As a single work from home mom that homeschools, I have a LOT on my plate. I have four boys (13, 12, 9, and 9) and each one has their own strengths and weaknesses. In order to make sure everyone gets their needs met, I create a new homeschool schedule each year. We homeschool year-round with a 4 week break during the summer and another from Thanksgiving to after Christmas, so I start by planning out what weeks we will do school. Our state requires 148 days, but we plan for 200. If something comes up, we can take the time off. If someone (or everyone) gets sick, we don't have to worry about making it up.
Once I have our year tentatively planned out, I work on our daily schedule. We allot a certain amount of time for school each day, except Sunday. For 6 weeks in the fall & spring, they all attend enrichment classes with our local homeschool assistance program on Friday afternoons, so we plan around that. This last year, they all took sign language and origami on Thursday afternoons for another 6 weeks. They also work with family for other subjects. My sister handles art & music, because I'm tone deaf & all four boys draw better than I do, so her schedule has to be accommodated too.
We used to have a strict schedule. We set aside 30-45 minutes per subject and used an egg timer to signal when each one is done. Now, I plan out lessons for the week in my homeschool curriculum binder (I will be sharing how I have mine set up once this year's is done) in pencil, so I can easily change it if we didn't get something done or moved faster than I anticipated. I also have a spreadsheet that helps me track how many pages/lessons per day/week we need to do for each subject. Some of the kids have independent work and I update records each week so they know what they need to accomplish each day to stay on track.
One thing all homeschooling parents must keep in mind: it's okay to change your schedule or routine throughout the year in order to find what works best for your family. You may need a different daily schedule in the winter, when shorter days seem to create shorter tempers, then during the warmer months when the kids are more inclined to hurry through their lessons to get outside. A change does not mean failure; adapting to change is just another life lesson!
Here are some tips on creating a schedule that works for you and your family.
Determine how many hours per day you want to school
Just because other school environments start at 8am and end at 3pm doesn’t mean your home school has to be in the same structure or the same hours each day or even set days each week. Are there days each week you wish to work only 2-3 hours on school and spend the rest running errands, cleaning or just spending time as a family? Do you work outside the home? Maybe you want Dad to handle a subject on the weekend? Decide from the beginning the max number of hours per day you want to be schooling and then adapt each day to fit individual needs. Make sure you know your state law – some track days of schoolwork & some require a particular number of hours per year.
Setup Time Blocks that Work for Your Student and Family
If you have younger children to attend to as well as your school-aged student, setting up smaller time blocks for assignments may be best. We work in 30-45 minute intervals because I may get pulled away to help someone else with something. Older students can work easily in the traditional 45-50 minute window or perhaps a child with special needs would also require shorter work times.
Choose how many subjects per day you feel you can adequately work with
Being the sole educator for your children leaves you with the ability to attend to their individual needs better than in a large classroom in many cases That means you can work with every school subject every day, or you can choose one subject per day each week. Learning your child’s strengths and weaknesses can help you determine if every day you will approach Reading, Writing and Arithmetic or if you will spend Mondays on Reading, Tuesdays on Writing and Wednesdays on Arithmetic. We do some subjects daily and others, like foreign language & art, once a week for a longer block of time.
Take note of extra-curricular activities
Most of us enroll our children in some extra-curricular activity during the school year and often forget to make room for it within our weekly school schedule because they generally happen in the evening hours. I recommend allowing an additional hour of time on top of drive time for relaxing, last-minute changes and to give every family member the best experience with undue stress.
Remember that the world is your classroom
One of the greatest benefits of being a homeschooling family is that you can use every experience as a way to teach new concepts. Just because you aren’t sitting at a desk with paper and pen in front of you doesn’t mean you aren’t learning. Use the trip to the grocery store to help your younger students with reading as they learn to choose items off the shelf by brand name. Have your older student figure percentage saved, cost after coupons and even simply using basic addition to figure what your end total will be. Take nature walks in spring and look for bird’s nests and new plant life and talk about how life is created and how the process of photosynthesis works.
Find a Homeschool Schedule that Works for you
Some prefer a traditional teacher lesson plan booklet, others a large desk calendar and others prefer everything in their Outlook calendar or via an app on their Smartphone. I am a binder junkie, so I print off a yearly, monthly, and weekly calendar pages for it. Determine what calendar and/or scheduler that works best for you and stick with it. Rainbow Resources has a large selection of homeschool planners or you can create your own with free homeschool planning pages.
In everything within your home school environment, always remember the reasons you chose to make this happen for your family. Whether it be poor local school districts, religious beliefs, or simply a child who needed personalized attention you couldn’t find at alternate education sources, your reason to home educate is important to your family and that should always be in your mind to help maintain your focus.
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