The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling, Part Four
Creating Your Homeschool Schedule
I hope you have enjoyed this series so far and that you have found some useful content to help you begin your homeschool journey (or help you decide whether or not homeschooling is right for your family.) Here are some quick links so you can easily navigate to the other posts in the series.
- Part One – 9 Reasons to Homeschool
- Part Two – Planning Your Homeschool Environment (with FREE Planning Worksheet download)
- Part Three – The Curriculum Conundrum
- Part Four – Creating Your Homeschool Schedule
- Part Five – Getting Involved with Homeschool Organzations
- Part Six – Expert Advice from 5 Experienced Homeschoolers
Now let’s get to our next topic: creating a schedule for your homeschool. As with all things homeschooling related, there are an infinite number of possibilities for how you can structure your yearly, weekly, and daily schedule.
The first thing you need to decide is what type of school year schedule you will use. Will you operate on a traditional school year? Or will you choose something less traditional such as a year-round, rotating schedule, or some sort of custom combination? There are pros and cons to each and it’s important to weigh them against what you know about your Homeschool Environment Plan, your children, and your family life. Check out my quick reference table below for information on the six main school year schedule types. If you don’t know what kind of school year will work best, just start with what feels comfortable to you and don’t be afraid to switch it up if it doesn’t end up being a good fit. Please note: if you have chosen Unschooling (and No Schedule), much of this post will likely not apply.
Next, you need to look at the curricula you chose for your school year. Here are some questions to ask:
- Do you have more or fewer lessons than you need to complete the school year on any given topic?
- If you have more, will you double-up on some days to fit it all in or will you just skip what seems unnecessary for your homeschool?
- If you have fewer, will you spread out the lessons so they last the whole school year or will you just finish that subject early?
- How many of your subjects have a heavy workload or a workload that your child will find challenging to complete? You may need to consider spacing these subjects out more generously and/or fitting them in-between lighter or more enjoyable subjects.
- Are there any subjects for which you already have a specific schedule in mind? If you do, this may dictate how you structure your days and weeks. For example, if you know you only want to offer art once per week, then you might want to consider adding it to a day that has room to accommodate an extra subject.
- Do any of your subjects or curricula have a specific completion deadline or other time-sensitive criteria (such as milestones required by your state’s laws)? If so, make these areas top priority in your scheduling and build everything else around them.
Once you have a grasp of these specifics, you can start working on your weekly schedule. I recommend starting by creating a basic map of what you want your weeks to look like. Here is a sample 4-day week schedule for an elementary school-age child (for Christian or secular homeschoolers)
- Monday – Errand/Field Trip Day
- Tuesday – Bible/Religion, Reading/Writing, Math, Science, Foreign Language
- Wednesday – Bible/Religion , Math, Reading/Writing, History/Geography
- Thursday – Bible/Religion, Reading/Writing, Math, History/Georgraphy
- Friday – Bible/Religion, Math, Reading/Writing, Art, Science
Notice how I alternated the order of certain subjects to help break up the monotony and made electives like art and foreign language occur less frequently.
When it comes to the daily schedule, decide what you think will work best for your family and go for it. If you and your child thrive on detailed routines, then make a detailed schedule with time blocks for each subject laid out. If you feel that too rigid of a schedule will cause more heartache than anything else, create a more relaxed schedule that can flex with your daily life.
When Ace and I first started homeschooling, I set a very specific schedule with start and end times for each subject. I found, however, that our lives were much more fluid than that schedule permitted. Ace might feel particularly inspired during his art project and want to keep on creating. Rather than stopping him because it was time to move on to the next subject, I learned to just let him keep going. We could always start our next subject whenever he was done or even push it off until the next day. Because of this, I set an order for the subjects we are going to cover and let the day play out naturally. Some days, I even let Ace choose the order of subjects and I only reference the schedule to see what lesson we are on.
No matter how you decide to structure things, keep in mind that grueling schedules are nearly impossible to stick with. They will most certainly lead to burnout on your part and all-out battles between you and your child. If this is your first year homeschooling, try to stick to the essentials and only schedule add-on electives (like art, science, history, etc.) once per week or every other week. You can always adjust your schedule as you get more comfortable and you learn what works best. (For more tips on keeping the struggle out of your day, see my post 7 Tips for Taking the Struggle Out of School.)
Finally, make sure that whatever homeschool planner or planning method you chose to use in your Homeschool Environment Plan can accommodate the schedule you create. I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing something that allows you to make changes quickly and easily. I have given up on a number of planners and planning methods because I just couldn’t make the changes I needed easily enough. Some days, your child may be extra inspired and want to complete additional lessons for a particular subject and other days you may struggle to get even one task completed. Your planner should be able to accommodate the natural ebbs and flows of this crazy homeschooling life without causing you extra stress or effort.
Sometimes creating a schedule for your homeschool can feel a bit like herding cats. The very nature of homeschooling is about flexibility and since homeschooling happens in the midst of real life, it seems like there are always things that pop up to interfere with your plans. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to at least have some sort of organization to your day or that you shouldn’t create lesson plans. It just means you have to give yourself grace and be flexible enough to adjust your schedule when plans change. Because they inevitably will.
And, as always with homeschooling, there are many different ways to approach scheduling so you will have to experiment with what works best for your family, your school style, and your lessons.
Watch for my next post in this series called Getting Involved with Homeschool Organizations!