Let’s be honest. Sometimes homeschooling feels like drudgery – for our children and us. Did you know that just one or two simple schedule tweaks can have a huge impact on your homeschool?
I’ve seen in play out in our homes time and again. Just a slight change can result in a huge improvement in my kids’ attitudes, the flow of our day, the quality of their work, and our general satisfaction with school.
So, if there has been too much grumbling in your homeschool lately (from you and the kids), try these simple schedule tweaks to see if attitudes improve.
Give Your Kids Control of Their Schedule
Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. Giving kids control of their schedule sounds like the recipe for too much screen time and sleeping in. But give it a try. You might be surprised.
Letting kids take charge of their schedule will look different depending on their age and maturity level. For young children, it may mean giving them choices by asking, “What do you want to do next – math or spelling?”
For upper-elementary to middle school ages, you might want to try giving them daily or weekly assignment sheets and allowing them to choose the order (or the days) in which they complete their schoolwork. Some kids may opt to devote an entire day to a single subject, such as science, with the goal of finishing all their work by the end of the week.
Work crates are ideal for allowing kids to direct their own schedule. I used a milk crate with hanging file folders for each subject. I’d load up the crates before school each day or at the beginning of the week, and the kids would work through the assignments at their own pace. My oldest used her work crate all the way through high school.
Most high school students should be able to use either the assignment sheet or work crate method responsibly or use a planner to write out their own weekly schedule.
Sync Your Schedule with your Kids’ Rhythms
Sometimes our schedules don’t work because they’re not in sync with our natural cycles of alertness and productivity. It took me awhile, but I learned that our days were much more productive if I let my kids sleep in and planned the majority of our school day for after lunch. They would get up and do subjects that didn’t take a great deal of concentration. Then, after lunch, we’d tackle the other subjects.
I also learned that read-alouds after lunch were pretty much a sure-fire recipe for putting us all to sleep. Early afternoons required active learning. Read-alouds worked best before lunch when everyone was still trying to get their brains going.
My teens have the freedom to set their own hours as long as they complete their work each week. Megan, my night owl, prefers to work late at night when the house is quiet. Josh listens to podcasts on his breaks at work and prefers to complete written assignments when he comes home from work in the mornings.
Use Block Schedules
Block schedules can work great for subjects that require more time such as lab sciences or hands-on history projects. Instead of spending a little time on these subjects each day, you break them up into two or three longer study periods each week.
We used to do history on Mondays and Wednesdays and science on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Block scheduling meant that we could delve into a subject without feeling that we had to rush through it so we could move on to the next thing and not be doing school at midnight each night.
The time to focus on just a few subjects a day, rather than trying to cram in a little bit of everything helped us all to feel less stressed, scattered and rushed. And the kids were willing to invest more time into each with little or no complaint.
Add in Loop Schedules
Loop scheduling is a fantastic solution for all those little extras that you want to include in your homeschool. Just keep a running list of the activities you want to complete and set aside time for them in your weekly schedule.
You might have art, cooking, music, photography, poetry, and geography on your loop schedule list. Then, you have an hour set aside on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week. You would do art on Monday, cooking on Wednesday, and photography on Friday. If you wind up going on a field trip on Friday, you can bump photography to Monday and pick up with poetry on Wednesday.
Loop scheduling allows you to create room in your schedule for the fun studies and activities that you want to include in your homeschool without the stress of trying to squeeze them in every day.
Try a Four-Day Week
Don’t quit reading yet. I’m not suggesting that you knock off school one day a week or do school all year long to get your state-required days in. I am suggesting that you only schedule core subjects four days each week. You can still count five days toward you attendance schedule because you’ll still be doing educational activities on that day.
Use the fifth day for field trips, enrichment activities, co-op classes, or a catch-up day. It took so much pressure off of us when I started scheduling a catch-up day into each week.
If the kids get behind on their work, they can use Friday (though the catch-up day can be whichever works with your schedule) to get caught up. If they are caught up, they can do other things like read, pursue hobbies, do enrichment activities, or we can take a field trip.
When they were younger, Josh and Megan had music class on Wednesdays and Brianna had an art class. I didn’t schedule any core classes on Wednesday, but we did go to a nearby nature preserve in between classes for nature study. We’d also squeeze in other fun, educational activities. It was our enrichment activity day back before I had a name for it.
These are just a few simple tweaks that we made to our homeschool schedule that had a huge impact on saving our sanity.
What tweaks have you made to your homeschool schedule that have made schooling a smoother process?