As those who know me could probably guess, I take a fairly relaxed approach to schooling. We have a general schedule for our school day, but we don’t follow it very strictly most of the time. I love the flexibility that homeschooling provides, and though the loose structure is not always the most efficient, I’d say we’ve developed a system that fits pretty well with our family overall.
One area in which I still struggle, however, is keeping my girls on task during group discussion times. We have Bible study each morning and group science or history a few days each week, and there are some days when these sessions drive me just about crazy. On the one hand, I love that the relaxed atmosphere means we can chase down rabbit trails that happen to pique our interest. Just this week in science, we talked about marsupials and ended up watching all manner of animal videos on YouTube. It put us a bit behind on our usual schedule that day, but we all enjoyed it immensely.
On the other hand, the fact that school happens in our living room means that sometimes the kids have trouble respecting its dual function as a classroom. In other words, I must frequently remind them that although these things are fine at other times, during group discussion time they are not allowed to play with their toys, wrestle with their siblings, interject their commentary, run to the bathroom, or grab a snack and drink whenever they please. Even as informal as I tend to like things to be, I sometimes consider setting up desks and a chalkboard just to help them understand that it is now school time, and I really don’t want to spend all day getting through one lesson!
Some homeschoolers may actually take this step by setting up a more formal classroom (which is great!). But in our case, there is not enough space for that setup—and frankly, I’m not sure that by itself would help us anyway. So instead, I’ve begun trying to establish a few more rules to give our living spaces more of a classroom feel during our class times. Here is what I’ve come up with so far . . .
- My husband and I are working to establish the idea that I am not Mommy during school time: I am the teacher. I sometimes ask them how they are expected to behave with their teacher in Sunday School. Are they allowed to interrupt the teacher? Is it okay to argue with the teacher? No, and they shouldn’t do those things with me when I am the teacher. (Really, they shouldn’t be doing those things with me as a mother either. We are also working on that, but I tend to give a bit more grace when I’m wearing the “Mommy” hat.)
- I try to remind them that whatever snack, drink, or bathroom trips might need to occur within our class time ought to be done before it and not during. Of course I’m not going to deny a child a true need for the toilet, but I often find myself telling certain children that they truly will not die if they postpone their drink of water for another 15 minutes.
- I want their posture and their behavior to demonstrate that they are paying attention. I know that doodling and the like can actually increase concentration at times, so I am somewhat lenient in that area, but I frequently remind them to sit up in their chairs and stop doing things that can be a distraction. (Often they will protest that it’s not distracting them, and I must point out that it may be distracting someone else . . . such as me.)
- Just as in a formal classroom, I ask them to raise their hand when they have a question or are giving an answer. They generally do well on the latter . . . and we’re working on the former. Which brings us to my most recently-added rule . . .
- If you have a question, it had better be related to the lesson. All too often, the questions I field in the middle of history or science range from, “What are we having for lunch?” to “Is it supposed to rain today?” to “When am I old enough to shave my legs?” In the past, I would often begrudgingly give them an answer and attempt to proceed before another unrelated question followed. But in more recent weeks, I’ve realized that it tends to work best to completely deny an answer to such questions until our lesson is over. If the question is important enough, they’ll remember to ask it again afterwards!
We have a long way to go yet, but I think we’re making a move toward habits that may help me maintain my sanity. 😉 What do you do to help your kids stay on track in your home classroom?
Photo Credit: Courtesy of author.