Schedules. Organization. For some people it comes naturally, others not so much. When it comes to scheduling your homeschool day and year I’ve found some organization is necessary to keep things running smoothly. This can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re new to homeschooling. Even those who’ve done it for years need to change things up from time to time. Today I’m going to give a few ideas to help in the area of homeschool schedules.
After eleven years of homeschooling I’ve tried several different approaches. Of course, in the last eleven years our family has gone through different seasons of life. I think that makes a big difference. Your schedule will be as individualized as your family. What’s right for your friend may not be right for you.
1. Come up with family values, goals and vision.
Before even thinking about a schedule it’s a good idea to come up with why your family is homeschooling. What do you want you and your children to get out of this? What is important to your family? What kind of values do you want your family to have? Ask yourself what kind of a family you want to be then spend your time doing that. When you lay the ground work ahead of time, by coming up with your values, goals and vision as a family, it will be easier to know what to say yes to and what to say no to. Also, remember that as your family grows your schedule will change too. Be sure to revisit your family values, goals and vision and see if that still fits your family. Every semester I look at the schedule to see what, if any, changes need to be made.
2. The yearly schedule
When I first started homeschooling I went with the schedule the public schools have. Each year, as our family grew and changed, I customized it a little more. It was so freeing to realize I didn’t have to have the same schedule as the public schools. Feel free with your homeschool to do whatever works best for your family. Japanese children start their school year in April, take off six weeks from mid-July through August then go back to school in September to begin their second semester. Their school year ends in March. Talk about out-of-the-box from the American way of thinking. My only advice is check with your state laws to see if there are boundaries already set in the law. Otherwise make it your own.
Every year I pray over our school year. I believe the Lord helps me figure out what works best for us. Two years ago I had an idea to have a six week-one week schedule. I school for six weeks then take a week off. School for six more than take one off. At summer break we take six weeks off.
Last year I found out that some families do the six week-one week schedule because God created the world in six days and for one day He rested. By schooling this way we are following the same pattern of work six, rest one. I thought that was super cool because we are a family that observes the Sabbath. (For more on how we observe the Sabbath see my post from Dec. 2013 called A Day Off https://shiningtheloveofjesus.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/a-day-off/) This falls right in line with our values. I didn’t realize this when we started it. I totally believe the Lord was guiding me in this. How cool!
3. Summer and Winter breaks
Many parents see their children forgetting what they learned in school over summer and Christmas breaks. Because of that homeschool families vary widely on how long they take for breaks, if they take one at all. I also noticed this forgetful trend in my kids, especially in summer. Then I spent several weeks reviewing everything at the beginning of the school year. That was not working for me. So I tried year-round school for awhile with only a couple of weeks for a break. That didn’t work for me either. I found I needed more of a break. So now we have a six week summer break.
If you read my last post you know two of my kids are dyslexic. I really struggled with taking six weeks off. It seemed so long and the kids have worked so hard to get where they are. I’d hate for them to go backwards in their learning. Two things put my mind at ease. First, when I did this last year I actually found that my son, who has more severe dyslexia, did awesome when we got back to school. That first week back it’s like his mind was so well rested it jumped into action. He did better on his timed drills than usual and he was ready to get back to learning. I believe all minds need to rest. Not to mention mama needs the break. We are not robots. God set up rest for a reason. He believes in it so much He made it as one of the commandments and He modeled it for us in the seventh day of creation, although He didn’t need to rest. Second, I pray about how to set up the school year and if this is the way the Lord is leading me I’m going to trust Him. He knows our needs.
I will say during the summer I have the kids read a story to me, not every day but for sure every week. They also do some math. I try to make it fun during the summer. Also we do a little review at the beginning of the school year but it’s much less with only six weeks off than it was with three months off.
When we start school again I work the kids in slowly. Whichever child needs the most attention I start with first and just with the basic subjects: Math, Reading and whatever subject he or she is weakest in or would like to spend more time on. The next week I add another child with the same idea on subjects and so on until all the children are back in the books. I do it that way for my sake just as much as for theirs. I used to have all of them start on the same day but I found I was getting very anxious about it. So much so that for at least a week before, my heart would beat weird and I’d feel dizzy. It was ridiculous. Since I’ve worked them in slowly it has also helped me relax. It helps me to remember God has equipped me to do this. We are going to be fine.
For Christmas break we have done different things as well. We’ve taken off just Christmas through New Years but I found I wasn’t enjoying the holiday like I wanted to with my kids. We’ve also gone to light schooling, just basic subjects and half days with the text books. Then Christmas crafts, baking or other Christmas stuff the other half of the day. That was nice because I got to enjoy the preparations for Christmas. A couple years ago we started making gifts for each other. These were nice homemade gifts. You can catch a glimpse of them from my post Homemade Christmas https://shiningtheloveofjesus.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/homemade-christmas/ After Thanksgiving we focused on the projects. I think they played some math games on the computer to keep their skills fresh and read me short stories otherwise it was just the projects. That year the kids learned to sew, use the saw, use the hot glue gun and think of others. It really surprised me how much we all liked it and how much they learned. It wasn’t text-book learning but they still learned.
4. The daily schedule
Our daily homeschool schedule varies every year. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way of doing it but there are some tips I’ve found helpful. The first class we have is Bible class. This remains the same every year. All the kids do this class together. While it can be challenging to do such a wide age range at once it’s been good. (My oldest and youngest are eight years apart.) I enjoy the challenge (most of the time) and the younger ones pick up more than you think they would.
Next, if I have a younger child, say preschool through 1st grade, I noticed it was best for me to start the school day with them. They kept interrupting to get my attention if I made them wait. When I start with them first they get one-on-one time with mom and the rest of the day they obeyed me better.
When I had children that napped, I would wait until that child napped to do the schooling with my older children that required more of my time or attention. You know, one of those subjects that’s more difficult for them to understand. Once my kids outgrew naps I’d take note when my patience is the strongest and tackle those difficult subjects then. I put the easy stuff at the end of the day when I’m tapped out.
A few years ago I took the summer to notice the natural patterns of the kids. Who slept in? Who was up and ready to go first? I schooled the early birds first and give the others time to wake up and get moving. Otherwise the schedule gets slowed down for everyone when they have to wait for a sibling. Is there one child who gets crabbier before lunch than the others? Wait to school them until after lunch, at least with subjects that take more time and brain power. Our kitchen is right next to our schoolroom so if the kids just have a review page in Math I have them do their Math review sheet at the same time while I make lunch. That way I can pop in on them and help them when needed. That was a time saver for me. If you can clump a few of your kids together to do school that’s a good idea too. Just make sure they are getting the individualized attention they need from you.
A few last thoughts.
My last and most important tip is to pray about your schedule. Whether it’s the daily or yearly schedule. God knows what peeks and valleys your family will go through this year. He knows what you should hunker down on and what you should not include. Remember there are seasons to all things. Maybe it will work for you to go to a co-op for a few years but there may come a time when that season is over. If the Lord’s points you in a direction be faithful to follow it.
A schedule is a tool used to help achieve your homeschool goals. It helps you stay focused and shows you your next task. It is not a chain to bind you or a law you must follow. Stay dedicated to schooling your kids but stay flexible. We all know life doesn’t always go as planned. Have realistic expectations. When I do my daily schedule I never put times. Just which student gets which subject. The clock does not rule the schedule, you do.
God bless you on your homeschool journey.