesson or during art time (depending on what it is they are talking about, of course).

Once breakfast winds down we take five minutes to take care of our rooms. This means making the bed, putting away toys, and bringing dirty clothes down so I can start a load of laundry. Either we can set the timer and focus on our own areas for five minutes, or we can all work together in one room for five minutes at a time (five minutes in one bedroom, five minutes in another bedroom, five minutes in the livingroom, etc). Sometimes it is fun to make it into a game of "beat the clock" or pretending that we must keep moving moving moving so the "lazy monster" doesn't get us.

I am trying to teach our five-year-old how to play the piano, but it is slow going. Instead of stressing her out by trying to beat these lessons into her head until she gets it (and thereby stressing myself out as well), we just take five minutes a day (sometimes every other day) to poke around on the piano some. Every piano lesson we focus on the proper way to hold her hands and on pressing one key at a time. Piano time use to be very frustrating for both of us until I realized that this was something I couldn't push on her. She enjoys plinking the keys, and I don't want her to hate the piano because I've pressured her to learn something she's not ready for. The five minute method allows me to see where she is and make note of whether she's ready to begin a more formal piano lesson.

Whenever you feel like you aren't getting a particular lesson through (whether in math, reading, or piano), step back and just focus on the basics. I would rather teach the same little bit every day and encourage her rather than move ahead when she isn't ready.

We also read for five-minutes at a time, sometimes longer if the children beg me to continue. One thing that I have found very helpful in getting children to "soak in" what they are reading is to have them draw a picture of what we read once we've finished the excerpt or chapter of that day. Sometimes I read a couple paragraphs and then go over what we just read (rewording it or defining some of the words we read). This helps keep my children focused on the book. Drawing out the scenes puts their creativity to work and helps them imagine what they are reading.

Sonlight has a Mathtacular DVD which my children love. It fits perfectly into our five-minute method because it is divided up into short little sections. We take five minutes to learn new letters and sounds, five minutes to read rhymes and children's books, and five minutes to talk about community, maps, and history!

We also take five minutes here and there throughout the day to "train" and disciple the children. During these sessions they learn various things, like practical household chores (how to fold clothes, how to vacuum, how to set the table) or biblical principles and facts (they are currently learning the books of the Law in the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). They get time with Mom (and Dad when he's home), working beside me and learning as we go. Often, I am learning at the same time! I never memorized verses (although I knew some of my favorites) or the books of the bible growing up, but it is something I have set out to do alongside my children.

The children have plenty of time to play inbetween little sessions. We take time for crafts and games as well. Now and then they get to watch a special movie or a documentary on history, animals, or "how things work", which of course take much longer than five or ten minutes!

There is no limit to the things you can teach in five minutes, and you could also change this ten or fifteen minutes. The point is not to live by the clock or the timer, but to allow you to focus on the things you need to accomplish without overwhelming yourself or your children.

As homeschooling mothers, we not only have to teach our children, but we also have to care for the home, cleaning, preparing meals, running errands, and helping others in our community. Doing lessons and sessions in spurts helps us accomplish those things without stressing out.

We can be more productive with our time, instead of wasting it. We can glorify God five minutes at a time as we teach our children, care for our homes, and nourish ourselves with His Word.


Luke said...

Always happy to hear that MathTacular is a blessing [smile].


Heather said...

Brilliantly put--this is EXACTLY what we did (after I figured out that the stressful long thing was NOT working)and still do. Even now I find that five minutes is often long enough and if the kids are still interested they will come back later for more.

And if you feel like sharing this would be a wonderful post to share over at CU.

Mommy N said...

I love the fact that you do 5 min here and 5 min there... it shows that teaching your children has become a way of life and you're teaching them in all you do. That's awesome!

Anonymous said...

Hello! :)

Allison said...

How encouraging to see a mother who is purposefully training her children in God's ways! Wisdom is so much more important that head knowledge.

I agree with your method for piano (and your other subjects as well!). I have a brother who is 5 and he's not ready to completely do lessons, but I let him play around on the piano and help him some. Because he's young I don't pressure him to practice yet. It's a process. :)

May the Lord bless you as you seek to honor Him and raise your "arrows"!

MoziEsmé said...

Love this post! I'm in the middle of planning my (very soon to be) 2-year-old's next year, and I will definitely be keeping the 5-minute idea in mind to make the most of our year!

superfam5 said...

I'm researching homeschooling because we are so disappointed with the quality of the public school education our children are getting and can't afford private school anymore. I love how you broke the day down into manageable increments! We haven't decided on whether to homeschool or not but your blog definitely helps with our perspective.

Anonymous said...

How well does a method work with kids who are slightly older? This sounds like it would work with pre-school through maybe 2nd or 3rd grade, but what about after that when 5-10 minutes is just too short of a time to spend on some subjects.