Beware of the Five-Minute Break! (From A Slice of A Homeschool Life)


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Do your children ask during school hours if they can take just a little, teeny five-minute break? Mine do. I'm not sure how they came up with the idea that they are entitled to do this (probably the first time they tried it, and it worked!), but they insist that five-minute breaks should be a part of every home-schooling day. Lunch and recess? No problem. Five-minute breaks? Beware!

So, what's terrible about a little five-minute break? The problem is, they somehow turn into fifteen-minutes or more, and then you find out that in addition to growing longer (all by themselves), they are also addictive! Yes, first it was just one five-minute break a day. But soon the requests changed to “When I finish my math can I take a five-minute break?" “When I'm done with spelling, can I?" And then reading, and on and on. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if I opened a teacher's manual and saw the instruction: “STOP NOW FOR A FIVE-MINUTE BREAK. " Why not? They seem to be everywhere.

Okay, five minutes is not a lot of time. I realize that. The problem is that kids do not. Really. To them, being granted permission for a break is like getting a key to a magical door to another world: they step into it hoping they will never have to come back. Take my oldest son, for instance.

Hungry for his next five-minute “fix, " Brian's eyes, which are large anyway, suddenly take on beagle proportion, and he puts on all the puppy-dog pathos he can muster. (Please, Mom, p-l-eeease, can I take a 5-minute break?) And despite the five minutes stretching into ten or more, I am then subjected to a barrage of complaints such as, “Oh, already! I just started playing with Matt! It can't be five minutes already!"

ME: Well, actually, it's FIFTEEN minutes!

BRIAN: (laughingly) Fifteen minutes? No way! No way!

Despite his blossoming skills at telling time, he just cannot fathom the realities of a sixty-second minute. Somewhere in the mysterious regions of his just turned seven-year-old brain, he thinks of five minutes in terms of seconds (300 of them) and then expects to live them out in years; What else can account for his daily baffled expression when I inform him that his time is up?

Once, losing all patience, I made the radical move of threatening to abolish five-minute breaks from our school. My children were in arms instantly:

ME: Where is it written that you must have five-minute breaks?!

THEM: Mom! EVERYONE has five-minute breaks!!

ME: I don't! I never get a break! What about that?

(For some reason, this morsel of truth never evokes anything other than sheepish smiles: It's true, but they don't care!)

Of course, I do take breaks. I nurse the baby when she's ready for it, but I keep within ear shot of the “classroom"-just close enough to keep up my stream of “Okay, no more talking! That's enough! Be quiet, you two! Brian, did you finish ALL those spelling words? Kaitlin, I thought you were reading!!"

(It seems the closer we get to the end of the school year, the more my children suddenly have to say to each other across the table during school. It's actually a law of the universe, like gravity: The closer kids are to being DONE with something, the more they drag it out. )

Are you thinking that our methods are not enough fun, that school shouldn't be such a drag that kids can't wait to get away from it? I agree. I just haven't figured out, yet, how to complete all the requirements of the school year in a way that is always fun.

Learning, let's face it, is sometimes hard work. Perhaps in some ideal world (and maybe in some ideal homes), it's always fun, but that isn't the case in my experience or our school. My kids show me they enjoy learning by all the spontaneous inquiries they make, reading they do, and so on. The trick, I suppose, is to encourage their natural curiosity with the right amount of work, while trying not to overwhelm them in the areas in which they are not naturally inclined.

Until I get that right, however, I'll just have to live with the five-minute break. Only for now on, I'm setting a timer!

Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational Regency Romance as well as articles on Regency Life, Homeschooling, and Self-Improvement. She publishes a monthly eZine “Upon My Word!" which you can receive for FREE by signing up at her website quickly and easily. For her latest short story check Here Ms. Burkard graduated from the City University of New York with a Magna Cum Laude degree in English Literature, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children.


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