If you’re just joining us for the first time you might want to take a look at How to homeschool and where to start & What You Need to Know About Creating Your Homeschooling Schedule. Today I want to share with you my secret for how to set up an easy and flexible homeschool schedule.
In my Facebook Group – Homeschool Curriculum 101 – I asked new homeschooling parents what some of their biggest questions were around getting started. And a common theme that popped up was how to actually set up a school schedule and stick to it. So, let’s tackle things one at a time.
When most people think about school schedules they think of the kind you got in a brick and mortar school. You have certain subjects at certain times, varied by day, breaks scheduled in, etc. etc. But, that’s not the kind of schedule we are talking about. (If you’re interested in some help figuring out the day to day stuff – take a look at Why I burned my daily homeschool schedule!!)
The type of schedule we’re focussed on right now is really your overall yearly (or quarterly, or even monthly, depending on how you role….) plan for homeschooling
I actually really enjoy setting up my yearly goals and figuring out how many lessons a curriculum covers and how long it will last. (It uses all that basic math I never thought I would need but always LOVED doing! *proud math geek*)
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The first thing I do is take a calendar and highlight weeks we are going to take off due to life circumstances, holidays, etc. For instance, my family takes off the entire month of December to focus on Christmas crafts, activities and learning. Planning for this help to create a flexible homeschool schedule.
I use a highlighter and highlight all the periods that we will not be doing school. You can also use the matching holidays calendar to jot down special days to remember and weeks where you may want to modify for holidays.
My usual school year is planned over 30 weeks. Because we start in September and take off December, that is 14 weeks for school. That means I need to cover 16 more weeks after Christmas. This means that by the end of April I will have covered 30 weeks.
I like to plan my year over this period and then extend our school year as needed as I like room in our schedule to add in new learning opportunities on the fly, or not worry about a week lost to illness or following new found interests and passions.
So consider how many weeks you have after taking holidays off. Are you planning on running year round? Lots of homeschoolers do! You can also decide if you want to have full week or a modified week schedule. (See What You Need to Know About Creating Your Homeschooling Schedule for more information on year round & 4 day vs. 5 day schooling).
Now that you have figured out how many days you want to officially school for each week, and how many weeks of the year you want to plan for, you need to take a look at what your curriculum is based on.
Many curriculums are based around individual lessons or groups of lessons. This makes planning really easy, in most cases.
For example; in the early years we used Math-U-See. This math program has 30 weeks of lessons; each lesson containing 6 days worth of work. (This always drove me nuts! It’s harder to fit into a pretty box as is). So, you have some choices to make. You can complete 5 days worth of work and cover 30 lessons over your 30 weeks. You can do one lesson per day and continue until you have completed the 30 weeks (which will take you roughly 34 weeks). Or, you can have a more in depth math day where you cover 2 lessons in one day and then only one every other day. The options are limited only by your creativity.
You use it in whatever way works for your family. It’s okay to skip things. If your child has a great grasp on a certain concept, you don’t have to do every question, or every page. If your child is struggling, it’s okay to slow down and only do half a lesson or less. Our goal is to focus on quality of education for our children, meeting them where they are at.
Take a look at each resource you intend to use and figure out how long you want to spend covering the information on it. If you have some unit studies you might only need 2-4 weeks to cover the information and do any projects or related field trips.
We have used the apologia Who Is God? series for our bible studies (and I can’t recommend them highly enough!). Designed to be read in story format, it can be read as a whole chapter or broken into smaller bits. There are no specific lessons or short starting and stopping points. I would look through the book and find where I would naturally break reading due to length or change of subject and then count up the number of “lessons” I found.
Then I would break down the number of lessons over the weeks and months that I had allocated for “official learning”.
So, say there are 8 chapters in the book. Each chapter was broken down into 8-12 days worth of reading, but for the sake of keeping it easy, we’ll say 10 days. So reading every day would be 5 lessons per week. Covering 1 full chapter in 2 weeks, and the whole book in 16 weeks (or 4 months). Make sense?
If you want this book to last all year, read smaller chunks and stretch it out to 32 weeks. If you want to cover it more quickly because you have other resources you want to get to in the year, read bigger chunks or skip sections that you don’t feel are relevant to your family or children at their age and stage.
There can actually be a lot of flexibility (depending on where you live – see How to figure out what you need to teach in a year).
This will also be dependant upon your teaching style. Have you figured out your style? (If not, come read about the most common teaching styles and take a quiz to help figure out your style – Do you know what the best homeschooling style is?)
Again, there is a wide variety of options when it comes to when and how or how often you teach each subject. The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that there are so many ways to do things. The pitfall to homeschooling is that there can be too many ways to do things – we just need to pick one.
You know your family and your child best. Pick a realistic type of schooling for your family. Then you can set up a routine and schedule that is going to work for you. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, even if you do, it can change in a few months or every year as your children grow and their needs change!
We started out trying to replicate school at home. It didn’t work well for my son and only made my type A check box personality more overbearing. So we switched. We picked up a more relaxed style of schooling and really focussed on life skills and his interests.
When I started homeschooling my second son we jumped in with a lot of Montessori style of learning. I really enjoy Montessori resources and the theory behind Montessori learning, but it was a lot of prep work that I didn’t have time for as I became pregnant again and my energy nose dived!
Right now, it’s all about having a routine with morning time reading. After we go outdoors for several hours. In the afternoon we have book work, extracurricular activities and free time . It can be hard to fit 8 subjects into a day. And honestly, I don’t.
The further we get in this journey the more my focus has shifted towards a high quality education that provides depth and meaning. I want my children to value education, to love learning, and to pursue their interests.
These basics get covered every day in our home. And most of the other subjects are covered in our reading. Especially when we have our morning reading time, it’s easy to cover science, history, art and more in the books that we choose.
We focus on living books – as recommended by Charlotte Mason (to learn more about living books see How do you know if a book is a living book?). I keep books from a wide variety of topics and interests in our basket. I change them often to keep the kids interested and provide them with a wide range of topics to peek their interests.
When the kids find something they are really interested in, we go deeper. Izzy is loving geology and his two birthday books from Usborne Books which grace our reading just about every day.
We have also been really enjoying some Roald Dahl books which bring back a lot of childhood memories for me. (Watch for some upcoming book reviews!)
If you would like to continue following along with this series you can enter your email in the box below to subscribe to my email list. You’ll get an email when a new post goes out (about once a week). You’ll also receive a password to my free printables library along with the download to help you plan out your school year.
Now it’s your turn! What do you picture your school year looking like? Don’t forget to take a moment and grab this printable pack to help you organize your thoughts and resources! I would love to hear about your ideas for the year and what you are planning! If you leave me a comment below, I respond to each one personally.
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