Being a Christian homeschooling family can make for grueling days with busy schedules as you try to navigate the balance between instruction and fun when it comes to child development. If you are like me, it can be easy to want to hurry on to the next subject in order to make the most of your educational time, forgetting that my kids have shorter attention spans and would greatly benefit from having specific break times planned throughout their day. Breaks and small recesses can actually help them refine their focus for the remaining work to be done. According to Youki Terada of Edutopia, “regular breaks throughout the school day can be an effective way to reduce disruptive behavior.”
When Breaks Lose Their Way
But breaks that were intended to only be a two minute time to stretch our legs can quickly and easily get stretched into fifteen minutes if you aren’t paying close attention. This can take a serious bite out of your structure and throw off the balance of the day, derailing your entire schedule.
Once, very early on in our homeschool adventures, we took a bathroom break that turned into a thirty minute juice and snack extravaganza because my sweet kids decided they were hungry. Up until that point, we had never implemented a schedule of purposeful break times. Without knowing if they would be getting another opportunity to grab a snack or drink, the kids made the most of the current break time they had, asking for all the refreshments and snack foods they thought they might want or need for the rest of the day. This survival of the fittest experience was enough to set our schedule back massively for the day, and taking an unplanned break of that magnitude also made for a major struggle-fest to get everyone back into the student/teacher mindset.
The day dragged on and we never fully got back on task. Even my own focus was thrown off. It was beyond frustrating to see the time squandered and made me feel so defeated. My brain was telling me lies, making me feel inadequate and convincing me that I was not cut out to become a successful homeschooling parent.
I wanted to throw in the towel, but instead this experience opened my eyes. I reached a turning point that led me to reevaluate how I was going about including break times into our schedule. I began the quest for balance in our instructional time.
Three Tips for Productive Breaks
So, how can Christian families offer appropriate and productive break times for students? We have come up with a list of three things you should consider to help you plan for break times as you continue to develop your instructional style and homeschooling resources.
- Keep your break times short and sweet: Switch things up after one activity is completed by adding in a quick dance party to your kid’s favorite worship song, offering a timed 7 minute snack and drink break, or playing a fun new game that’s related to the topics you are working on that day. Taking short breaks after each activity or lesson helps break up the day. These times can be full of joy and let kids just be kids in between their work.
- Watch the clock. Make your smartphone’s timer setting your new best friend. Keep it fun and light by designating a silly noise or song to be the sounding alarm so that the kids know what to do when they hear the timer’s alarm go off. Setting a timer helps everyone stay on track and makes it easier to stick to the schedule.
- Have break time rituals. Do small activities that promote movement and give the kids an opportunity to be loud for a moment. Exercise and singing songs together are great ways to get the wiggles out. Setting a specific break time for cleanup or setting up a new work space are also great options. When these things have been completed, it provides a natural transition back into instructional time.
There are so many challenges we face during our Christian parenting journey, but thankfully homeschool break times no longer have to be one of them. No schedule is ever going to be perfect, and sometimes we will have days when scheduling is just off. The most important thing to remember is that we can always be flexible. No matter what your schedule ends up looking like, remember to receive for yourself some of the grace you extend so easily to your children and other parents.
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