I almost said schedule. But, it is rarely a true schedule. Maybe if you have one child. Maybe if you are very structure driven people. Maybe if you are using virtual resources that dictate a schedule.
But, for us, homeschooling is a routine, a framework for our day rather than a true schedule. As with most areas of homeschooling, there are a million ways to do this and you might come up with the 1,000,001 way. Not a right or wrong.
First, questions to ask yourself:
- What does our daily routine already involve (number of people in household, waking time, work schedules, vacation plans, health concerns, appointments, etc.)?
- What are my priorities in homeschooling (get these in before lunch, or during your family’s prime time)?
- How independent our my kids about their school work?
- What habits do I want to help my kids develop?
- Are we morning people or evening people?
- What outside sources am I going to use in our homeschool?
Once you have taken some time to think through, and maybe talk through as a family, those different issues you are ready to put your schedule together.
In general terms, the school year spans roughly 36 weeks, or about 180 days. That leaves 16 weeks a year with no school.
As the teacher, school administrator, principal, superintendent, guidance counselor, and department head, you can decide how to fit in those 180 days. You can start in January or September or November. You can finish in June or May or December.
There are many, many ways to do this and we have tried most of them over the years.
Traditional – Many people for a variety of reasons simply grab the local public school’s schedule and duplicate their days in person and off school for their homeschool schedule. This is easy, gets the job done, and means your kids won’t complain about seeing kids playing outside while they press on inside.
Year round – This is the complete opposite of the traditional plan of taking 12-14 weeks off every summer and helps your family settle into a regular routine of school, while still allow lots of days off here and there. Maybe you school 4 days every week all year and take a week off four times throughout the year. Or, maybe you take a month of three different times throughout the year, or two weeks 8 different times, or whatever. “Year round” generally just means you don’t take three months off in the summer.
Cycle schooling – This is kind of an off shoot of year round schooling as it chips away at the amount of time taken off in the summer. Some people have found that they can really get high quality work done in six week chunks. So, they school six weeks and then take a week off, or a week and a half. School six weeks, take a week off. Repeat 6 times and you have a school year that took 41 weeks to complete and still leaves you with an 11 week summer. Any combination of on again, off again schooling can work in this way.
Challenges of following a non traditional schedule include:
- Dirty looks from complete strangers because your kids aren’t in school when they are “supposed to be.”
- Questions from your kids about why they have to do school when no one else is.
- Fatigue midway through 8 weeks of solid schooling.
- If you take a month off you can still experience some academic sliding and even after two weeks there is a little adjustment as you return to your daily school routine.
Find what works for you, and enjoy it. Or, try one way, and keep trying new ways until you find one you like. And, don’t feel locked into it. For a few years, schooling year round might be fantastic, then if you start outsourcing some subjects, you might find that your weeks off don’t line up with enrolled classes. No right way to do it, just get your subjects covered and keep trucking on toward graduation.
I tackled the easy one first. Yearly schedules are way easier to determine than your daily schedule. My yearly schedule has settled into a traditional one for the past 6-8 years, but our daily schedule continues to change each year, and sometimes each semester.
Start the day with your highest priorities. We begin our day with a group Bible and history time. I read aloud, we usually have some memory work that we work on as a group, we discuss what we read, and we start our day. Together.
Figure out your prime time for productivity. Maybe it’s not morning. Maybe its evening. Maybe your house does better sleeping until 10 and starting after a late breakfast. Maybe you love the early morning and will start school at 7 (that is way easier when you don’t have to pack lunches and catch a bus). Find the rhythm of your home and embrace it with your homeschool.
Encourage independent work. My kids each get a weekly assignment sheet that they check off and keeps us all on track. I still walk through their English and math lessons with them, and usually their science as well. Then, they work on their own, bringing questions to me as needed. I’m rarely sitting around bored, but as my kids get older, our school days have gotten shorter as they don’t rely on me quite as much.
There is no universal best way to structure your school day. We generally do Bible/history from 9-10:15; individual subjects (math, English, etc.) until noonish; afternoons for other group discussions, reading, PE, art, science, and everything else I feel like throwing in or throwing out. Grade schoolers are generally shortly after lunch, and my high schoolers are usually done a couple hours later, but sometimes they like to take breaks or start early and you can find them doing school at 7:30 am or at 7:30 pm, although they can stop as they get tired and work whenever they are fresh. We definitely don’t punch a clock.
Leave time for passions. My kids find a lot of discretionary time in their days and fill it as they see fit once their assigned work (and chores) is done. My ten year old loves to read. So, some days he will get into a book (neglecting his other work . . .) and read for hours on end. The next day he will make up for it and do double lessons. Others are into art, digital projects, fitness, creating, or a passing phase. The flexibility of homeschooling lets them pick how to fill their time and grow their interests in doing so. Before their weekend truly begins, they must have completed their weekly assigned work, but they have some flex how and when they work Monday through Friday.
Chores. Maybe that doesn’t sound like school, but maybe if you found your family all at home more the past few months you understand. Homeschoolers tend to do more chores than other kids their age (I have only anecdotal evidence for this). We are home all day. We all eat there three meals a day, most days. We use the bathroom at home. We drag school books all over the house. Our house is lived in 24/7. Because of this, our chore list is well beyond my realm of personal responsibility. They clean the bathrooms and have chores related to meals. It’s nothing excessive, but it is a necessity of having many people using the space for so much of each day. Therefore, chores become part of our daily school routine as well.
Find your groove, tweak as often as necessary.