This question has plagued me for nearly 13 years. No, I am not kidding. Not just for when life is busy but all the time. How does one do this? There are so many opportunities to find what fits you. Yet these many choices often brought me great depression and confusion as I wanted the best plan for our family. I focused too much on the best and not what works for us.
Over these many years, not only have I changed my method of homeschooling—from classical, to unit study, to a combo of the two with other varieties added to the mix—but I have finally found what works for our family in the day-to-day details of life. No matter what your method, you still need a schedule and one that works for you.
Getting Derailed Many Times
You see, I very much enjoy teaching our children. It is our family’s calling. We believe in this with all of our hearts. But getting this schedule to fit real life has been a battle for me. We have had moves, relationships issues, health crises, deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, loads of out-of-town training, lay-offs and many, many other issues that have, or can, knock a family off track. It has knocked our family off track. Truth be told, it shouldn’t.
This realization that not one of these things should knock us completely off our homeschooling track has been a difficult thing for me to admit. It is and has been my fault that things went by the way side too many times. So what did I do about it? For a time, I beat myself up and got absolutely nowhere. I tried to find the “perfect” schedule. We would detail it, outline it, all agree to it, follow it, just long enough to become successful to have life—difficult life—happen again.
This year, I determined, was going to be different. Not only would we not let life happen so much to throw us completely off track, but I would maintain that allusive “perfect schedule.”
This summer, Husband returned from Afghanistan, in 10 days I had a terrible concussion from a volleyball game. My whole summer, and part of the fall, was dedicated to healing my brain. I hardly remember what happened this past summer, let alone plan and maintain our schooling schedule. Thus far, “perfect schedule” alluded us again.
In September we jumped feet first into a new adventure. We joined the local county homeschooling group. This would help me stay on track and accountable, surely. Not so. Although we found great support and community, this new move took us way out of routine and gave us more than we planned for. It was and is a wonderful thing to participate in for our family; it definitely changed life for us and the way we do school.
Keeping It Simple: Time Limits for Subjects
I had to give this some great thought and prayer. Finally, I received the download from the Lord. Do not fret, just keep it simple:
Plan for the State Required Hours*
- Write out each day what needs to be accomplished that day for each subject.
- Plan for only 30 minutes to one hour maximum for each subject.
- Do not allow more than that time frame. Let the children get where they get in that time frame.
- Move on.
Brilliant! Now I know it really isn’t a news flash to many of you, but to me it was and is an empowering mode of operation. One of the toughest things that we dealt with outside of difficult life circumstances was dawdling, slow learners, frustration, and much dependence. The blessing is that it does not create more thought or work from me. This helped solve it all. How?
How This Reduces Stress
The slow learners and dawdlers were holding other children back. When working on a unit or together in our subjects, we had some that would finish quickly and be ready to move on. Others were not nearly finished in time and would often take another 15 minutes or longer to complete the same task. This was causing our days to be too lengthy and we would often miss much of the intended subjects. We would experience great burnout at the end of the day, repeat it again, and it was never any fun.
Changing to the method I have now allowed for each individual to be able to learn at their own pace. The dawdlers are speeding up. It has even caused several of my children to excel in their work. One sees another flying through their work getting good marks, they want to do the same and finish well too. Some of them are in the same grade, you see. So they want to at least keep up with their siblings.
The frustrations is gone because everyone knows the plan and moves forward. Dependence on me has not been as intense because they understand I will tutor them at the end of the day. I allow them to change or work on what needs to be changed when all the work is finished rather than at the moment of desperate need (or so they thought).
Other things, those difficult life circumstances happen, like getting up later than we intended due to illness, having a morning phone call from someone that we need to take, or any other episode in the game of life. This form of scheduling helps us have no cause for concern if we get started later in the day. Scheduling flexibly into your homeschool day means that when life happens, we can still accomplish all of our goals in the day. It may not all happen in the morning. But it does happen, and that is the key.
We do take breaks if we need to. I often let the children decide that. Many times they would rather continue through the work than have a break. Giving them the choice helps them feel like they have more of a decision in the plan.
Keeping the Big Picture in Mind
When planning this way, I do keep the larger picture in my forethought. Where do we need to be at the end of the week, month, year? How does my day to day fit in to that? Also, with the homeschooling group, there are assignments due each week that need to be focused on. Those need to be taken into account. Since I plan this way, it allows me to plug in the necessary work for that week and evaluate what can be left out.
Doing School Year Round?
The other thing to note: We do school year round. Why?
- Life happens and we have not always been able to school 5 days a week
- All year school helps what we cover stick with the children
- They are often bored if you let them do whatever they want all day
- Teaching them through living books and experience in the warmer months gives all much satisfaction
Our school is not as intense, however I will use the same method as we go into the summer. I will make certain that my children are getting what they need to get from each important subject as well as experiencing life so that their days are full of joy and freedom to learn.
What Works for You?
This is my new way of schooling. It has helped me stay focused and accomplish many tasks in the home and outside of the home. My children have the sense of accomplishment at the end of each day and a fairly steady routine type way of doing life. I feel that for us this method works. It is not set in stone. But life isn’t either. For us, this works.
How about you? Do you have a tried and true method of planning the daily details of homeschooling that works for you? Do you ever get off track? If so, what have you found effective in getting you back on track?
Needing help planning your homeschool year? Check out Olly. For more homeschooling tips and tricks make sure you go to Intoxicated On Life’s Homeschool Tab where you will find loads of helpful resources.
* In Colorado we need to have a minimum of 4 hours per day for 172 days each year. This starts at age 7. This has not been difficult for us to achieve. However, what the state considers school and what many homeschool families consider school varies. Within our state guidelines, I need to be on task. I need to meet those and never fudge the line. Why? Because God honors diligence and honoring the governing authorities in our lives.