Salvaging Your Homeschool Day in Twenty Minute Increments

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Do you or your children ever find yourselves completely lacking motivation to work on school assignments or feeling so discouraged by all that needs to be done that you don’t even know where to begin? It certainly happens in our family, and I know we’re not alone in the experience. One of my favorite solutions to the problem of struggling to get school work accomplished is one I originally used for tackling neglected housework. I set a timer.

Focused Work for 20 Minutes

How long you set your timer doesn’t really matter, but our family always goes for twenty minutes of uninterrupted work. It never ceases to amaze me how much can be accomplished in that amount of time. It’s long enough to make significant progress on something, but short enough to not be overwhelming.

  • Feeling apathetic about school or simply don’t like what the Instructor's Guide is telling you to do? Anyone can manage to devote just twenty minutes of their attention to a task.
  • Got a little behind and are drowning in a list of boxes to check? Twenty minutes won’t get you caught up, but it will definitely get you started in the right direction.

The key is simply to not allow yourself to be distracted by anything else during that time. Instead, put all your attention toward school while the timer is ticking.

Choosing the Task for the Countdown

How do you or your child decide what to focus on during your twenty (or ten or thirty) minutes? The answer depends on the greatest need. Here are a few possibilities I've chosen:

  • Opt for the biggest job because it’s the most overwhelming.
  • Choose the thing I like least to remove the dread of having it waiting to be done.
  • Do a few quick tasks for the satisfaction of accomplishing multiple things.
  • Pick the oldest assignment for the sake of getting caught up.
  • Select the easiest work to boost a kid’s morale.

At times it will be best to let your children choose the task so they’ll have more motivation to work hard during the allotted time. In other situations, you, having a better grasp of the big picture, will want to pull rank and make the call yourself. Choose whatever seems best for the situation, but know there isn’t a wrong option because the end result will be completed work whichever route you take.

When the Timer Goes Off

Twenty minutes of focused work has happened, and you hear the timer ding. Now what? Our response varies, depending on the circumstances of the day.

  • The sense of accomplishment that comes with productivity increases our motivation and we immediately set the timer for another twenty minutes of work.
  • We set the timer for a five or ten minute break of exercise, relaxation, or unrelated tasks, then do another twenty minutes of school work.
  • Something else becomes a higher priority, so we set school aside with assurance the day wasn’t a total academic waste.

The next time you sense the school day slipping away possibly before it’s even started, go set a timer and see what you and your children can accomplish in just twenty minutes.

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