Keelie and I work from home. We also homeschool three amazing little boys. Well, I guess one isn’t so little any more, but still. This is a new thing for us. For two years, the older boys were at elementary school all day, the youngest was home with Keelie, and I worked outside the home. Needless to say, there was an adjustment period for all of us.
After Day 1, I decided to try something. I’ve talked before about being the man with the plan and how I try to creatively motivate the boys to do their chores. Well, I pulled out an old productivity model that worked for me and tried it on the kids.
Thankfully, it worked! It has really helped our daily routine run more smoothly. This in turn has helped us as a family to, ya know, not hate each other as much.
So I thought I’d pass it along to you with the modifications we’ve made for the kiddos.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique was originally developed by Francesco Cirillo. It’s all based on utilizing a time-chunking method and using a simple timer to track yourself. When Cirillo was developing his technique, he used a simple kitchen timer. His was shaped like a tomato. He was in Italy at the time, and “tomato” in Italian is “pomodoro.”
The basic idea is that you break your work day into chunks of time for laser-beam focus. You create a task list for your day and set the order of priority. Then, set a timer for 25 minutes and begin the first task. During that time, you do nothing but that task. Don’t answer the phone, don’t go to the bathroom, don’t check Facebook. You hammer away at that single task with everything you have for 25 uninterrupted minutes.
When the timer dings, you stop. No matter where you are, you stop and set the timer for 5 minutes and take a break. Go for a walk, get a sip of water, go ahead and check your email/Facebook/Instagram. Do anything but work. When the timer dings again, get back to that task.
Each of these 30-minute blocks of time is called a pomodoro (or as the boys and I call it, a tomato). After three pomodoros, you take a 15-minute break. Then start the whole thing again!
There’s a whole system that develops from there that gets deep into the productivity world. I didn’t find much use in this aspect of the system when I used it during work. But the core I just described was awesome!
Pomodoro for Homeschool
We’ve made a few slight modifications to this overall technique. First, because my memory was bad, I set it up as 20 minutes of work and 10 minutes of break. We’ve found that this actually works better for the boys. Second, we turned the 15-minute break into 30. The way this plays out for us is that after the second full set of tomatoes it’s usually lunch time. So they take 30 minutes for lunch and then can usually squeeze in one more pomodoro before rest time.
Not only does this help them stay focused and more productive, it also helps Keelie and me get things done. Instead of stopping every 30 seconds to answer a question or shush the boys, we can focus too. We tell the boys to hold questions till the beginning of the next pomodoro. Often, we find that if they stay on it, they’re able to answer their own question.
Get yourself a timer. Any timer will do, really. We use the timer on our stove. I’m thinking about getting a regular kitchen timer to give the kids a little more hands-on feel. I was looking around today and ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh they have StarWarsthemed timers!
Decide on how your schedule will go. Think about your day and how you want it to flow. Make adjustments to the time chunk lengths as necessary.
Introduce the idea to your kids and explain some of the benefits. Try to emphasize the aspects that they will be drawn to. For ours, the idea of a break every 20 minutes sold them immediately! They always want to stop and take a break before they even finish a task, whether with their chores or school work. This allows them the “cheat” of stopping even mid-task.
All you have to do now is start! Don’t worry if you’re already into the school year. If you’re having workflow issues, make the change.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve worked with this method or a similar one before. How’d it go for your family? If you never have, try it out and give us your feedback!
Austin and Keelie have been sharing life together for nearly two decades. In that time they've gone from high school sweethearts to a family of five.
Austin loves making Keelie and the boys laugh whenever he can. Occasionally he writes things.