Teaching Tips - General

Use Intensive Focuses

We have had a lot of success with this.

An "intensive focus" is working on one subject everyday for a while. At age 10, a while is 3 to 6 weeks. At age 7, it was about 2 weeks.

Each day, we spend a few hours, usually 2 to 4 hours, on the subject we are focusing on. We usually do our focus for 3 or 4 days per week.

We usually also do a second subject, for an hour or so each day. The second subject is usually a more fun subject, like art or reading, and for the second subject we don't do the same subject everyday. Only the subject we are focusing on is the same subject each day.


For example, if we are doing a focus on science, the first thing we do each day is science for several hours. Then, for our second subject, we might watch a video on another country for social studies.

The second day, after doing science, we might do some art, or a language arts workbook page.

In practice, we usually only go up to about 4 days per week (although we have had exceptions), because we have at least 1 play day per week, where we don't get much formal schooling done, and we have home school gym classes (usually once per week), and other incidental things happening.

When we do a math focus, we only do it for 2 or 3 days each week, or if we are doing it everyday, we only do it for about 2 weeks. For math, we also set a goal of accomplishing a certain amount of math (like 40 pages in the curriculum we are using), by a certain date, so they can see their progress. Don't set the date too far in the future - two weeks is a nice graspable number for a younger child. Even by age 10, I find going more than a month or two is hard for them to grasp.

Be Careful & Keep It Interesting

Be careful about over doing this. You have to watch and listen to your child, to make sure they are interested. We might decide to cut our intensive focus short, if they start losing interest, or we might go longer if it appears we need more time to finish what we are doing and they are enjoying it and still learning.

The idea is to discover their natural learning rhythms, and work with them, so they stay interested, build confidence, and learn more. And the new idea here is that their natural learning rhythm may be quite different than what most schools do.

Remember to keep it reasonably fun, and it must be interesting.


If you make this work though, there are big benefits.

When they are doing the same subject everyday, they can see their progress better, which gets them more motivated and builds their self-confidence. When their skill grows quickly, they also enjoy the subject more, which increases their interest even more. And when they are doing a subject all the time, this also increases their interest.

Also, their progress is much greater because they don't forget much from day to day, and especially from hour to hour (in the second hour, you don't have to review what they did in the first hour, because they just did it).

And they remember what they learned better. I believe this is because more associations are formed. For example, more associations are formed between what they learned in the third or fourth hours, with what they learned in the first hour, because it was just earlier that day, not a few days or a week ago.

So, they learn more per hour, they learn it better, their interest in the subject increases, and their self-confidence in the subject increases.

Example - Interesting Math Result

I did a math intensive with my 10 year old son. Our goal was to do three units of our curriculum (Math-U-See), plus the tests for those units, each week.

This meant we did math for approximately four hours per day, for three days per week, plus a fourth day to do the tests that came with the curriculum (on a few days we didn't finish a unit in one day, and continued on it, the next day - you have to keep it reasonable and interesting).

Note also, that our goal of 3 units each week was carefully negotiated between him and myself, and with a reward at the end, so he wanted to do it.

After doing this math intensive for about three weeks, I noticed that he was talking faster. During dinner, he was explaining the Star Wars games him and his friends were playing at our home school park day, that afternoon - in other words, a normal thing for him - but he was talking much faster, and explaining them in great detail.

I estimate he was talking at least 20% faster than he used to talk. I think his brain was going faster, and his speech was simply keeping up with his brain. It was quite remarkable.

As near as I can tell, the math intensive, where he was doing very focused thinking for several hours, several times per week, significantly improved his ability to think.

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