Today we're talking about creating a schedule for your homeschool day. Now before I jump in, I want to be honest with you about something. Really honest. I haven't always been the most structured of people when it comes to schedules. I tend to be late (although I’m working on that!). And I lean more toward spontaneity and flexibility and "let's just see how it all comes together."
In many ways, this was a part of my own patterning. I was a chronic procrastinator, always waiting until the last minute to meet any and all deadlines. I carried that over into my homeschooling and quickly found that that didn't go as well with three young children.
The problem with homeschooling and “going with the flow,” is that it can easily become all-consuming. The homeschool day can go on and on and on and take forever to get through. Or worse--it can be ignored all together.
I soon found that I was constantly trying to reel everyone in to get it all done at the last minute, which often left us stressed and overwhelmed. It also negatively affected my child with special needs, who really needed a bit more structure and routine in order to anticipate the events of the day.
After trying loose checklists and then going to the other extreme with strict homeschool schedules, I finally landed somewhere in the middle, leaving enough margin for the daily challenges, along with enough structure to include all of the things that mattered most.
A daily homeschool schedule serves as a guide, and although you may not always follow it exactly, it still provides a predictable rhythm that keeps everyone moving in the same direction. Here's how to put together a plan that works for you and your family.
Make a list.
Take a few minutes to list all of the things that you would like to get done in a homeschool day. This can include individual school subjects, Morning Time, chores, morning routines, lunch, outdoor play, tidy up, quiet time, screen time, handicrafts, snacks, etc.
Write whatever is important to you and your family on index cards so that you can easily move things around when creating your schedule. Or print the Agenda Cards and choose the ones that work for you.
*Include quiet time.
I believe that the best kept secret of all homeschoolers is Quiet Time. Each day, many homeschoolers block off 1-3 hours to regroup and rest. If you have infants or toddlers, the best time to schedule this would be during their nap time. The older children can then go to their rooms to enjoy the quiet as well.
Group the tasks.
Take a look at your list and see if there are any tasks that can be grouped together. If you listed reading, writing, math, for example, could you group them as Independent Studies? Or do you prefer to list each one separately?
What about history, science, art, and music? Do you want to list the specific subjects each day? Or group it all as Group Studies? You can then pick and choose which ones to cover or loop through on certain days. Think about what makes the most sense to you.
In our homeschool, this is how we grouped some of our tasks last year:
Bible & Breakfast
Morning Time (includes read alouds, poetry, hymns, recitation, etc.)
Group Studies (includes history, science, art, or music and varies by day)
Sequence the tasks.
The next thing you will want to do is sequence your homeschool tasks in an order that works best for you and your family. Consider balancing more challenging subjects with easier ones, such as reading, followed by art, and then math. Or if your child prefers to get the more challenging subjects done first, then schedule those first. Also, make sure to put breaks in between if needed.
Another thing to consider is the outdoor time. We like to schedule outdoor play early in the day during the summer, but later in the afternoon in the winter. Jot down the sequence of activities that work for you on a sheet of paper. Expect things to shift and change throughout the year, so store your index cards in a safe place to allow for easy scheduling at a later time.
Create time frames or time blocks.
The next thing you’ll want to do is write down how much time each activity or task will take to complete. If you choose to implement homeschool routines using time frames, simply write down the amount of time you want to spend on each activity on the pink line of the Agenda Cards or in the "Time" column of the Homeschool Schedule Form. Then, set a timer throughout the day to keep you on task as you move through each activity.
Time Frames work especially well when you have babies, toddlers, or more independent learners. These allow for more flexibility throughout the day but offer the structure needed to take care of the most important things.
Time Blocks, on the other hand, lock you in to a specific time in order to keep you on task. This may work better once the children are older, or if you find you need the structure to keep you more motivated.
If you choose to use Time Blocks, then designate an hour or two for each group of tasks. Make sure to add some extra time for margin. For example, if Morning Time typically takes about 20 minutes to complete, then allow 30-45 minutes. This will allow you to stay on track—even if life happens along the way—and it will.
For Time Blocks, write the starting time for each activity on the pink line of the Agenda Cards.
If you choose to use the Homeschool Schedule Form, write the scheduled time along with the specific task.
Post Your Schedule
The last thing you need to do is post your schedule for easy reference. When we used Agenda Cards in our homeschool, I laminated and cut out each card, then stuck magnetic tape on the back. I then posted these cards on our refrigerator at the beginning of each day. As we completed the tasks, we took down the cards until all of them were finished and taken down. This was a great visual for the children to see their progress throughout the day.
As my children got older, I found that a single-page laminated schedule was just as effective. I posted this at the beginning of each day, and the children took turns writing the day of the week and the date. We could then check off each activity as it was completed.
Homeschooling offers multiple opportunities for extra-curricular activities, playdates, and more, and you will soon find that your schedule will vary from day to day. Click on this post for a step-by-step video on weekly planning.
Happy Homeschool Planning, Friend!