When I started homeschooling, I was not a fan of recess. The school day was not that long in kindergarten, and if we could just focus we would be done super fast. Plus, there were all these natural transitions between curriculums, distractions from siblings, and general life happenings (oops…did I drop my pencil again???) that meant we rarely sat still for more than five minutes anyway.
The years rolled on. The school day got longer. I started to feel more frazzled, and my oldest, who was in the room the longest, started complaining of headaches every day. In addition, our son was now in kindergarten, and his wiggle butt needed time to move! I did some recess research, considered our week, and implemented a plan that worked for many years.
The plan was simple. Forty-five minutes in the school room. A twelve-minute recess in which they had to move (no reading a book), get some water, and/or use the restroom. Three minutes to get back to the schoolroom and actually start working again.
At first, I hated it. It seemed so disjointed, and you better believe I had a clock watcher letting me know it was recess time! Then we really started to hit a rhythm, and it was amazing. Headaches disappeared. Attitudes changed. We started accomplishing more work in less time and with less mistakes.
Do you know what else? It turned out to be a huge help to me as well. Do you know how much stuff you can get done in 12 minutes? You can fold a load of laundry and get the next load going. You can prep for dinner. You can vacuum a floor of the house. Life flows so much better.
I will say that this year we changed our recess plan. The girls are getting old enough that I want them to start monitoring their own mental state. They are allowed to take recesses as they see the need. I have stepped in a couple of times to order them to take a break because they were not monitoring well, but that is part of the learning process.
For my son, we have successfully transitioned to a new recess plan for him. We were getting stuck in a rut where he would not work hard, lose his recess to make up the work, and then not be able to focus because he needed to move. This year, instead of his recess being tied to the clock, they are tied to his work accomplishment. I write on a sticky note a list of all the work I want him to do that day, and I put smiley faces into the list for when he can take a recess. I know about what forty-five minutes worth of work is for him, and I list it out that way. If he stays on task, he gets recesses pretty quick. If he doesn’t, the recess is not canceled, just delayed. This has led to some of the most focused work I have ever received from him, and we all regret the days when I neglect to write the sticky note at the start of the day.
The bottom line is: hold recess time. It might be frustrating to start. You might not hit the right timing or plan for your family on the first effort. You might need different plans for different kids, and the plans might change as they mature. Just give it a go. Recess is healthy and useful for all!
...a self-avowed "Wander Woman," homeschools her three children while traipsing the globe with her Army Chaplain husband. Her third greatest passion, falling below her love for God and family, is empowering other parents to teach their children.