One of the most frequently asked question by new or perspective homeschool moms is, “How do I schedule homeschool?” I get it, there is so much to do already just because you are a mom. How can you really do one more thing? The thought of running a school in our home is exhausting.
Before I began homeschooling, I was a classroom teacher. My whole day was ruled by bells, checklists, and deadlines. When I transitioned to homeschooling, I did what I knew best, schedules, checklists, and deadlines. Just because I was doing it at home, didn’t mean I liked it any better. We were new homeschoolers with no family support. Plus, I was going through the most challenging time of my life. “Doing school” was exhausting and it just made everything else more complicated. That is until I learned the real secret of scheduling homeschool.
The Problem with Timetables
I knew we needed structure. I didn’t want to not stay on task, and I’m a “get it done” type of gal. No lollygagging on my watch. So, I set a strict schedule and figured we would do what schools do, except in less time. But then, what happens when math takes 45 minutes instead of 25? What do you do when science class is supposed to last 35 minutes but you finish in 15? Having a play break there would derail the rest of the schedule.
Then there were the phone calls, leaking pipes, potty training accidents, and family emergencies. Life kept happening because life happens. I did finally shut off my ringer during school time because people kept calling me because we were “just home.” However, I still needed to figure out how to juggle the life of being a stay at home mom with all its distractions (I’m looking at you mountain of laundry) and still keep my homeschool moving forward.
Swing Pendulum, Swing
In rebellion, I swung the other way. From a set schedule, I decided to have none. We would wake up when we woke up. Do math when we did math. Who needs plans? Who need schedules? We will be the master of our destiny. It sounded great in theory, but failed miserably. Why? Because life kept happening! There was always a reason to wait just 15 minutes more. Then, of course, everyone was hungry. After lunch, they needed to burn off some steam. OK, go play outside. Wow, I really am behind on laundry, better do a load or two while they play. Oh, this bathroom is disgusting! They can play a little longer. Oh, dear, Buddy got hurt. Okay, okay, we can relax on the couch while you wait for the bleeding to stop. Look at the time! Better start dinner. We’ll just do extra work tomorrow.
Some days we plowed through so much our eyes were bleary and our heads hurt. Other days, we got nothing done and went to bed frustrated and disappointed. I always told myself if I can just make it to the end of the week, end of the month, end of potty training……then I will get my act together! It’s a season, right? Wrong! There are crazy seasons, but this lack of accomplishment was purely poor planning.
The Rhythm Method
Homeschooling is a lifestyle. Well managed lives have a rhythm to them. They don’t just happen. When you let life dictate your living, you get no where! I didn’t want to go back to the rigid schedule and trying to re-create school. But, when I sat and thought about it, we did have an informal schedule already. We eat lunch about 1pm everyday. Dinner was usually around 7pm, when Dad got home. If it gets past 2pm, the kids just need to run, and the little ones can’t be quiet.
I decided to find a way to fit homeschooling into our life, instead of squeezing our life around homeschooling. (because life happens, right!) I set a deadline for starting. The children can wake up when they are ready but better have their nose in a school book by 9AM. Snack time was a natural lull in the day, perfect time for read alouds and tea. Best of all, the little ones were busy eating, so they were quiet. Outdoor playtime came around 2:30, which was a great time for working on advanced subjects with the older kids.
With punctuated points in our day set, we were free to make the rest of the day work for us. I also established a rotation to work with each of the kids one-on-one. I started with the little ones, who have the least patience. It also helped the older kids do their independent work, because they weren’t interrupted by screaming toddlers and impromptu drum solos.
Are there days that we don’t get it all done. Certainly, it happens, even in schools. However, we know where we are heading every day. We know what to expect and take comfort in our own family rhythm.
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