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.
This is really encouraging to me. I’ve been on the fence about setting a time deadline for subjects, but I think I’m going to give it a try this new school year. Thank you for the encouragement!
I am glad this helps Rachel. Blessings on your new school year! 🙂
I’m always trying to find the ‘perfect’ schedule too =) I feel like I get wiser in my planning as time goes on, and sometimes our needs just change! Thanks for sharing your ideas! We school year round too, and right now I have a master list of every lesson that I would like to finish this summer. Each time we finish something, one of the kids crosses it off. I told them that when we are done with the list they can be done until September =) I’m liking it right now because it gives that freedom you talked about, but also lets us go further on a particular subject if we are so inclined that day. Thanks again for sharing!
FABULOUS article! “Real life” doesn’t even cover it for us. I have 2 older children with an extremely rare degenerative neurological disease called Batten Disease. I homeschool my 2 youngest (an unaffected) children. We deal with all the normal “real life” that folks deal with in addition to seizures, IEP meetings, visits to the hospital, etc. Your “real life” struggles seem very much like mine, though different, but still very much like mine. I’ve often thought of setting time limits, but didn’t know if it would create more stress having a time limit or be a good solution. I think I will give this a try this year. I’ve also come to the realization that it would cause me less stress to school all year rather than try to match my 2 older kids’ schedule with their special school programs they are in. I think it would do us well to do “what we can” within reasonable time limits all through out the year rather than having the stress of the other kids’ schedule hanging over our heads. Thank you for the thoughtful insights you have given us. It is a great article indeed!
Thank you for your response Danielle! I will be praying for you as you learn what works for you and for your families needs. What challenges you have! The Lord and you know best.
We started block scheduling our big four subjects for my high schooler (Mon-Math; Tues- Brit Lit; Wed- Biology; Thurs- History and Geography)while my 2nd grader works through all of her subjects most days and then we all come together for History and Geography on Thursdays. We love yhe freedom to dig deep and not have to abandon a subject because the timer goes off. Onr day my daughter spent all afternoon doing Spanish. Other days it is all about planting a garden or creature hunting. Fridays are saved for finishing up assignments and homeschool group field trips. Finding our freedom!
Christy, what a great way to do school! I seriously love this idea. I might try this with my kiddos and see how they like it. Do you even find that she “forgets” anything from previous sessions by spreading the subjects out like this? I love your “Finding our freedom” comment. That is so key. Everyone should be seeing things that way 🙂 Praise the Lord! Blessings ~ Amanda
I find that the breaks they take give their little brains time to process and use the info in real llife. For example, last week we did money on our math day. The next time she sat down to work through math this week she had been playing and practicing with money at the store, in her own private imaginary playtime when she decides how to play etc. The work was less stressful because she got that break. I week break is good stewing time. Ideas really need time to simmer before new ones are thrown at them. And because she spends more time in a day doing about a week’s worth of work she gets to focus in project form like she would on projects in the real world.
Love how all this works out together for our benefit and theirs 🙂 Thank you for getting back. That makes perfect sense!
I love the idea of creating time limits for each subject, but I’m afraid my 6 year old would just dawdle and delay until the timer goes off. She is capable of finishing some lessons in 20 minutes but frequently takes an hour. It is frustrating for both of us. Do you have consequences if the lesson is not finished within the allotted time frame?
Holly, that is a great question! The short answer, NO. That is part of the main point. We just can’t, and shouldn’t, force things to get all done in one day and make it take as long as it “needs to”. They have their lessons continue the next day.
When I made them take the full hour, or whatever it would take to finish a lesson, they ended up burned out and frustrated, as did I! However, I was afraid of the very same thing happening here because we have dawdlers. What I found was that they were more prompt to do there work and excited about it! I told them they would have only 20-30 minutes (depending on the child) to get as far as they could. This means they DO NOT always finish lessons. Some of my dawdlers saw that they were getting behind where they thought they should be and they wanted to work more efficiently. They didn’t like having to see the same old lesson 2 days in a row.
I also found that allowing them to feel the pressure, yet the joy of a shorter amount of time to work on lessons created a healthier atmosphere for us all. You might be surprised what she can get done. Relaxing the reigns, if you will gives them more freedom to delight in the work and compete against their own pace. She will grow into it. The other thing that I learned through many personal friends who are public educators: they NEVER, I mean NEVER finish it all….. EVER 🙂 Why should we beat ourselves up for not being perfectly finished either whether it is the whole curriculum finished my the end of the year or the end of the day?
Now, if they just plain don’t do ANY work, then I would give consequences. Such as taking away free play time or doing chores that they don’t usually do. Thankfully, my kids have never done that. They know that school will end at a certain time. They know how long they have to work on things and that we can be free to enjoy the work and life. We really have done so much better implementing this plan.
Hope this helps! ~ Amanda
Great advice! I am a first year homeschooler and a mom of 3. I’m in the midst of starting a blog which hopefully will launch soon. The first 2 weeks went by very smoothly but the third week in was rough. I realized that I was going to have to change things up and I had no clue where to start. Your article was very encouraging and has already gotten me planning. 🙂
I am so glad you found this helpful and encouraging. I will take a visit to your blog. Thanks for commenting! ~Amanda
I’m a first year homeschooler, mom to 3 boys and have been wondering what to do about my dawdler! This is a great suggestion & I’m gonna give it a try. By the end of the day we’d both be burned out yet I worried that setting time limits would add more stress. This idea is very encouraging!
So glad this blessed you Shannon. I hope you find the best rhythm for your family soon!