Short Lessons for Homeschool Success
When it comes to passion for a child’s educational success, nothing rivals a homeschool mom.
We diligently research the latest methodologies and put to test the newest curriculum. We devour books on education, creating sophisticated lessons based on newfangled ideas.
Yet Charlotte Mason found amazing success using the age old, timeless and simple tool of short lessons. Lessons that span a mere 10 minutes.
She advocated that short lessons not only train the child to pay attention, they increase the child’s retention of the material.
And Charlotte Mason was right. Studies reveal the average human attention span when learning new material is 8-10 minutes.
In light of this, it’s critical to ask:
Are my homeschool lessons too long?
If so, my children aren’t retaining much of what I’m teaching. My lengthy lectures are ineffective in imparting to my children what I want them to learn.
I can say that after years of begging, pleading and falling into frustrated despair over my children’s inattentiveness and lack of retention, I finally stumbled upon Charlotte Mason’s wisdom. And oh what freedom it brought!
When I first implemented short lessons, it was alarming to my children. I would set the timer for 10 minutes and tell them to read until the timer went off. My children began to show diligence when they realized they were required to focus for only a short time. The long awaited habit of attention had arrived. We were on our way to homeschooling success!
Don’t make the mistake I made.
Employ the tool of short lessons from the get go, and you’ll add value beyond measure to your child’s learning.
What a Short Lesson Looks Like
First, you want to present the material in a way that brings it to life. This means not weighing your children down with a lot of information. Their love for learning and delight in the lessons will increase if you teach within their attention span. Plan for 8-10 minutes when imparting new material.
Before you begin, have a small chat with your children about what they learned in the previous lesson. Then have them read or read to them for about 10 minutes. Immediately after, ask for a narration by stating, “Tell me what you learned.”
I’ve heard moms express concern that their children don’t remember what they’ve learned. It’s probably because the lesson was too long. When the lesson is short, the narration is more accurate.
After your children tell back what they remember, return to the lesson and chat about any pictures or diagrams to strengthen and extend the learning. Then finish with a notebooking activity, experiment, project or whatever is planned for the hands on learning part of the lesson.
How Short Lessons Work in High School
Even in high school, the lecture time should not be more than 15 minutes. Each high school credit earned is what we call a Carnegie unit, which equals 120 hours. That breaks down to about 40 minutes each day if your state requires 180 days of homeschool instruction per year.
Let’s say your high schooler spent 20 minutes on a math sheet or 15 minutes on an instructional video then engaged in some sort of activity attached to the lesson like a project, paper, experiment or field trip. Time spent on the follow up activity counts as part of the lesson, so your student would get all the hours he needs with the lecture and activities combined, fulfilling the 120 Carnegie credit hour for that subject.
Plan for 15 minutes of shortened formal instruction followed by longer hands on learning segments and your high schooler will easily meet the credit requirements while enjoying the lessons and developing a lifelong love of learning.
Short Lessons Make Homeschooling Easy
When I shortened our lessons homeschooling became easier. We actually got every subject done every day! This created more time for art, music and other non-academic subjects that were important to my children’s education.
My children were more diligent because they knew the lessons would be shorter and they were motivated to work hard for those 10 minute segments. It was a very effective method of increasing their learning potential and enjoyment of learning because it was short and sweet!
When you plan short lessons, you can easily do seven subjects every day. Begin with the core subjects then add the fun ones. I would make a daily list of lessons and my children would check off each subject as we progressed through the day, which helped us all feel successful. We even had ample time for daily outdoor nature study!
What Really Matters
Though short lessons are an important part of an effective education, homeschooling is about the environment you create for your children. It’s about delight in learning. About love and support and a nurturing family atmosphere. In the end, it’s about the people they—and you—become.
Read more about Charlotte Mason’s methodologies.
@ 1:50 am
This comment has been removed by the author.
@ 1:30 pm
I think I messed up & my comment got lost in cyberspace. Anyway, I was saying I loved what you had to say here, and remembered listening to you share this with us at the MHEA (MS) conference in 2008. Also, my oldest daughter did Botany last year with 2 other families, and this year we will be doing Flying Creatures with 3 other families. We all love it, and we are thankful to you for writing these books. I spoke to you after one of your talks at our conference about my daughter and how she hated writing and how we had a hard time trying to do your books with her due to this, and you encouraged me that even if we didn't notebook, she would still learn a lot, and you were absolutely right! Thanks again!
Tricia O (blessedbeingmom)
@ 11:25 pm
I heard you speak on this at the MHEA conference in 2008 and loved it! This is always so encouraging. Thank you for sharing this!
We love your science books and are planning to do Flying Creatures this year with 3 other families in our area. Last year we did Botany with two other families and the kids loved it! Thanks so much for writing these great books!