Short and Sweet

When it comes to teaching young children, Miss Charlotte Mason has a winning formula!

  • Use whole books or “living books”
  • Narrations instead of workbooks or tests
  • Focused short lessons
  • Emphasis on excellence
  • Formation of good habits
  • Free afternoons
  • Humanities and a rich education

Recently we eased back into school after a short winter break.  Normally during our first few days, we start out with a Bible lesson, and either just do seat work or “disciplined studies” or 3R’s …


We start our new read aloud and only do oral narrations. After a few days, we fill in few more subjects and lessons until we do a full weekly schedule.

This term my youngest daughter came up with a novel suggestion ~ just do one subject a day.  I thought that she meant our “Theme of the Day“, but she suggested she would only do Maths on Mondays or Social Studies on Tuesday.  When I explained that she would have to do the entire week’s work in that day, she innocently agreed. 

But it was hard.

It was an awful slog.

So many lessons … a whole week of Maths … maths the whole day?

Not fun!

When we do our normal school day we just do just one lesson.  Lessons are short; no longer than 20 minutes. Work is focused and done diligently.  Children master their lessons and complete it with a positive attitude.

Long lessons drain and exhaust a young child.  Children become demoralized.  Their passion and enthusiasm dwindle away.

My daughter quickly agreed to go back to her normal school schedule.

May I suggest that your children are more motivated and positive when they have short, sweet lessons.

I fact, in my teaching experience, the best way to encourage children to get going on a topic or lesson is to limit their time.  Instead of giving a whole period for a lesson, I set a limited time and a specific goal.  Once we reached the time limit, we moved onto the next goal and set a short, but manageable time.

Here are more benefits of short, sweet lessons:

  • Dawdling eliminated
  • Encourage concentration
  • Stay focused
  • Form the habit of doing their best first time and every time
  • Motivated by manageable length lessons
  • Variety stimulates inborn curiosity
  • Tedious lessons eliminated so that success and achievement are intrinsic motivation
  • Mastery of concepts and skills
  • ADHD and easily distracted children learn to stay connected for the short manageable lessons
  • Completed seat work leads to the “enjoyable, best parts” like read alouds, fine arts, nature study or handicrafts
  • Reduced tears and tantrums, especially when working through difficult subjects or concepts.
  • Rewards of free afternoons and time outdoors
  • Routine and schedule are reassuring to young children

So, this week, my daughter is happy to announce that all her maths is done, but she is very happy to return to our normal short, sweet lessons!

Another thought:

My high school daughter likes to immerse herself in one subject at a time.  She often teaches herself the entire term’s work on one subject, doing her lessons all day and for a week or more, until she is ready to write her exams.  Once completed, she moves on to another subject.  She maintains that she obtains a better global view of her subject, masters the work, retains her skills and is more motivated.

What works for you?  What works for your young children?  Do your older children like to study comprehensively or do a little every day?

Feel free to share or comment.


17 thoughts on “Short and Sweet

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  7. I did very limited lessons this past year with my oldest, who was just five, and a very wiggly, energetic little boy. Formally, we only did reading, math, and handwriting. Reading was every day, as was handwriting. Math was every other day, as he usually couldn’t do all three together at once. Our lessons were short and sweet for the most part – math took the longest (again, which is why it was not every day). I found with reading that ten minutes a day was better, and got us further, because each day’s work was slightly harder but tolerable because it wasn’t for too long. Thank you for the reminder of keeping lessons short when they are young. I have felt a little fear and trepidation as we have to add more subjects this year in 1st grade, but I will try the easing into the schedule suggestion and continue to keep each subject short.


  8. I think this may be the second time I have heard this idea and though it sounds to make sence I am not sure about it yet. It takes time to understand new ideas on how to study and learn and I really appciate you sharing this with us – me in specific. *smile* We were both brought up in public school so think more along those lines with a God focus and center in our scholastic studies as well as our life. *big smile* Thank you again for sharing this with us. Our growing blessings are now eight and six so we are still in the growing and introduction stage. Have a great day. Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!


    • @Blessings! I can so identify with your public schooling approach to homeschool, but as I have learnt more about Charlotte Mason’s methods and applied it to our lessons, I have absolute faith in short, focused and sweet lessons.
      The art of narration is an absolutely guaranteed method even with very young children. Reading the story aloud once and requiring a detailed oral narration forces the young child to listen attentively and make it their own by telling back as much as they can remember.
      You can make gentle transitions ~ perhaps with core reading followed by oral narrations, or by doing shorter lessons in the disciplined work. I am still learning and growing, each child makes it slightly different.
      Blessings and you all grow and learn!


      • We do some of our lessons out loud and some on their own. More often than not it depends on the day and how eager one child or the other is in getting the subject over with. *smile* Our eight year old son loves to get through his work at his own pace which means he does more writting which is probably good for his penmanship. *smile* Our son (age 8) and daughter (age 6) both enjoy doing geography and science aloud. *smile* We also do health, music (not piano lessons), and spanish aloud together. So, we do it a little bit, I suppose. *smile* Thanks for the encouragement, I appriciate it. Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!


      • Thank you so much. I thought I was odd in my way of thinking so to have you share that you are still growing in this area of teaching and learning is encouraging to me. *smile* We are doing some of our subjects they read and I ask them questions and my husband will demonstrate science things to them. It’s fun to homeschool and I am also scared I will miss teaching them something important knowing that if they are learning about God then everything else they can learn when they need it. *smile* Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!


  9. Well, next time my son complains about school so many days, I should let him try to cram it all in, LOL! Nothing like learning from experience 🙂 Seriously, though, short lessons and the CM way was a god-send for us!


  10. I am not doing formal lessons with my oldest yet, he is only 6 (and we’d rather wait till next year when he is 7 turning 8), I have started them with informal learning, or learning by playing with blocks, plastic animals, etc. We apply whatever we are learning or reading of, physically. He (and his little brother of 4) loves animals, so we are doing Bushy Tale – reading the story and answering the short questions in the activity book. They have also decided to make a “bushveld farm”. We took a huge flat piece of cardboard and stuck/glued grass, soil, etc. on, as well as a blue piece of plastic for the dam, and whatever animal in the Bushytale series we are reading of, they then put on the “farm”.
    The same with math – we are using all kinds of blocks to learn shapes, colours, addition, subtraction, etc. I actually just introduce a concept, and they then build forth on the theme (pirates, castles, etc.) and do “revision” of what they have learned.
    Personally I would prefer to work through one subject, like your older daughter, but I am really trying to keep it “short and sweet” for the boys. No longer than 20min. then they run outside and play, but most of the time they come back after 15-20min. and continue with their indoors activities.


  11. I love the idea of this, but struggle with the implementation of it. I am not very creative, so I need a plan in front of me and a book or something to tell me exactly what to do.


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