By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
We began homeschooling four years ago when my oldest son entered Kindergarten. Every new homeschooling year the daily homeschool schedule that we have followed has changed dramatically.
As our kids have grown, entered new grades, and over some years we have even added members to the family; there has been a new set of needs we have needed to accommodate. So far for us that has meant that what we did last year can’t work this year.
This doesn’t mean you have to keep reinventing the wheel with each new season but it does mean that careful consideration is required for how you structure your family's time.
Homeschool comes with little to no one-size-fits all method for how you should get things done. Your home is unique and you as a homeschool parent have the privilege of determining the best way to meet the needs that exist in your home.
This is both the greatest joy and headache of being a homeschooler! Sometimes it would just be easier if someone else could come in and tell us exactly how to do it all.
The good news is that while you have to be the one to decide how to structure your family’s routine; there are so many tools out there that can help empower and inspire you.
Here are 3 ideas on how you can create a simple homeschooling schedule that will work well for you, and some resources that could be of huge help to your family!
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1. Start by Identifying the Needs and Goals for Your Homeschool Schedule
Each year the needs of your kids will change. When I began homeschooling my oldest was 5, my middle son was three, and my youngest was a baby.
I knew that the baby and toddler required attention in the mornings but napped well in the afternoon. The needs of my youngest kids meant that for that season it worked best for school to be done during the afternoon hours.
With each year my kids have each gotten older and naptime is now a thing of the past. Currently, mornings are when we do our best work and afternoons are reserved for outings, chores, relaxation, and a time to catch up on any school work we have missed.
The needs in our home have changed dramatically over the past four years and our routine has adjusted to fit our current season of life accordingly.
The goals I have set for each year have changed so much too! At the start the idea was to survive (I knew year one was going to be hard) but beyond that one of the reasons I elected to homeschool him was so that he still had ample time in the day to play and explore.
Our days only included 1 to 2 hours of sit-down “school work.” We spent our mornings exploring the outdoors, learning with friends, going to parks, and going on lots of field trips.
Play and exploration are still an important value in our home but as my kids have grown we have adjusted our routine to make more time for formal school time. This change has happened because excelling in reading, math, writing, and other subjects is also an important goal for us to reach in our home.
Additionally, the time it takes to get through three kids' daily lessons is much greater than what it took to sit one-on-one to complete reading and math with my Kindergartener.
Goals and needs should inform what your daily homeschool routine looks like.
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2. Create a Weekly Routine but Remain Flexible
Over the summer, while we are taking a break from our formal school routine, I always take time to write out what I would like our weeks to include once we start the next school year. I simply write out on paper Monday through Friday and then write exactly what I hope for us to accomplish on each other those days during a normal week. I even go as far as to write what time of the day I want to get each task done.
This helps me to wrap my mind around what our days should look like. It also gives a more clear idea of how we are going to meet everyone’s needs in a week as well as achieve the goals we have set for the school year.
I have learned that this planning is so helpful but flexibility has to be built into every plan you make!
It never fails that some weeks an appointment pops up and math has to be pushed back or a great chance to be with friends ends up trumping our school plans for the day.
Homeschooling is a family-affair and that means that you have to make sure your daily goals reflect the fact that things like dentist appointments or toddler tantrums may get in the way of what you had planned.
Unplanned fun can also be a good reason to throw away the day's plan! One of the best pieces of advice I have ever read about homeschooling is to build in some “just-because-you-can-days” in your routine!
These are days that you plan to forego your lessons to do something exciting together just because you can. These are the moments that make the choice to homeschool feel magical and help to lighten the weight that can start to bear down on you after spending too many days in a row stuck at home together chained to your lessons.
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3. Create or Find an Organizational Tool for Your Home That Works for You
There are so many great products available that can help you keep your days organized! Sometimes the quantity of what is available to you is what makes finding the right one for you so hard. The struggle to decide on which planner to buy is real!
In years when I couldn’t find a planner that I loved, I decided to use Google Docs to create a homeschool chart that filled in what I thought our schedule would look like. Don’t feel like you have to be limited to what you see for sale. You can be as simple or creative as you want!
There are some wonderful free printable homeschool planners that you can utilize too. The Living Life & Learning blog offers a ton of great free planning tools. She has resources broken down by grade level, weekly planners, daily planners, and more!
Maple Planners also offers a free download for an homeschool planner you can use for the whole year. These freebies are an easy and cost-effective way to help you stay organized over the course of your homeschool year.
If you are looking for a really great planner to buy, this year I was gifted The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, and I love it! It has space for you to write in everything you did or plan to do for the week. There are motivational verses and a place for you to write down memories, vision, and special verses for each week. There is space for you to set out a yearly plan, monthly plan, and weekly plans!
One tip about planning that has helped me avoid getting overwhelmed by the idea that we aren’t doing enough or the feeling that we have too much on our plates is that most days I go back and fill in what we did that day rather than write ahead into my planner what I think we should do that day.
After the initial time I spend at the start of the year conceptualizing what I want our weeks to look like, the daily log is more of a way to keep a record of what we have accomplished.
This helps me not feel too defeated when my plans get foiled by unexpected events. Some days math takes all day and some of our reading lessons gets left for another day… and that is the beauty of homeschool. We work at our family’s pace and that is okay!
When I worked as a public-school teacher, we had to make weekly lesson plans, and almost every week we never had time to complete at least half of what I had planned!
Every teacher knew that what we hoped for and the reality of tending to a class were always two very different things. This is also so true in our homes.
My encouragement to you is to plan so you are diligent and prepared for the work that is teaching your children but allow grace to cover all the days that things don’t end up going as you plan.
As you work to prepare your homeschool routine, remember that the work you are doing is holy work! Taking time to pray over what you include in your days, months, and school year is such an important step in finding a good rhythm for your days.
Each year I ask God to provide us with a verse to guide our studies for the year.
This year our verse was Philipians 4:8 which says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
The heart of home education is taking the time to allow your children to explore the lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy things that God has gifted us in this world. May this idea help guide you as you continue on in your homeschool journey.
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