Short lessons

The thought of ample time for our kids to play, imagine, create, read, or just "hang out" and think made homeschooling very attractive to us. We wanted afternoons free from yet more schoolwork for the kids to just be kids and enjoy their childhood. For the non-homeschoolers around us though, this concept is somewhat mystifying. "How will they know how to do homework?", and "How can you get through your school day so quickly, shouldn't you have lessons until 3:00 like the school does?" are questions often put to us.

Jeannie Fulbright shares some thoughts on studies regarding actual instruction time in public schools here.

One of the aspects of Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education that I found intriguing is her emphasis on short lessons, with afternoons free.

"The method consists of short morning lessons with a large variety of subjects. Charlotte says it is the hours the children spend working, not the quantity of subjects, that fatigues them. Their minds are invigorated by switching to different subjects as often as every fifteen to twenty minutes when the children are in younger grades...They have all afternoon and evening free to enjoy being a child, to pursue hobbies, and to read. They are not assigned homework...they are not allowed to dawdle during lessons." -Catherine Levison, "A Charlotte Mason education" pg.8

..."In the first place, never let the child dawdle over copy-book or sum, sit dreaming with his book before him. When a child grows stupid over a lesson, it is time to put it away. Let him do another lesson as unlike the last as possible, and then go back with freshened wits to his unfinished task." -Charlotte Mason, "Home Education vol.1 pg141

"This idea of definite work to be finished in a given time is valuable to the child, not only as training him in habits of order, but in diligence; he learns that one time is not 'as good as another'; that there is no right time left for what is not done in its own time; and this knowledge alone does a great deal to secure the child's attention to his work. Again, the lessons are short, seldom more than twenty minutes in length for children under eight;..."-ibid, pg. 142

There is no need of homework for the elementary aged child because using this philosophy, the child immediately handles the lesson or book by narrating it orally or on paper, proving his mastery. Homework would be less effective than this immediate opportunity for reinforcement.
Short readings from several different living books, spread out throughout the week has the added advantage of supplying to our children "something to think about". Charlotte Mason proposed that we insure that each day our children have-

  • someone or something to love
  • something to do
  • something to think about

more on those thoughts in a later post...