Interruptions often steal many hours of our homeschool day. Robbing us
of precious hours that should be spent teaching our children, these time
thieves can keep us from accomplishing our goals and leave us feeling
inadequate and guilty. Yet, by planning ahead, we can make provision for
both internal and external interruptions.
Most external interruptions fall into one of several categories:
- phone calls from friends
- appointments with doctors, dentists, hairdressers, etc.
- appointments with plumbers, appliance repairmen, and other service
External interruptions are easier to control since you usually can
anticipate them ahead of time, and plan to make them less intrusive.
When we began homeschooling, the first thing I did was let my friends
know what we were doing and tell them our school hours. Most were
considerate enough not to call while we were in school, but when one
did, I talked to her for few seconds and then told her that we were in
school. I then asked if I could return the call and set up a specific
time to do so. This usually worked quite well. Some, of course, were
displeased with the arrangement, but I soon discovered that they were
not so much opposed to having their call returned as they were to the
idea of homeschooling.
Now that my children are older, I try never to answer the phone during
school hours. If someone calls, I have one of the children take the name
and number, and I return the call as soon as we finish school.
I also quickly discovered that a successful homeschool depends on
strictly adhering to school hours and planning the rest of our lives
around school—not vice versa. Appointments with doctors, dentists,
hairdressers, etc., were set up so that they would not cut into school
hours. I made it a rule to tell everyone that I could not take any
appointment before 3:00 p.m. Of course, the receptionists tried to talk
me into taking the appointments most convenient for them, but I always
responded, “That is not possible. I cannot come in before 3:00 o’clock.”
After all, I was paying them and I felt that I had every right to insist
on appointments that worked best for me.
I handled appointment for plumbers, appliance repairmen, and other
service personnel a little differently. If I knew that all I had to do
was open the door and point the way to the appropriate repair job, I
allowed them to come during school hours. Since these kinds of
appointments are not usually disruptive to school, I felt it best to
accommodate the repairmen.
Ready to Teach
Internal interruptions require a little more effort since they are more
difficult to control. Generally, internal interruptions stem from one of
- lack of preparedness on the part of the home teacher
- lost or missing school materials
- breaks—bathroom breaks, recess, etc.
- general discipline problems
Coming to school prepared to teach prevents many major disruptions to
your school day. This means you must know what you are going to be
teaching before the school day begins. If you do not use a curriculum
which includes a daily lesson plan, make up a written plan in advance so
that you will know how many pages each student will be covering in each
subject. In my lectures I recommend that this daily lesson plan be made
up several months before the school year begins. You should also make
certain that you have read the material your students will be covering
that day and that you are prepared to answer questions and help them
with math when problems arise. Having your students sit idly while you
prepare to give them assignments, look for answers, or try to figure out
how to solve a math problem, robs them of valuable study time and plays
havoc with your school day.
School Materials In A Box
Lost or missing school materials can also be the source of major
disruptions. In our house, we assure that everyone has his materials on
hand at all times by giving each child his own cardboard box in which he
keeps his text books, syllabus, a pad of paper, pencils, erasers, a
ruler, a compass, a protractor, a pocket-sized spelling dictionary, and
any other materials, such as flash cards and art reproductions, that may
be included with his course. When it is time for school, the children
bring their “school boxes” to the table, and we are ready to begin. When
school is over, they return their materials to their boxes and store
them in their closets. Thus, we NEVER waste time looking for materials.
Breaks & Recess
Breaks are planned interruptions which should either be eliminated or
kept to a minimum.
In our home, we are in school for three straight hours with no breaks.
While it is sometimes necessary for someone to use the bathroom, it is
rare for any of my students to leave the school room until school has
ended for the day. By having children use the bathroom and get a drink
before they come to school, these kinds of interruptions can be largely
Another major disruption for many homeschoolers is recess. Because most
of us are products of the public school system, we tend to believe that
recess is necessary. However, in my nineteen years of homeschooling I
have never given a recess and do not believe that it serves any useful
purpose. Homeschooling mothers who do give their children a recess tell
me that these breaks frequently extend to twenty or twenty-five minutes
since children often do not return to their seats on time. In addition,
it takes a while for them to “settle down” and resume their studies.
With thought processes interrupted, children often have a difficult time
picking up where they left off. The homeschool teacher often finds that
what was supposed to be a brief break to refresh her students has turned
into a serious interruption which results in a longer school day for
The most obvious interruptions to the homeschool day are likely to stem
from general discipline problems. Children sometimes try to manipulate
the classroom by bringing up subjects unrelated to their school work.
Since we want our children to know that we value their ideas and think
their questions are important, we may feel it is necessary to put aside
lessons and discuss those subjects immediately. This approach will,
however, probably result in everyone being distracted from his studies
for an extended period.
I handle this problem by telling my students that I am “very interested”
in what they have to say but that we will have to discuss it after
school. Later that day I remind them that we were going to talk after
school, and I then spend as much time on the subject as they like.
I discovered quite early that the key to a well-disciplined class lies
in establishing a few simple rules to insure a quiet, orderly atmosphere
in which little scholars can thrive. Here are my rules which have
governed our homeschool for nineteen years:
- No talking about anything that does not pertain to the lessons
- No staring out the window.
- No food or drinks in the classroom.
- No talking to other students.
- No wasting time.
While no one can create a homeschool that is entirely free of
interruptions, each of us can eliminate many of the predictable
interruptions by planning ahead. Controlling the external interruptions
and setting up guidelines to minimize the internal ones is the best way
to provide your students with a quiet, stress-free atmosphere which
encourages learning and promotes good scholarship.