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24. Short Lessons

"And we insist on variety. Every child must sample a little bit of history, geography, science. And there's not only books -- your child should experience science and song, and crafts, and activity."

Remember when we said that? Are you wondering how on earth you can squeeze so much into five school days and still have afternoons free to pursue . . . well, to pursue any semblance of a life outside of school? Charlotte Mason gave us the secret. That secret is short lessons.

In first grade, all of your lessons should be about 10 to 20 minutes long, depending on the subject. That's four subjects in an hour. That means you could do Bible, sing a song, read history, do copywork, and your day is half done. Add in a math lesson, a picture study or handicraft, a literature reading, and school is done in less than two hours. (Here's another secret: you don't have to do every subject every day. You can do math and copywork four days a week.)

What about the other grades? In middle school, lessons should take 10-30 minutes, depending on the subject. Once you get into a good routine, school at this level might be done in three hours. Don't force your child to spend a long time at a lesson he detests. If math is a struggle, just do twenty minutes a day. Yes, it might mean it takes longer to get through your math book, but isn't the point to learn math at the pace your child can handle? It's far better to take your time and make sure your child is solid on basic math skills than than to plod along through long, tortuous lessons to complete a book at the price of making your child dread math.

By high school, students can go longer, but even then, lessons should be 20-40 minutes long. It's reasonable for school to be kept to four hours.

Here's one more tip -- a bonus! Stagger your lessons by planning music, math, art in between readings. Doing the same kind of lesson one after another is as tiring and tedious as moving around on the same leg all day, while switching legs isn't tiring at all (I'll bet you can walk farther than you can hop!) Switch things up! Break up books with something different. This helps keep the mind fresh, which helps to maximize the time you spend at school, so you get more bang for the buck out of your school day.

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