Welcome back to Step 4 in the 12 Simple Steps to Homeschooling Series!
We are discussing setting a schedule and a routine for your homeschool. I am warning you now this is a long one so if you don’t have time right now bookmark it for later. There is some good stuff in here. If you missed Step 3, it was How Setting Simple Goals Will Make This Your Best Year Homeschooling.
Determine your family’s needs
The first step in setting a schedule will be to figure out what needs your family has. Do you have small children and need to work around nap time? Does your husband work a rotating schedule and have hours that will interfere with school? Do you have weekly appointments, piano lessons, or other obligations that need to be considered? Take a minute to write down the main things that may cause a conflict in your school schedule.
Got it? Then let’s continue.
Things to consider when setting a schedule.
Over the years my boys and I have tried several different schedules. The first was to follow a schedule similar to public school, getting up early and starting at 8 am. We took scheduled breaks and had lunch at a certain time. Then we finished up at 3:30, just like everyone else. Except, it just did not work for us. Instead, we all ended up burning out. The boys would whine at me that school was too hard, that they were too tired and so on. So, I modified it.
Eventually, we fell into a routine that works for us. I found that I had to let go of a structured schedule. Instead of having a set time for recess or lunch we follow a more natural rhythm to our day. They take breaks when they need them. Lunch is after they finish the first half of their classes, not in the middle of them at a certain time. But and there is a but, it took us years. This is our 8th year of homeschooling and we finally have the kinks most of the way worked out. It takes time. So, the key thing to remember with scheduling is to continuously reassess and be flexible if you need to be.
Options and starting your day.
For example, if the baby normally takes a nap from 10-12, you would obviously try to squeeze in school during that uninterrupted time. However, let’s say the baby is teething and won’t sleep. What then? Do you just completely abandon school? You have that option but there are other things you can do instead. Let your older children work on the schoolwork they can do independently. If there isn’t anything they can do on their own, then this is the time to have them watch an educational video or practice writing their letters on a whiteboard.
The thing is, life is school.
There is so much that you can incorporate into learning that if you are having a day where the set curriculum isn’t getting done, do something else. Practice counting by 10’s as they hop around the room. Sing the ABC song while trying to rock the baby back to sleep. If they can read, have them practice their reading skills by reading to you. It is important to be flexible and let go of that public-school mentality that school needs to be from this time to this time. Above all other things, this concept was the hardest for me to grasp and for my husband to understand. Once I realized that I could do so much more besides the scheduled curriculum it was like the whole world opened up to me.
However, for the most part, it really does help to have a schedule or a routine. One thing we liked to do when my boys were little, was start the morning with the pledge of allegiance. They enjoyed it and it was the signal that school was starting. Maybe you could incorporate your own tradition? Circle time like they do in Kindergarten is a great way to start. Read a short story, ask a question, play a short game. Anything that gives them the signal, school is about to start.
A few questions that will help you plan out your schedule.
How many days do you want to do school each week?
Where we live the public school is scheduled for Monday through Thursday. When my boys were younger I didn’t pay attention to the public-school calendar at all. Now that they are older and many of their friends attend public school, this creates a problem. If I count on Fridays being a school day, then more often than not they are being pestered throughout the day by their friends to play. Most community activities are scheduled for Fridays because school is out. I resisted for a while, but it was hard and eventually, we decided to follow along. Instead, we use it as a catch-up day on anything that didn’t get finished up during the week, science experiments and bigger projects.
How many hours of school will you be doing each day?
Some states require you to have a set number of school days and hours each day. Where we live we don’t have this requirement. You need to check with your state’s homeschooling laws to determine what you need to do to fulfill these requirements. If you have flexibility then I suggest setting up a starting time, more than a set number of hours to work on school. Some days you will finish up early, enjoy those days because there will be days that are super long. If you find yourself finishing quickly every day or worse the opposite, then something needs to be adjusted in your curriculum.
You control the curriculum.
If you need to cut something out, cut it out. I am giving you permission. I struggled with this so much. You need to realize you are the teacher and principal. You make the decisions. Most curriculums have a lot of extra seat work or filler lessons. You DO NOT need to do all of them. If it isn’t working for you, cut it out. Don’t do it.
For younger children school shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours. For older children, it can take 4-5 hours most days. We begin school each day at 9:30. This allows time for my boys to get adequate sleep, a good breakfast and a few minutes to wake up. If your children are early risers, then go with it. The key is to make sure they are getting enough sleep. Sleep is a huge factor in how well your child does in school and their attitude for it. Same goes for you.
What subjects do you want to work on each day?
Some children do well working on each subject every day. The change of classes helps them feel like they have accomplished their work. For others, it is easier for them to work on only a couple of classes a day on more of a block schedule. An example of this would be to have Math and Language Arts on Mondays and Wednesdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays would be History and Science and Friday would be your catch-up day. Play around with it and figure out a schedule that works for you.
What time do you want to start school?
I have a set starting time for a couple of reasons. First, my boys know when they need to start school but also for other people. You will find as you homeschool, you will get interrupted a lot. I mean a lot! For some reason people think that because you are home with your children, you aren’t doing anything. This feels like an open invitation for neighbors and friends to just stop by or call. This constant stream of interruptions can get pretty aggravating after a while. Each time you get interrupted it means you spend several minutes trying to get your kids back on task. By letting people know you are doing school during certain hours it helps them understand you aren’t available. It doesn’t mean it will stop, it just means it will slow down.
Protect your school hours.
With one neighbor I went to the extreme of posting a sign “School in progress, please do not disturb” on my door when we started and took it down in the afternoon. She was mad, but it helped a lot. Hopefully, you won’t have to go to that extreme but having school hours gives you boundaries for other people to follow. This does not mean you have to stick exactly to those hours, but it is a guideline.
Some families find that it works better for them to have their children do their schoolwork in the evening after they get home from work. Others break it up throughout the day. You just need to find a rhythm that works for you and go with it.
I know this was long and thank you guys for sticking it out. Scheduling can really make the difference in your day. It helps a lot to make sure you keep on task, aren’t getting burnt out, and can complete what you set out to do. As you go through the year adjust as needed and go at your own pace.
Your task is to come up with a schedule or a routine. Keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate it and be flexible. Once you have an idea of your schedule, leave me a comment. I would really like to hear what you have come up with.
Coming Soon Part 5: Insightful Homeschool Room Solutions to Fit Your Space
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