There is so much to learn that it is easy to feel stressed. It is a normal tendency to think you need to pack in a bunch of lectures and learning. But learning doesn’t have to be all work and no play. In fact, play is learning! People learn best when they are having fun! Enter leisurely afternoons, a.k.a. “afternoon occupations.”
What are Afternoon Occupations?
Afternoons were a time to develop good habits. How, do you ask? Enter afternoon occupations–activities that fill a child’s independent afternoon schedule, and fill one to three hours of each day.
“The claims of the schoolroom should not be allowed to encroach on the child’s right to long hours daily for exercise and investigation.” (Vol. 1, p. 177)
Charlotte Mason believed that children should learn well, but that independent learning in the afternoon was the best kind of learning. The students needed ample time to explore and learn. We can embrace this philosophy today, but many of us want to make sure that that time isn’t “wasted.” It calls for a change in both our thought pattern and the way we do things. We can gently guide our children to learn on their own, with activities that will bring learning and enjoyment.
“Self education is the only possible education. The rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.” ~ Charlotte Mason
How Do You Fit In Time for Afternoon Occupations?
Short, Focussed Lessons Leave Time for Afternoon Occupations
Charlotte Mason, an educator from the early 1900s who is famous in the homeschool community, called for short school lessons. All lessons were to be done between 11:30 and 1, depending on the age of the child. She thought that students who were given short lessons could devote their complete attention to them. They could cover a broad amount of topics in a short period of time.
Their schedules may have looked a little like this:
- Form I (grades 1-3): 2.5 hours of morning work, 1 hour of afternoon work
- Form II (grades 4-6): 2.5 hours of morning work, 1 hour of afternoon work
- Forms III & IV (grades 7-9): 3.0-3.5 hours of morning work, 1.5 hours of afternoon work
- Forms V & VI (grades 10-12): 4 hours of morning work, 2 hours of afternoon work
Examples of Afternoon Occupations
Here are a few examples to help you find independent and educational activities for your children. Afternoons are also a great time to get some of the socialization that so many people worry about when children are homeschooling. Here are a few examples to get your creative juices flowing…
We call this “Blessing the Home.” When children help out around the house, it is truly a blessing! It also helps us have a better attitude about doing them! Plus, this doubles as Home Economics class!
Get creative with chores and add fun activities like washing cars with friends.
Charlotte Mason recommended 1 ½ hours per day be spent outdoors, as long as the weather wasn’t extreme. She didn’t believe cold temperatures or a little rain should stop you–only thunderstorms or other serious dangers. Time outside could simply be spent enjoying the outdoors, gardening, writing in nature journals, or going on a nature walk. Miss Mason believed that time outdoors was good not only for the brain, but also for health, and for the soul. Nature is a great way to connect with God and see Him in the world around us! It is also a science lesson, exploring the natural patterns and scientific laws. It is an art lesson of natural beauty.
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not knowthat the hand of the Lord has done this?” Job 12:7-9
Handicrafts are simply decorative objects made by hand. There are tons of things you can do and the internet, craft books, and Pinterest will not disappoint! Here are a few examples of handicrafts…
Sewing–Clothes, Quilts, Cross Stitch
Holiday Themed Crafts
Charlotte Mason was all about reading great books, which she called “living books.” There are so many great books to read and there is so little time! Reading is a great way to spend your afternoon!
Reading Quality Books
Book Clubs–Another great way to socialize.
Instrument Lessons and Practice
One of the beautiful things about homeschool is that you can help your children enhance their skills and explore their interests. It’s the perfect time to fuel passions that very well may lead to a career in the future. Passions could be anything, but here are a few to explore…
Cooking–Kids cooking curriculums are becoming readily available, such as Raddish, or just look for your own recipes. They might even want to write their own cookbook!
Writing–Kids who love to write can have time to hone their craft and even create a book to sell on Amazon. Any kid can get more excited about writing when they get to choose a new journal.
Sports–Kids can practice skills individually, with friends, or join a team.
Extra Classes for Older Students
Older students need to get a little more dedicated class time in. Sometimes younger students want to study something extra, too! Try these classes or class extensions…
Science Experiment Kits–Older kids can do these on their own!
Puzzles–These teach logic. Map puzzles double as geography and you can find other topics to cover as well!
Teaching your kids that the world is bigger than themselves is an important life lesson. There is no better way to do this than through service. You can do bigger, more organized things, or find your own way to bless others such as…
Picking Up Litter with Friends
Blessing the House–Chores again!
Socializing and Learning With Family and Friends
There are plenty of ways to keep the learning going while socializing with others. Most of the above activities can also be done in a group, but here are some that especially lend themselves well to groups…
Poetry Tea Time–Enjoy a fun snack while listening to poetry or reading some of your own.
Artistic Explorations–Take your art appreciation to the next level by creating art together as a family.
Holiday Parties–Fall Festivals, Christmas, Valentines Day, 1st Day of Spring
Errands, Outings, and Appointments
Keeping Your Kids Accountable
Make a simple schedule, filling in what must be done first.
Have a checklist.
If your kids can’t make decisions about what to do, make an Afternoon Occupations Jar so your kids can draw what they are to do each afternoon.
Celebrate their accomplishments.
Remind them that you will have to make decisions for them if they don’t follow directions or make wise choices.
Some Play is Okay
Although you need to hold children accountable, remember that children are just that–children. They are born to play. A popular saying is that “Play is a child’s work.” It is how they make sense of the world and the things they have been learning. It is okay if every single minute is not spent on what adults would call productive.
Leave Time for Evening Leisure–For Yourself and Your Children
Whatever you do, don’t get too carried away with your lessons. It is easy to get caught up in old ways of teaching and try to overplan. Short, but focussed lessons, can pack more punch than long lectures. It’s important to let kids learn the way they learn best–through play and low stress methods. They also need rest in order to be able to learn.
Play is also important for you as well. This is perhaps said best in a quote from Essex Cholmondley’s The Story of Charlotte Mason. In his book, he states, “She never worked out of hours nor let herself think of problems at night … She never let herself be ‘anxious.’” Her teachers-in-training said, “The children need your utmost freshness of mind and energy, so do not sit up late preparing lessons; what you seem to gain in preparation you lose by tiredness the next day.”
Practice Makes Perfect
Afternoon occupations sound nice, but they won’t always be easy. You may have a little more time to relax in the long run, but you have to be available to help and train. Nurture their independence. Constantly evaluate how things are going, remove what doesn’t work, and add new occupations as needed. Before you know it, you can be having leisurely afternoons of learning!