A schedule or homeschool routine is a must for a new homeschooler. But it’s easy to take the wrong approach when it comes to scheduling. I chatted with our new homeschoolers on the podcast and Jolene shared her schedule with me for the blog.
New homeschoolers tend to make one of two mistakes when it comes to scheduling their homeschools.
The first mistake and the most typical for new homeschoolers is to overschedule. They plan to read piles of books, tackle lots of curriculum-prescribed activities, and participate in lots of extracurriculars too. Mom may have a new baby, a toddler, and may even be working in or outside of the home. She has read numerous books on homeschooling philosophy and her picture of homeschooling becomes idealized. She wants to do it all. If she is wise enough to realize that she needs a schedule, she will begin to plan all of the things she needs and wants to do, quickly discovering that there either isn’t enough time for it all or that the schedule makes her dread homeschooling altogether.
“Homeschooling should give us more freedom and margin than the traditional educational route. If it doesn’t, something is wrong!”
The number of things that could be wrong with your homeschooling schedule are beyond the scope of this blog post. But I can say that you are most likely taking on too much or are trying to be perfect in your application of your choices.
The second mistake new homeschoolers make is to have no schedule at all. This type of homeschooler revels in the fact that her time is her own. She and the kids can stay up as late as they like and sleep in as late as they like. No day has to look like any other. This is especially true if you are enamored with the unschooling philosophy. Dislike for schedules may be one reason you decided to homeschool in the first place. While the overscheduled homeschooler feels burdened and stressed, the under-scheduled homeschooler feels lost. Eventually the freewheeling atmosphere of the unscheduled homeschooler will lead to discontent, unruly behavior, and a sense of failure.
As I describe both the overscheduled and under-scheduled homeschooler, I write from experience. I began my homeschooling adventure without any schedule at all. Rarely did I do any actual teaching. Neither did I accomplish anything of note in my home. I felt distracted and wasn’t happy with my freelance writing progress. When I discovered Managers of Their Homes, I moved to the opposite extreme. I scheduled absolutely everything, including time for sewing – a hobby that I wasn’t fully committed to. I had my babies on a schedule too, even though I have always been a nurse-on-demand mom. It was no wonder that my “new activity every 15 minutes” schedule failed miserably. I did not understand that there was a middle ground between being over- and under-scheduled.
Jolene has a made a good start as a new homeschooler. She writes:
Since I haven’t started homeschooling yet, I don’t have a routine yet. My plan is to get the older kids off to school, breakfast, my morning clean up (unload dishwasher, wipe down counters, sweep kitchen floor, fold a load of laundry), then I’ll do our school. I honestly haven’t laid out that part yet, but am planning on Bible, read alouds, math and letter review/word building.
How to Schedule as a New Homeschooler
New homeschoolers and those with little ones are most likely to succeed with a school routine, rather than a detailed schedule. A routine means that you do the same activities in order on most days. That means that you get up, have breakfast, do chores, do Bible time, do read alouds, and so on without concern for how long you spend on each of those activities. You can definitely have a general idea in mind for how much time you want to spend, but you will not be concerned if you spend more time reading out loud or if you need to spend a little bit more time cleaning to give you peace of mind. A routine allows you to keep order in your homeschool even if someone is sick, you overslept, or if you have an ornery student. As you gain experience in your homeschooling or as your children mature, you can schedule more and more of your homeschooling activities. Even when you are using a formal schedule, however, you want to include lots of margin and free time. How easily we forget that school students have time between classes, PE time, and recess. Teachers are able to take a break for the most part during these transition or free times. The more rigid the schedule, the more resistance you will get from not only your students but yourself.
How can you begin to create a homeschooling routine that works for you? First, record what you are already doing. Every hour, write down what you have generally spent your time doing. You will, of course, record planned activities and appointments throughout the week. Once you know your starting point, you are in a much better position to make small changes. For example, perhaps you are not doing chores before you begin your study time and this routine causes you anxiety later in the day. Begin to do a basic clean up after breakfast and take some time to assess whether or not that small change is an improvement. If so, you are ready to add another small change to your routine. If not, try, try again!
You will never have a perfect routine or schedule. Your children will grow, your circumstances will change, and what worked last month may not work this month. The goal is to adapt to your students, circumstances, and your own needs to make homeschooling something you look forward to, rather than dread. The older your children are, the more you can get them involved in suggesting changes to your routine. I’ve mentioned before that my teenagers asked me to start school an hour later in the morning. I acquiesced to that request and I think it works for us. They’re happy because they like to sleep later and I’m happy because I can get more work done before they are awake.
There is No One-Size-Fits-All Schedule
There is no one-size-fits-all schedule. If a homeschooling family you know gets all their schooling done before noon and that doesn’t work for you, go through your routine with pride. If you love having a detailed schedule and your friends only use a routine, enjoy what works for you without worrying. However, if your schedule or routine causes you anxiety, stress, or has you considering putting the kids in school, it’s time for one small change. You can do this!
Are you happy with your homeschool routine or schedule? If not, what small change will you implement this week?