Time’s Up!: Challenging the Fifty-Five Minute Class

Time's_UpWhen our kids were little, we had the freedom to delve into our learning unconditionally. We could study as much or as little as we wanted. Once our children merged into the higher grades, every book I read advised grading and routines be based on a certain amount of time spent in each subject; so many hours equalled a full course of study. Did I really want to set my children on a course where learning had a time-table? I couldn’t imagine myself saying, “Time’s Up!”

There were many books we read to help us better prepare for junior and senior high. Most of them advised a minimum of 55 minutes per subject per day in order for the children to fully learn the subject and give enough credit to complete each course of study. While I understand the heart behind this principle – you want to ensure your child is being fully immersed in the subject and has opportunity to explore – I think this can sometimes be misleading.

Veteran homeschoolers understand that to fully intake a class, a child does not need to sit with book in hand taking copious notes and staring at diagrams for an hour each day. (Although at times this might be helpful.) Learning comes in many forms. At times it will be on field trips, with hands-on learning, or interviewing those currently working in those fields. Sitting at a desk is merely one way our children learn.

I wonder how many new homeschooling families get confused over this issue? Do they panic at the thought of having to time their classes; stressing over whether or not they met the guidelines? I imagine that is enough to send anyone into a fit of vapors and become discouraged.

In our home, I generally do not time our learning. My children understand we have a routine. We start with one subject and move forward until all topics for the day have been covered. Even my daughters who are in high school are not timed during their learning day. I do not stress over whether or not they did learning for a particular length of time. Why is this? Because I understand some learning will be done much quicker, especially if this subject is of particular interest. I also understand some subjects take longer, depending on the day and my children’s focus.

How do we ensure our children are getting enough exposure in a given area? Through careful planning. We try to balance our book work with plenty of in-the-field training, trips, and projects to help them better understand each subject. Life is learning. With a little creativity and thoughtfulness, we can easily use this to enhance our lessons.

Does this mean we never time our children? Not necessarily. There are a few areas of study which do get timed. Our children need to understand sometimes in life this is necessary. When taking college courses, our children will be expected to complete tests in a given time period and turn in assignments on a given date. I want them to be fully prepared to enter into adulthood. So, while everything is not tested and timed, I do try to balance the two and help our children mature.

Time it not a major factor in our learning day. We study each topic to our hearts content and finish when we are done. We follow a loose routine and follow the leading of the Lord. For those new to homeschooling, I would encourage you to carefully consider how you establish your growing student’s schedule. Fifty-five minutes a day does not a course make.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
~ Proverbs 16:9

Your Turn!: What guidelines do you use to help establish a full course for junior and senior high students? Share your thoughts with the rest of us!

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Redeeming the Time

Redeeming the TimeThe last time my wife asked me to guest-post, I wrote a brief description of homeschooling from a father’s perspective (well, from this father’s perspective, in any case). This time I was asked to write about the importance of fathers in the homeschool process, and I’m primarily addressing men here. Because it’s such a vast subject encompassing so many aspects, I’ve chosen to begin on one particular aspect: Time         

…For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.
– James 4:14

The older you get, the more you realize how short life really is, and you realize how little time you have to do all the things you’d like to do. Let me say right now that if you spend all of your time trying to fulfill some “bucket list” you’ll probably miss out on the important relationships that really matter. No man on his death-bed has regrets about never having had a chance to sky dive. What a dying man inevitably regrets is all the time wasted on useless things while neglecting his family. If there’s only one point I can get across to husbands and fathers is that you need to be attending to your relationship with your family. If that means you miss a football game or time on the golf course, so be it. Better to miss a few meaningless pursuits than to come home one day and find that your children have grown and are gone, and you missed out on the whole thing.

Work – Let’s face it, guys need to work. Given the state of the economy, a man’s got to do whatever it takes to make ends meet. This may eat up most of his time, and the family just needs to understand that dad can’t always be around. My only advice to dads is that they only work as much as necessary to properly provide for their families. I won’t define “properly” here, because everyone’s circumstances are different. Suffice it to say that you shouldn’t be working more than is necessary if it means you’re neglecting your family to make a few extra bucks for that new car you’ve been wanting. Like I mentioned earlier, no man will look back on his life and regret not getting a new car. He will, however, regret not spending more time making his kids laugh. It’s the little moments we take for granted.

Labor not to be rich: cease from your own wisdom… for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward the heaven.”
– Proverbs 23:4-5

Education – So what does all of that have to do with education? It’s constantly being repeated that homeschooling is about using every opportunity to teach some lesson. This means that, as a father, your involvement in your child’s education includes every moment you spend with them, which is why I wanted to focus on the importance of time spent with your children. If you’re not spending any time with your kids, then you’re likely imparting no knowledge to them. And take note that education isn’t all about academics. It’s about teaching your kids about truth, beauty, wisdom, justice, goodness, order, and about the God who provides a rational ground for making these things intelligible in a coherent, correspondent world view.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
– Proverbs 1:7

Teaching your kids to cook, ride a bike, or play an instrument are all educational experiences. It should also be noted that the classical understanding of why we receive an education is not to get a degree so that we can go out and get a high-paying job. Rather, we educate ourselves so that we might glorify God as we live a moral, intellectually robust, winsome lives, while helping others. I’m not suggesting that a job isn’t important as well, but only observing that no certificate of degree has any value if it doesn’t correspond to having actually gained some wisdom. The world isn’t short on idiots with degrees.

Training – We’ve all heard about the social ills due to fatherless homes, so I won’t touch on that except to say that most of it is due to a lack of discipline. I won’t pretend to have this down perfectly, but dads need to be teaching their children (especially if they have a headstrong son, which I do) that their behavior has consequences. It’s better to spank your child’s bottom and teach him this lesson while he’s young, rather than him learning this lesson the hard way when he’s an adult, at which point the consequences might be permanent and more severe. Fathers who fail to teach their children the harsh reality of consequences are doing their children a great disservice.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.”
– Galatians 6:7

With respect to headstrong boys, let me say that a man’s nature is to be the dominant sex, and so a headstrong boy will have a difficult time taking instruction from a woman, even if it’s his mother. He’ll rebel and protest and refuse her instruction, often to the point of disrespect. If you have such a son, you’d better be ready to discipline this child and communicate very clearly to him that you will not tolerate his treating your wife this way. You wouldn’t let another man treat your wife poorly; don’t let your own little man treat your wife poorly. You’ll also be doing his future wife a favor if you teach him now to have respect for women, so love and cherish your wife and show your son how to be a loving husband.

Leadership – Some people are natural leaders. They don’t even have to try, and yet people will look to such people to lead them. My wife is such a person. She doesn’t have to ask anyone to follow her. Other women just seem to do so. Men, on the other hand, are called to be the leaders of their home, whether or not they have any natural leadership abilities. I happen not to be a natural leader, so this role of leader isn’t easy for me. Suffice it to say, men are called to provide for and protect their families. That’s not the difficult part. What is difficult is being the spiritual leader, and here’s where most of us, including myself, come up short. Rather than wasting time lamenting this situation, let’s just say that we need to step up to the plate and begin praying with our families and leading them in devotions. We need to be the one to set the godly example. We need to be the one to encourage them when it’s time to go to church. Most importantly on this point, we need to lead by example, not by force. People can only follow you if you’re out in front. If you’re pushing them from behind, you’re driving them, not leading them. Your family is not cattle. Don’t treat them as such.

Finally, much of this may not seem related to homeschooling, but again, every aspect of your relationship with your family is a lesson taught to your children. Your wife already carries most of the academic teaching, so use what little time off you have from work to spend with your families and be the man God calls you to be, one of those roles being that of teacher to your children.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
– Deuteronomy 6:5-7

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Nag, Nag, Nag

I hate being a nag, I really do. However, on occasion, I find myself slipping into ‘repeat’ mode. I’m reminding the kids five times to do their laundry; finish their spelling work; put the glass in the sink; get to the kitchen table; and more. I will not be doing this any longer!

To prevent myself from becoming a permanent nag, I’ve decided it’s time to take action. All instructions will now be divided into two categories: Do it Now or Countdown.

Do It Now – In emergency situations, we don’t have time for our kids to second guess our decisions or question whether they need to move quickly. If I tell our kids to sit down, they need to do it immediately; not two minutes later. If I tell them to stop, they should do so on the spot.
While, hopefully, emergencies are not part of our weekly routine, there are still situations in which immediate action needs to be taken or should not be avoided, at any rate. Dinner is being served; kids need to get out the door; bedtime has arrived; and so forth. Some commands need to be taken care of immediately or consequences need to be doled out. What are those consequences? Each family needs to make those decisions for themselves. Whatever they are, I highly recommend establishing the boundaries and letting the kids know exactly what they’re in for if they choose not to obey. Once the ground rules have been stated, there is no excuse for lack of action.

Countdown – Let’s face it, when we’re in the middle of a creative flow, we hate being interrupted; our kids are no different. If we see our children in the middle of a project and need to interrupt them to handle something, I try to meet them halfway. We usually assess each situation and set a time limit on when said ‘chore’ needs to be accomplished. For example: Our kids might be in the middle of doing a little programming and I need them to transfer their laundry to the dryer. I will let them know I am setting a timer for ten minutes. They have ten to make sure the laundry gets handled and then there will be consequences.
No nagging on my part; no stress on theirs. Our children have a choice, live within the guidelines or be willing to accept the consequences. Often, they will push to the limit and barely get it done, other times they will surprise me and move immediately. Either way, they get it done and I don’t have to keep reminding them. 

How are our children expected to differentiate between ‘Do it Now’ and ‘Countdown’? Easy; we use concise language when communicating with our children. “T, I would like you to put that in the sink now.” “Little Lady, I would like your laundry transferred. I understand you are programming right now. I’ll give you five minutes to save your project and then handle the chore.” Once our children learn the lingo, they will understand whether they need to move quickly or have a few minutes to spare. What happens if I give a quick command? Words such as “Stop!” or “Sit”? All commands not given a specific time limit are expected to be done immediately.

I will add, as a side note, our kids are free to ask for time. If I ask them to do something, but they need a minute to get it done, they are free to ask for the minute. However, if the minutes goes by and the action is still not done, there will be consequences. In addition, if they ask for the minute and are refused, they are expected to be polite and respectful of the refusal.

With these basic guidelines implemented, mommy feels like less of a nag and the kids feel less pressured. They might not like the consequences of their poor choices, but they are being trained and learning time management. No more nagging here!

Time to Chime In:

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” – Colossians 4:6

Patience, Young Paduan

"T" and II have often noticed that when my internal thermostat is not where it is supposed to be, the reason usually lies with impatience. Something didn’t get done fast enough, something didn’t get done correctly, someone didn’t listen the first time, and things of that nature.

While it would be easy to blame my circumstances for my impatience and not take responsibility, the fact is I am to blame. I am the one who has allowed myself to get to this point and I need to learn better.

It would probably be best if I learned to recognize what “sets me off” and then I can take action. Thinking back, it really all boils down to about four things:

I am running out of time: It often happens that when I cut myself short on time, I start to panic and become impatient. Where did the time go? Why didn’t we get out of here faster?

I have learned over the years to plan well, making sure to give myself extra time just in case there are unforeseen circumstances.

Something didn’t get done correctly: (Sigh) I wish I could say that whenever my kids make a mistake, I gently correct them and show them the proper way to do things. However, that would not be true. I find that I get impatient when I have to show them, time and time and time again, how something needs to be done.

The Lord has gotten my heart over this one though; how often has He had to show me something, over and over and over again? I am getting better, but at times impatience still creeps in.

Someone isn’t listening to instructions: This one is the hardest for me. I dislike having them disregard me or not follow through with something given to them. If I ask them to do something, I like it done right away. If I tell them something needs to get done, I don’t want to be given an argument.

I have come to realize that when my kids aren’t listening, the fault is mine! I need to be better training them to listen and obey. I also need to make sure that they hear my instructions clearly and understand my intentions. With work and time, it will get better.

My pride has been hurt: I think pride is the root of the problem! My pride is a sensitive thing and when my pride is pricked, I get impatient. How dare they not listen to me? How dare they drag their feet or not do it right the first time; after all, didn’t I show them the right way to do it? Why can’t they just do what I want?

I need to learn to take a step back and think things through. Very often, my kids aren’t trying to be disobedient, I have just set my expectations too high. It isn’t their fault when I haven’t planned out our day well or there are unexpected delays. I also need to remember that they are young and still learning. In time, they will do things correctly the first time and not need as much instruction. They will come to listen and obey, when they are trained to do so.

Whether it is chores, homeschooling, relationships, or work; patience is a virtue that we cannot do without. Knowing my own limits and working through them, will help me to better get a handle on my patience.

I remember hearing once, that if you ask the Lord to give you patience, He will often bring you trials by which to learn it. I pray that as I get older and mature in the Lord, I will better develop patience. That as I learn, I will be teaching my children by example.

Do you struggle with impatience, too? What usually “sets you off”?