When I talk to parents who are new to homeschooling one of the biggest questions I’m asked is, “how do you plan your homeschool day?”
Since most of us grew up in traditional schools, we tend to gravitate towards a traditional schedule. However, one of the benefits of homeschooling is flexibility.
Over our almost 20 years of homeschooling, every year has looked a little different. High schoolers need significantly more structure than younger children, and no child needs to spend more than four to five hours a day on schoolwork.
While a traditional school might go for 7-8 hours, the actual learning time is significantly less. Remember that when creating your own homeschool schedule.
In traditional school the teacher must account for behavior disruptions, bathroom breaks, moving from class to class as well as a myriad of other issues that you don’t have in your homeschool schedule.
This isn’t to say that homeschooling removes the need for bathroom breaks and you won’t be dealing with behavior issues. You will. However they don’t take up as much time as they do in traditional school.
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Top Tips for Planning Your Homeschool Day
Here are the things I did to help create a homeschool schedule that was flexible yet allowed my children plenty of time for learning and completing their assignments.
Remember, you have to be at home to homeschool. This is something I never understood in 20 years of homeschooling my kids. While I thought it was very important to “socialize my kids” I had friends who spent almost every minute of the day in the car.
I realize that certain seasons of life may require more time on the go than others, but in order for your child to truly learn the basics and have a great educational foundation you have to teach them.
This is best done in a stable environment when possible. There’s nothing wrong with practicing math facts or states and capitals while running errands, but if you aren’t dedicating a specific amount of time each week to learning, your kids will struggle in the future.
I use to joke that I would attend homeschool conventions and hear stories about people who took a year of schooling and only read to their kids because of an illness or family situation. They always bragged about how their kids scored better the next year on standardized tests or aced the SAT’s.
I can tell you with complete honesty that this method did not work with my kids. The year my husband was sick and we spent most of our days in the car taking him to and from medical appointments was a disaster.
My kids DID NOT LEARN ANYTHING. They scored lower on standardized tests and I spent the next year doing “double school” with them to try and catch them up.
Decide your schedule.
Will you homeschool 4 or 5 days? For K & 1st we homeschooled only 4 days (sat down and opened books), for 2nd grade and above we have schooled all 5 days.
This is completely up to you! You can absolutely work on a 4 day a week schedule with older children, however you need to make sure they complete the hours required in your state to graduate.
Also remember that as a homeschooler, your child’s extra curricular activities can count for high school credit. If your child plays sports or is in gymnastics, marshal arts, or drama club, their house spent on that can count for high school credit. Make sure you document all of it to make sure you don’t have any issues.
Choose your school calendar.
Will you homeschool thru the summer? During holidays – school 6 weeks with 2 week breaks?
Your calendar should fit your family. It is miserably hot in central Florida in July & August – we gladly stay inside and jump into our new year earlier than some and take a “Fall Break”.
Knowing how long you will school will help you plan how many lessons you need – or if you need to find supplements.
Decide which subjects you will teach on which days.
Most curriculum offers a flexible schedule M/W/F or T/ Th plans. Organize which subjects will fall on which days.
I am a stickler – Math, Reading, and Language Arts are scheduled all week with Science, History, and Spanish alternating.
I printed out a cute planner so my son didn’t have to keep asking, “what are we doing today” or “what’s next”. Laminate it and add a dry erase marker — he could happily check off when that subject was completed.
Find a document / planner that you enjoy using.
I’m a pencil and paper gal – I like to hold our schedule. But there is something about a ton of blanks and boxes that scares me and I do not feel comfortable planning out an entire month.
I fear commitment!!
I prefer weekly calendars – you might prefer monthly or even 3 months! I like to keep things flexible because if my son is into a lesson and wants to do another page – I’m not going to make him stop.
Once the weekly calendars are completed I transfer the information into a monthly calendar that is later printed for his portfolio and end of year evaluation. It sounds like more work – but I’d rather be comfortable than stressed!
There are great online planners if you don’t want to deal with the mess of paper and printing page after page. Find something that works for you and stick with it!
Schedule your homeschool hours
I’m not big on ringing a bell and starting class at a specific time each morning – but I like to plan out which hours of the day will be at the table so I can say “no” to other things that pop up during that time frame. (It also helps to plan the harder subjects during little one’s nap time)
This past year I had to put a time limit on Math because my son was taking entirely too long. If he didn’t finish an assignment after 30 minutes – we moved onto the next subject and he could go back and finish his work later during his “play time”.
Depending on the age of your children and your own work / activity schedule your homeschool schedule might need to be stricter or perhaps more flexible.
Some families I know prefer to wake up early and get all the work done before noon. Other families enjoy working in the afternoon.
Whatever works best for your family is best, as long as the kids are completing their work and learning.
Create an outline for the day.
I’m the queen of flexibility but most children thrive in some sort of schedule or guideline.
Here’s a few things we did to keep everyone on track.
- Start with a win: We always started with bible time or read aloud because no one was “bad at bible” that way we started the day on a positive note for everyone.
- Next tackle something that’s hard: For many of my kids that was math. Many times math worksheets meant tears and those tears flowed freer at 3pm than 9am. I found that if we got the hard stuff out of the way first, the day went better.
- Include lots of time for wiggles and stretching: This is super important if your kids are younger. Taking a 5 minute break every 30 minutes is so good for your kids. Let them run around, dance to their favorite song, play with a toy or anything fun.
- Remove electronics during the learning hours: If your child has a phone or a tablet, I highly recommend keeping it while they are working on school. It’s so easy for a child to become distracted with technology. Make it easy for them to make good choices.
Write everything in pencil.
Do not print a calendar full of lessons unless you have a bottle of white out. I would print out months of scheduled work on calendars and after 2 days would have to trash it because we were usually a head of what I had planned.
I started writing everything in pencil because it was easier erase and make changes. Flexibility is CRUCIAL when you are homeschooling.
Don’t hate your planner.
Planners are to help keep you on task and organized not to make you feel shackled.
If a schedule is not working and you are not sticking to one – it’s time to find something else that works.
Donna Young is the queen of homeschool planners, and the resources are FREE. If you are computer savvy create your own excel spreadsheet.
If you would like something with a bit more muscle I suggest purchasing Homeschool Creations Reusable Homeschool Planner. Not only have I been scheduling curriculum but field trips, chapter books, chores, and menu planning!
The main thing is to use what you are comfortable using! My first year homeschooling I mimicked a friend’s plans, lessons, curriculum, and homeschool classroom. She’s a wealth of homeschool knowledge, but I was miserable.
Every family has different needs and different strengths and weaknesses. Find what works for you and go with it!
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