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No Teaching Days - Issue 175
November 12, 2010
Hi there! ....

One of my goals this week was to help Daniel find productive activities for himself for the afternoons. He started a sewing project, he pulled out his Lego and started to build a 'set' for illustrating a comic he has in his mind to write, he had lots of opportunity to help his dad with some plumbing and farm work and he experimented with a new (for him) art software on the computer. I have found that as my children develop different skills in the afternoon we have the opportunity to get a glimpse into what makes them come alive. Daniel's highlights were definitely working with his Dad, though he enjoys making and designing things too. Finding our children's passions is all about giving them a variety of activities and observing.

Live life with your kids!

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No Teaching Days

Discipleship of our children means that we are with our children, teaching, guiding, and training every day. There is the occasional day though where something pops up and I cannot teach my children the lessons we would normally do but rather I have to be very focused on another project. What to do? I have found some things work better in these situations than others.

Have a plan – On the days that I just hope my children will occupy themselves – they won’t! My job as a parent is to help my children succeed and if the task for the day is to occupy themselves, my first priority is to do everything that I can to help them succeed at that. I need to have a plan, and I need to communicate that plan to them and help them through the day.

Break up your Day – My best plans have been when there is variety in the day between the different types of activities that they can do by themselves. I like to use a timer and that is what declares it is time to move on. Often I am tempted to leave them at whatever they are doing if everything is going smoothly but experience tells me it won’t take long for things to take a bad turn and I am left wishing that I had changed activity when I first intended.

Be available – The worst days are those days where I kid myself that they can do it alone all day – or even all morning. This way of thinking is actually contrary to my personal beliefs (of living life with your kids) but it is an attitude that sneaks up on me. The better way to organise my day is to alternate between a little bit of time with mum, and then a bigger slot of independent time, then more time with mum etc... When my kids were little I worked on 10-15 minutes with mum, and anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes independent time, and repeated this cycle throughout the day. This would give me a time frame for my tasks to be completed in as well. Now-a-days with older children I do 1 hour with mum, 1-2 hours of mum not available, 1-2 hours of mum available but not necessarily with you. You will need to work out what works best with your children considering their abilities to function without your direct input and go from there.

Have variety – as I look back over the years there are three main activities that we use on these ‘no teaching days’:

  1. Independent school work – this is work that they can do up at the table without my supervision (or maybe I give them the instructions but they go off and do it by themselves.) This is really a part of their regular study days anyway - we call it their Discipline Studies – studies that need daily practice/drill and they mostly do this independently anyway. They differ for each child but cover subjects such as: art, music, math, writing, phonics, reading, typing, computer studies, Latin etc. Of course as the children become independent learners the list includes their other subjects as well.
  2. Quiet play/productive work – When my children stopped having their daily naps we continued with having quiet times and reading rests. This gave me a one hour break after lunch to focus on whatever I wanted to (work or play). The skills learnt in those years come into play now – the children can occupy themselves for at least an hour without my instruction (once again something that gets practiced daily but used more extensively on these no teaching days). During this time they can play Lego, read, craft, build, write, blog, listen to audio stories etc…. Once again the activities differ for each child but the premise is that they don’t interrupt mum. (When the children were young I would choose some of their activities for these time slots, but they could choose some as well.)
  3. Sibling time – This is a time slot in the day where I expect them to be together doing something. Board games are the favourite activity though often I send them outside for a bike ride, jump on the trampoline or a bush walk. Another aspect of sibling time is when I pair them off (often an older and a younger) to do something specific – it maybe a chore, or a game, or some other activity. I know Josh has often done science experiments with a younger sibling, and Jess has often helped the younger one clean up a particular mess in their bedroom.

Before we can expect our children to be productive on days when we are not fully available to them we need to train them in with independent activities so that when they need to be independent they have the skill. We have a few times in our regular days where the children are expected to be independent and though it is only for a short period of time, it gives them practice for when these other situations arise. There have been times when I have had training-camps. We would go through the same ‘no teaching day’ plan but I would be available to supervise and direct (train); we would do this for a few days in a row making sure the children understood what was expected of them, I would then give it a go and have a ‘no teaching day’. As the children get used to this idea they will rise to the occasion and do better so don’t expect a perfect run the first time.

But what about the idea that every activity our children do is a learning opportunity. That is true and you could argue to let your children play all day (that would be option 2 as stated at the beginning) but I have found that, especially with young children, that much free time and free choice just doesn’t make a peaceful productive day. (Keeping in mind that I am not talking about weekends or other fun family days, but rather days when I have to be focused and cannot teach the children.) When there is no plan and no direction I find squabbles arise by morning tea time, and by lunch time the children are wafting around a little lost as to how to spend their time. This is the key – if your children can spend hours on end productively occupying themselves and living in harmony with their siblings you will need less involvement in making the day go smoothly.

I personally think though that this comes more in the later years (teen years) and not necessarily the norm with younger children. This is a situation where we need to remember our goal and not just follow an outline such as this. Our goal is to have a productive day and live in harmony with each other. We need to think through how that will happen in our home and make steps towards that end. So please don’t just copy what we do but rather take a moment to think what are the things that will work in your home, that will keep your children busy and keep relationships peaceful while you work on tasks that your children cannot be involved in.

(Disclaimer: These situations (no teaching days) come up occasionally, they are not the norm. If I find myself pushing my children to be by themselves for extended periods of time, then some thing is out of kilter in my life, and I have no doubt taken on commitments that I shouldn’t have. Please don’t take this as an opportunity to pursue individual pursuits. We need to be there for our children.)

Have you ever visited my blog?

Productive Time Finding this blog post from the past helped me stay focused this week on helping Daniel.

Idle Hands In keeping with my theme of productivity, refreshing myself on the dangers of 'idle hands' was helpful.

Teaching Grocery Shopping There is so much learning going on when we do the grocery shop.

Internet Reading Links Not a lot of links this week as I found myself not browsing as much but here are a few links that I enjoyed.

Discovering the Heart, Mind and Soul of Christmas This workshop style e-book helps you decide how to celebrate Christmas with your family and keep Christ as the center of all that you do.

Blending Life with Lessons e-book - Does your everyday life challenge your homeschool ideas? This is my journey as I discover that it is possible to disciple my children in today's busy lifestyle.

Heart Focus Parenting book/e-book - A heart focused parent will keep their attention on their child's heart for God, instead of on external behaviours.

My Sitemap is a quick reference to all you will find on Lifestyle-Homeschool. I encourage you to have a browse around!

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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