Once the curriculum has been chosen and the school year calendar worked out, often the next biggest hurdle facing homeschooling parents is planning their day-to-day homeschool schedules. It doesn’t matter if you’re the color-coded, scheduled-down-to-thirty-minute-intervals type or the lesson-plans-scrawled-on-post-it notes type, most of us need some sort of plan for our day. There is a lot of truth the that saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
So, how do you figure out how to schedule your homeschool day?
The answer to that question is probably as varied as the homeschool parents asking it, but there are some generalities to consider.
The ages and stages of your children
My daily schedule when I was homeschooling a 7-year-old with a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old along for the ride looks much different than it does now with a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old (and a graduated 19-year-old). Back then, we had to consider concentration levels and nap times. We did lots of hands-on, active things in the morning when the younger kids were wide-awake and needing their time with Mom.
Schoolwork that required Brianna’s concentration and my availability, but not necessarily my one-on-one involvement were done after the younger two had expended some energy and were ready for a quiet activity, like watching a 30 minute DVD or playing on their own in our basement playroom/schoolroom.
Things that needed quiet focus and one-on-one time with Mom were doing during the younger siblings’ nap times.
These days, our schedules are much more flexible. The general idea is that we do things that don’t require as much focused attention in the mornings before lunch when my night-owls are still working on getting coherent. Immediately after lunch is when we do the subjects that they work on together, such as history and science.
I schedule hands-on activities, such as science labs, as the last thing the kids do before they go off to do their independent work. Anything they are expected to do on their own, such as math and reading, is saved for the end of the school day so that they can work on those things at their own pace.
Your family’s schedule
During our 12 years of homeschooling, my husband has worked first, second, and third shifts and our schedule has been adjusted accordingly. Our favorite, by far, is a regular first shift schedule, but it was nice not to have to worry about starting school until after Dad left for work when he was on second.
If your family has an atypical schedule, that can be taken into account when scheduling your homeschool day. It’s so nice that school doesn’t have to happen only between the hours of 8 and 3 – or even only Monday through Friday!
Your family’s natural rhythms
If you’ve hung around here any at all, you probably know that we’re not that homeschool family who is up and finished with school by noon. If you are, that’s great! (And, I’m a little envious.) If you’re not, though, that’s okay. One of my favorite things about homeschool scheduling is that we can take our family’s natural wake and sleep times into consideration when planning.
This year, for a number of reasons, I’ve been working on moving us to an earlier start time. Our “early” would still be considered late by many, but we don’t care. It works well for us and allows my kids to do the tasks that require the most brain-power at their optimal times.
My oldest used to do her schoolwork in the wee hours of the morning – before going to bed for the night – because that’s when she was most productive. If you’ve got kids who are at their best in the early morning hours, you’ll want to take that into consideration as you plan your schedule.
Outside classes and co-ops
Another scheduling consideration is outside classes and co-ops. When Josh and Megan were little, they took a homeschool music class. Because they were in two separate classes, it often took up a good portion of our Wednesday and that was something that I took into account when planning my schedule. There is no sense in putting more on the planner than we are going to be able to do. That just results in frustration for everyone.
For a couple of years, I was able to schedule Brianna’s art class during the time that we were out. That worked perfectly. Wednesday became our day for nature study (at a nearby nature center), P.E. (with friends in the gym of the church where music class met), fine arts, and that much-needed socialization (for the kids and me!).
Thankfully, homeschooling allows for a flexible schedule that can be designed to meet your family’s needs. Whatever your scheduling style, most of us need some sort of framework to ensure that we’re not so flexible that our kids suffer academically. As I have often told my kids, it doesn’t matter when you get it done, as long as it gets done.
What considerations have played into your family’s schedule that I haven’t covered here?