A day in the life of a homeschool student should not mimic that of a public school student but should be based on the needs of the individual child. Breaks are important to the comprehension of new material and can aide in the memorization of important facts but frequent breaks are not feasible in a public school setting. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that parent/teachers can allow frequent breaks so children have a chance to process information, get the wiggles out, and prepare themselves to learn even more.
A “break” can mean anything from a quick dance party to snack time to gross motor play and should be scheduled regularly throughout the day. Preschool and younger elementary age children should not be expected to sit for more than 10-15 minutes without being provided a chance to stretch and move their bodies. With careful planning, you can even make movement part of the lesson: children can move like the animals they are learning about, pretend to be objects beginning with a specific letter, or mimic the water cycle. Children who have been allowed to move will be much more receptive to learning and better prepared for writing and other fine motor tasks.
Older children are generally able to focus for longer periods of time but it is still important to give them a chance to move, stretch, and regroup regularly. Allow some time for yoga between subjects, ask kids to jump on one foot as they recite math facts, or organize a race to group objects by category.
Breaks that don’t necessarily coincide with the lesson are important as well. Allow young children time for exploratory play with Legos, blocks, or other toys. Get them outside, weather permitting, to run and yell and be rowdy. Encourage healthy snacks mid-morning and after nap or rest time to fuel their brains and muscles. Download songs with clear instructions to jump, tip toe, gallop, crawl and stretch so kids learn how to move their bodies in different ways without feeling shy.
Even pre-teen and teenage kids need some downtime throughout the day. Allow for a few minutes of social media or other online time. Provide outdoor tasks or activities such as shooting baskets, playing catch, or weeding a flower bed. Calisthenics are a great way to get blood pumping and the body moving if outside time isn’t feasible. Even if they won’t admit it, older kids need some rest as well so encourage a few minutes of quiet conversation or reading to help their bodies and brains rejuvenate.
Devising a plan for a typical homeschool day seems like an easy task but the reality is rather complicated. Homeschool parent/teachers understand that a schedule is important to a successful educational plan; without a plan, it would be too easy to get distracted, complacent, or simply too tired to teach a lesson. Lessons and breaks should take place at a similar time each day, the structure and rules should be consistent, and the calendar should be followed as closely as possible to ensure that core subjects are taught and reviewed within the school year. But parent/teachers should also realize that a “typical” day will rarely happen, therefore the lesson plans and schedule need to be fluid and adjusted as necessary. There are simply days when more breaks are needed and the best homeschool settings allow for that to happen.
Mimi Rothschild is a veteran homeschooling mother of 8, writer of a series of books called Cyberspace for Kids, and passionate advocate for children and education that is truly worthy of them. In 2001, Mimi and her late husband founded Learning By Grace, a leading provider of online Christian homeschooling Academies.