Mastering Your Homeschool Schedule
Mastering homeschool schedules-Life gets busy while homeschooling. How do we balance schoolwork, housework, entertaining, outings, baking, and shopping without problems? It gets complex, and often schoolwork is the first thing to go. We'll discuss how to homeschool with pleasure and determination throughout the year and when to take a guilt-free break. You will learn to become the master of your schedule and how to make it work for you.
Mastering Homeschool Schedules
I have discovered that when you homeschool your children, you need to create some schedule and routine, or you will become frustrated and possibly uncertain about what you are trying to accomplish.
How do we get the schedule working well, especially during the holidays when the activities and responsibilities get piled on even higher?
I want to share with you my 7 Homeschool Heresies for Mastering homeschool schedules:
(I call these Homeschool Heresies because sometimes when I share one of these ideas, I will receive a look of shock from the listener, as though I had just said a bad word.)
- You can do school when YOU want to!
You do not have to start at 8 or 9 a.m. If it works better for your schedule, you can do school with your children in the afternoon. I did this a couple of times when I had a baby or toddler taking a nap in the afternoon, and it was the only time that I could concentrate wholeheartedly on the task.
- You do not have to do every subject every day, every week, or year!
We do grammar 3x a week and spelling 2x a week. We do science 3x a week and history 4x a week. You might decide to make history one week and then science the next, or even a monthly rotation, even yearly. You don't have to start grammar until 3rd grade. Keep your daily subjects reasonable - don't do more than 4-5 a day. During the holidays, you can trim this to 3 or 4.
- You can before noon!
You should be if you have kids in grades six and younger. Schoolwork with the little ones should take 2 hours or less. My high schoolers spend 3-5 hours daily on school work, usually closer to 3 or 4. And they take outside classes and can still pull this off!
- You should never reward quick work with more work!
This is the surest way to squelch efficiency in your homeschool. If a child works quickly and completes what you have asked him to do, reward that child with extra free time or a fun activity that he/she has longed to do. If you want your kids to work slowly, make them do extra work when they finish before the allotted time for that subject.
- Don't turn every interest that your child has into a unit study!
This is another way to squelch the love of learning, particularly the love of learning about something on your own. If every time your child shows a passion for something (say butterflies or racing cars) and you decide to assign a paper on it, they will stop sharing with you their interests. Am I against unit studies? Oh, far to the contrary! We love doing unit studies to break up school monotony, especially during winter and spring. We'll talk more about unit studies in a few minutes.
- School is a given!
School should be so much a part of your routine that your kids do not ask you, "Are we doing school today?" It should be on the same level as brushing your teeth or getting dressed. School is just what we do. Besides, the routine is comforting for children. When we have something special planned, and I secretly plan to give my kids the day off school, they will often have it finished before I get up and have my first cup of coffee.
- Take days off when you want to (or need to)!
You are the master of your schedule, and you are in charge. If you want to take a day off school, then do it! The beauty of homeschooling is that we can choose our days off. We often do not take federally recognized holidays off, such as Columbus Day or Veterans Day. We sometimes do not take two weeks off at Christmas, maybe only once, and get back to it after Christmas, instead of waiting until after New Years'. But I almost always take the entire week of Thanksgiving off because I have relatives coming into town and want to get the house clean and the food prepared in advance.
Here's a bonus one:
- Don't turn Christmas into a unit study!
Christmas is a holy celebration, and I steer clear of unit studies that make it cutesy or provide my children and me with busy work. I am all for Advent, and I'll talk about that in a minute, but Christmas unit studies? Frankly, I don't have time for that, and it is too sacred a holiday to minimize busy work!
Putting together a homeschooling schedule can be tricky, mainly if you teach more than one child. Here are some things to consider:
--Children in grades K-2 need you to work with them directly. Thankfully, these kids are usually finished in less than an hour.
--Kids in grades 3-6 need you nearby, like in the same room, perhaps working with a younger sibling or folding laundry and answering questions. Stay close, but do not hover.
If necessary,-the 7th and 8th grades should get a longer leash and work in a quieter room. Be available for questions, discussion, problem-solving, etc. Check their work so that they do not get off track!
--High school students should be working independently. However, this does not mean that they do not need you. They need you just as much as they ever have, or perhaps even more so. But do allow them to work on their school subjects at the most convenient time, as long as they keep up with their school work. My kids are taking outside classes at co-ops, college, etc., and they must keep up with their studies.
Like a puzzle, piece all the necessary information together, considering the ages of your children and the number of subjects to cover each day. What you end up with will be your master schedule.
I have found through the years that the more children you have, the more structured you will need to be
The more children you have, the more flexible you will need.
These two statements may sound contradictory, but they go together hand in hand. Create the structure of your schedule, but be willing to set it aside for your kids' needs as necessary.
You will need to use the following four tools in your home if you want to stay on top of your schedule this school year:
Individual student schedules
I want to emphasize how vital the family calendar is. This is your central place to record Christmas parties, outings, appointments, library books due, youth group, classes, gifts due, company visits, etc.
If it is not on the calendar, you may forget. You may be a master of keeping all information safely tucked away in your brain, but your family cannot read your mind. They can read the calendar. In particular, your husband needs to know what is going on and whether he is included in the activity. If you need to be somewhere, or if a shoebox is due on a given date, or the library books are due the day before Christmas Eve, mark it on the calendar
A school planner is beautiful but not necessary. I have gone many years without one, but I do like having one now. These usually have many features, including holiday sections, to help you with baking and gift-giving. However, it should not replace the family calendar because others in your family need to know what is happening, not just you.
The master schedule is a paper sheet where you record your family's regular school routine. This should show what everyone should do throughout the day, at least during regular school hours. You can create this by hand, within your school planner's pages, or in a spreadsheet such as Excel or OpenOffice. I like to create mine in Excel, print it out, and place it within my school planner.
From this master schedule, you should create individual student schedules. Why do you ask? Because you want your kids to begin to make their school work their own. Remember, I told you the story of my kids getting their schoolwork done before I got up for the day? They could do this effectively and entirely by keeping a student schedule taped to their school box's lid. That way, they know what they are expected to do daily and can move through those activities independently. If you have a non-reader, then it is not necessary.
Finally, I want to touch on two more aspects of schedules before we conclude: routine and traditions. Kids thrive in routine, and they love traditions.
Help your children get into good habits by following a routine. Frankly, you do not have to move through your day in a military-like fashion and change subjects at precisely 30 minutes, but you may establish that we do this first, then this, then this.
Mastering homeschool schedules. Routine is great for before-school activities, such as breakfast, dressing, morning chores, etc. It works excellently during school, and it is beneficial from dinnertime on.
We have a routine of family devotions right after breakfast and before school. This is expected and enjoyed. During the four weeks before Christmas, we use this time to celebrate Advent. We read through stories that tell the Christmas story and sing carols in anticipation of the coming celebration.
If you would like to incorporate Advent into your holiday school schedule, pick a consistent time you can include, preferably when Dad is home. Once Christmas is past, you can continue with family devotions using something else to guide you.
Establish some traditions for the holiday season, if you haven't done so already. We have certain foods that we like to make on several days leading up to Christmas. We want to get our tree the first weekend in December. Many people get them the day after Thanksgiving. We start listening to Christmas music as soon as we finish Thanksgiving dinner while eating dessert.
If you have traditions that you want to incorporate and aren't sure how to pull it off because you have schoolwork to do, ditch the homework! You are the master of your schedule and can throw it out any time you choose. This is the beauty of homeschooling! We can see the Nutcracker during the day when school is in session. We don't have to make it up later - we can enjoy the day off!
Permit yourself to take the days off that you need. Maybe you need three weeks off during Christmas. Guess what? That's okay! You will know if you need to go for an extra few days come June. Maybe you homeschool throughout the summer and want to take the entire month of December off. Could you do it? You are in charge and can be trusted to make the right decisions for your family.
Remember, school is a given, but you can take guilt-free days off when needed. So, enjoy the holidays!
And enjoy your learning moments while mastering homeschool schedules!
- Don't turn Christmas into a unit study!