I’ll get right to the most important tip I have after more than a decade of homeschooling: schedule your homeschool to suit you. If you prefer structure, consider scheduling by the clock. If you like routines, consider scheduling time blocks. If you prefer freedom, consider a weekly to-do list.
A few posts ago, I wrote on Planning Your Homeschool to fit your family. You’ve asked yourself What’s My Ideal School Day?, and you’ve asked yourself what’s the goal and what’s working. Now, you’re ready for scheduling your homeschool. But how?
My brother homeschools also, and in his home, there is a schedule posted on the wall above the kitchen table. The children’s names are at the top of the poster, and in the spaces below each name, there are tasks written for every 15 minutes. Each child wears a watch with an alarm, and when they hear the alarm’s ding, they move on to the next task.
I would die.
I would totally fail at that schedule; I could maybe keep it for an hour, and then I’d get distracted by a butterfly – literally, a butterfly could flitter by the window, and I’d grab a kid and watch it for longer than our 15 minute time slot. I’ve tried it – to be scheduled to the 1/2 hour, then to the hour, and it’s just not – for me. But it’s awesome that it’s for him! And maybe it’s just the schedule for you!
the clock schedule, the block schedule & the to-do LIST
The Clock Schedule
Break your waking hours into time increments. My brother schedules to the 15 minutes, but I would suggest something less … um, strenuous…when starting out. Try scheduling to the 30 minute marks; maybe even to the hour (but only do this if you generalize the task, eg. “practical skills,” without detail. It’s too difficult for children to stick to a task for a full hour).
This schedule requires the most planning on the teacher’s part, as each lesson must be laid out or the student won’t know what to do during their time slot. It’s a schedule that large families often prefer, as they may have a range of ages and need to balance baby-raising with homeschooling. In the example below, I added times for taking care of the baby or preschooler, so you can see how that works in larger families like my brother’s.
|care for & read to the baby
|math: lesson XXII
|math: lesson XIV
|literature: Tom Sawyer, read pages 112-117
|writing: copywork, The Road Not Taken
|help the preschooler with his writing
That doesn’t look so hard, does it? Maybe even I could work with a schedule like that.
The Block Schedule
With the Block Schedule, you think of your goals for the next quarter (keep your annual goals in mind, but it’s easiest to work 3 months at a time.)
In 3 months, what do you want accomplished? For example, we want John to read Tom Sawyer.
Break the 3 month goal down into three monthly goals (1/3 of the book per month).
Next, break the monthly goals down into four weekly goals (a certain number of pages read each week).
Okay, so it’s week 1 and you know that sometime in this week, you’ll read a certain number of pages from Tom Sawyer until you’ve reached the goal for the week.
You do the same for other subjects, and other project goals.
You now have a handful of goals for the week. It’s time to plug the weekly goals into time blocks. Your time blocks are about 30-90 minutes long each.
Try to do 1-3 blocks per day (but do what works for you).
This schedule is flexible, so I can’t tell you exactly how to do it. You’ll make it work for you. You can split math, for example, into two or three 30-minute time blocks. Or, hey, maybe you’re super intense and can do the week’s math in one 90-minute time block!
|John: This Week’s
|30 minutes math lesson
|60 minutes literature
|(30 minutes math lesson)
|30 minutes nature journaling (art/science)
Here is what the time block schedule may look like on paper. Our example day is split up into three possible block slots: morning (just one in our example, but you may wish to do 2-3), afternoon I, and afternoon II. You could also – especially for a teenager – do blocks in the evening hours.
John’s time blocks are all written in the right margin. We look at our schedule of appointments for this week, and see that we have a time block free for Wednesday in the later afternoon. We grab one of the time blocks in the right margin and put it into the day/time block where it could fit.
On Wednesday afternoon, around, say, 3pm, John sets a timer for 30 minutes and sits down to work on his math. Nothing gets to interrupt his time block. Even wiggly kids will surprise you with their concentration, knowing the timer is ticking and the time is limited.
I hope this gives you enough of an example for you to take this schedule and make it your own. The time block system is very effective and is one many entrepreneurs use to be productive with their days while enjoying a schedule that’s not rigid.
The To-Do List “Schedule”
I put quotation marks around “schedule” for this one, because it’s really just a to-do list. And those of us who prefer it rebel at words like “schedule.” No, we haven’t grown up yet. Then again, we have because we realize who we are and how we do best at homeschooling.
This schedule may be freely completed whenever the child (or you) prefers. This “schedule” would make some of you break out in hives. Can the teen sleep until noon? Yes, she can! (hey, there’s a study that okayed it). A friend called and wants to have a beach day today because the sun is shining. May we? We may!
Are we completely free? Not completely. We have a to do list of tasks to complete this week, and we must complete them by ____ day (ours ends on Saturday, but the new one doesn’t begin until Monday).
Those who object to our freedom have said “they won’t be able to hold down jobs/college“. Our graduated three, who are all working full-time jobs and two are in university classes, prove those people wrong. Who cares what they say anyway? We made a schedule to suit us.
I have our daughter’s To-Do “Schedule” set up in Trello, where she and I can access the lists. She’ll take a ‘to-do’ from the This Week column, slide it into Today, or she’ll simply slide it into Completed This Week as she completes it. The This Week column should be emptied and entirely in Completed This Week by the end of Saturday.
On Saturday evening or Sunday, I change the This Week’s Focus column as needed, and add “to-dos” to the This Week column, or (preferably), she does it! I also keep a Completed Last Week column, as that’s encouraging to me to see, but it’s not necessary.
On Deck is our column to place things we want to remember to study in the future.
Do the schedule that works for you
Remember, find a schedule that suits you and your family. It doesn’t need to impress anyone else. It simply needs to move your child forward in the path of learning.
Don’t be afraid to try different schedules out. When we were homeschooling four children, 7-1/2 years apart from eldest to youngest, and they were spread out in grades from preschool to middle school, or elementary to high school, I usually used the Block Schedule, above (I attempted the Clock Schedule repeatedly until the blessed day I realized who I was and how I best operate). Once the kids were in their mostly-independent-study years – their teen years – I used the To-Do List “Schedule”.