I looked around the room, marveling at how quiet it had quickly become. Just minutes before, we were singing “The Doxology” at the close of our Morning Time. Now, crickets.
The kids were gone — off to find a snack, the restroom, or out the front door. They had lists of things to do to finish their school day, but the dreaded transition had struck again. Now how was I going to get them back?
What exactly is a homeschool transition?
Nothing derails a homeschool day like a transition. Quite simply, it is the finishing of one task or section of your day and the beginning of another. Maybe it is the transition from morning play into academic work. Maybe it is the transition from Morning TIme to independent work. Perhaps it isis the transition from working with one kid to working with another.
These are transition examples, and they can be friction points in your homeschool. This is because the more formal activity is ending, and another has not yet started. Kids view this more relaxed time as a moment of freedom. And they often desire to extend that freedom for as long as possible.
This desire will drive a mom nuts as she has to round up the kids once more to complete the rest of the school day.
Transitions in the morning
For years I struggled with beginning our school day because my kids had their agendas each morning. The last thing they wanted to do was to put down their preferred activity and begin their school day. I started playing a lively tune at the beginning of each day, then (with some training) they came to the table in a much happier mood and ready to start the day.
The song was much more pleasant than mom yelling for the day to begin. It didn’t take many tries before they knew what the opening chords meant and exactly how long they had before they needed to be seated and ready.
We have also used a similar song hack after Morning Time to allow the kids to clean up their messes on the table and take out their independent work. The song creates a time limit for the activity that is easy for the kids to recognize and adhere to because they can hear and know exactly how long they have before the song ends.
Another way to manage transitions between parts of the day is to use a timer. My friend Dawn Garrett gave her kids a 30-minute break at the end of each Morning Time to use as they wished. The key was that they lost the break the following day if they did not return at the end of the 30 minutes. By having a consequence for not following the guidelines, she was able to establish a habit that kept her homeschool running most of the time smoothly.
This same time limit could be used after meals, like starting after breakfast or returning after lunch.
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Make transitions easier by eliminating them
Another way to make transitions easier is by eliminating them. When my kids were younger, and we could finish everything before lunch, we did this. Immediately after our Morning Time and clean-up song, I would work with my youngest child (approximately 30 minutes), then move to the middle child (about 45 minutes to an hour) and finish up with my oldest child.
While I was working with the younger ones, the older ones had activities added to their checklists that they could do on their own. Things like:
- Online educational videos or games (right there in the room with me using headphones)
- Handwriting practice (once letter formation was well-established)
- Listening to an audiobook for 20 minutes using headphones
- Mapwork or map tracing
- Watching their math DVD and starting their math page (as they got older)
- Typing practice
- Drawing a picture of what they had been learning about (narration)
No one left the schoolroom until they were done with school for the day, and I did not leave until everyone was finished.
Once the kids are old enough, you can put one in charge of making lunch for everyone so that you do not have to stop to do that. It helps you stay focused. Now that my kids are teens, we rarely stop for lunch but eat our sandwiches or leftovers while continuing our work. The lack of the hard stop helps us to push through and finish strong.
As with any homeschool suggestions, you might find some of these helpful. But the trick is to try something, test it out, and then try something else until you find the solution that will work for you.
I would love to hear from you. How have you smoothed transitions in your homeschool?
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