We’ve hit springtime homeschool restlessness hard. All we want is play outside. The weather’s great, the backyard is calling. Even the dog is vying for our attention: “Just one, maybe two races across the yard? Pretty, pretty please?” How can we sit here at the kitchen table and focus on book work when there is so much more fun to be had elsewhere? Well, I have an idea, if you’re struggling through springtime homeschool restlessness like us.
First, though, let’s recognize, that the change of seasons is God’s way of refreshing our spirits a bit. Of course it has to do with sustaining plant and animal life and all that, but in our homeschool world, a new season can really mean a refreshing change of pace.
But still. There is handwriting to be done. That just can’t be done while the kids are running wild across the grass.
Enter the Pomodoro Technique
There are tools in my homeschool toolbox I forget I have, and this is one. I whipped it out yesterday after slogging through school last week, only to find we still had work to do on Saturday because we had just dragged. (And I’m not blaming the kids for their lack of focus; I was squarely in the “I’d rather play instead of study” category myself). Sometimes we all have to practice working before playing, because, you know, life demands that of us.
So, I put the toddlers down for their naps and we broke out the timer on my iPad.
The recipe: 25 minutes on, about 5 minutes off. Repeat.
That sounds like a lot for one of my kiddos, who is only 5 years old right now, but it was actually great. Here were our results:
- I was surprised to find that even I had trouble staying on task for 25 minutes. I realize how much of our homeschool slacking is my fault because I have my own little side projects going and am flitting here and there. Staying on task for 25 minutes was tougher for me than I expected. I need to work on that.
- It worked differently for different kids. I let the 5-year-old out when she’d finished what I wanted her to do within that timeframe. Her lessons should only take about 15 minutes, so to force her to sit and do more for the full 25, I thought wasn’t necessary. We’re only in the beginning stages of building attention. She actually stuck around and did extra work during one of the sessions, so that’s cool.
- Having an endpoint is helpful. The 10-year-old whined and complained, but I think felt the same relief I did that no matter how far we got, we’d quit when the timer when off. There was an end point. This is the kid who can make a lesson drag on and on and on and on and on. So the Pomodoro Technique is perfect for him right now. If you have a whiner and a complainer, give Pomodoro a shot.
- Focus is key. That 10-year-old actually got more done, more quickly, than he normally would in an hour. It’s all about the focus, kind of like High Intensity Interval Training, or Burst Training, (or whatever you call it) for working out. You go hard for a set time, then rest. But it only works if you go hard. Pomodoro only works if you actually focus in and do the work for the 25 minutes. And work, it does. I was amazed at how fast he finished spelling. And, even though the grammar lesson was tricky, he did a good solid job of it.
- If you’re including handwriting-intensive activities, try alternating. I’m confident my kid would have died if I’d asked him to do grammar and spelling back-to-back with only a 5 minute break. His arms would have fallen off. Instead, we rotated handwriting-intensive activities with no handwriting necessary activities and it worked great. I even got a paragraph of beautiful cursive out of the kid whose arms fall off. Awesome.
So that’s how our first Pomodoro-style homeschooling session of the spring went. Have you tried it? Share your tips below!