To many home educators, the idea of home schooling and a break time will immediately sound oxymoronic, because many home teachers believe that learning is not a specific, desk-based event but something that is part of every day life and can be picked up just as much in the supermarket as from a text book.
To these parents, the idea of break time from work just does not exist. This is true, too, of ‘unschoolers’, children who have autonomy over their education, learning at their own pace and interest level through their personal intellectual curiosity. Nonetheless, for many new home schooling families, a structured day and break times and lesson times can be a useful way to ease into home teaching, especially if a child has left school with its highly structured timetable. This article looks at the kinds of daily routine options, and ideas for break time, that home schooling families can consider using.
Before considering the timings of a home schooling day, for example when learning will begin, when to have lunch, when to finish for the day etc., it is important to remember that one of the central tenets of home education for many families is that it encompasses every aspect of life, and that education is therefore unlikely to follow a strict pattern.
If there is breaking news on the TV at 10pm that children wish to discuss, this might be an ideal time to get out the history and/or geography books, so that a child might oversleep the next day and the schedule might be delayed. So keep in mind while forming any kind of break timetable or organising events to do in breaks, that especially at the start while parents are discovering the nature of their children’s learning methods and styles and timings, any timetable should be regarded as flexible.
Making a rough timetable, however, can be a good idea for newly home schooled children. One option would be to sit down with text books and reading books and pens and paper in the mornings, then having non-desk based learning (cooking, art, music, kitchen science, etc.) in the afternoon. In this case, parents of younger children might want to build in some independent reading in the latter part of the morning ‘session’ in order to start preparing lunch.
Working out the best timings and organisation will take time and should be based on a child’s own personal peak learning times in order to capitalise on one of the benefits of home education, that individualised approach to learning.
If a child likes to get up early and start reading or working at 8, then it can be a good idea to build a break time in at around 10. Maybe have a fruit snack, and go on a walk together or meet up with a local home schooling family for a half hour break before returning home and continuing the earlier project or starting a new book or learning session. Then work through till about 1pm, when children can then have a longer break which might involve a hot lunch and an activity like sport or art or music, which might continue all afternoon or might be followed by more reading or text book learning.
Studying for Exams
If children are working towards formal qualifications that will involve spending time doing public exams, in an exam centre, for example, it’s a good idea to get them used to working solidly for the amounts of time that will be taken up by the exam paper. So try to build up to three hour slots during A levels, for example, and have breaks around the intense periods, to enhance children’s attention spans. Giving a child a personalised timetable and break times will help him or her to get the most out of home education.