Creating a schedule for your homeschooling days can be one of the best things you can do to help your days move smoothly. So, why does it start to feel like the impossible task to create and then stick to a schedule?
Well, it all comes down to the type of schedule and routine you’re creating. You see, creating a schedule and sticking to it doesn’t have to be hard when you create your schedule around the natural rhythms of your family life.
You see, as much as we may hate to admit it, we as humans are creatures of habit. We thrive on routines and consistency. And this is especially true when it comes to children. As much as they may protest against a schedule or a routine or a pattern, there’s a sense of security in knowing what to expect and having that consistency to each and every day.
In the post How to Intentionally Create a Pattern for Your Day, we walked through creating a pattern for not only your day, but your week. We talked about how to include everything from time spent homeschooling to music lessons to volunteer work and everything in between. If you missed that post, go back and read (or re-read) it. It’ll really set the foundation and the big picture for what we’re diving into today: How to create a daily routine specific for your homeschooling time.
The Big Picture
As you begin to create your homeschooling routine, keep in mind that you’re working with people. People who have their own expectations, their own personalities, and, yes, their own ideas of how the day should go! Every day will not go exactly as you planned it. So, as you create your routine, think flexible structure, not rigid schedule. The goal isn’t to plan out every moment of the day, but to create a routine, a pattern that lends structure to your day while still allowing for those unexpected situations.
But where do you start? How do you begin to create a routine for your homeschooling day? Well, it’s best to start with the big picture and work your way down to the details. This holds true whether you’ve been creating your yearly homeschooling calendar and your yearly curriculum plan with me or if you’re starting right here and right now trying to get a routine set up to give your homeschooling day a sense of normalcy and consistency.
As a quick recap, when you created your yearly calendar, you decided on the weeks you’ll homeschool, your vacation weeks, and more. In doing this, you created your structure, your big picture of what your homeschooling year will look like. (If you missed that post, click here to read about How to Create a Yearly Homeschooling Calendar.)
Then, you got more detailed by identifying which subjects each of your children are working through in their school curriculum for this year. You identified the subjects they need to work on alone and which subjects you’ll work through together. In essence, you created your homeschooling curriculum plan on a subject by subject level. (If you missed that post, click here to dive deeper into How to Create Your Yearly Curriculum Plan.)
Now, having these two larger pieces in place will help you as you create your daily homeschooling routine. But remember, even if you don’t have your yearly homeschooling calendar and your yearly curriculum plan, you can still create a very successful daily homeschooling routine.
The concept of time blocking is one that people seem to either love or hate. The idea of sitting down with a grid of your day or week and assigning a task to each hour in the day can feel daunting. It can feel very rigid. But at the same time, it can give you a very clear path to follow.
I’ll be honest, I both love and hate time blocking! I cannot stand the idea of sitting down and assigning every hour in my week a task that has to be completed in that block. Honestly, I would feel like a failure because I know there are random things that come up throughout my day. I would spend so much time constantly trying to re-work my time blocking that I’d never get anything of value done.
However, I absolutely love time blocking when it comes to creating a homeschooling routine. Let me explain: When I say time blocking, I do not mean blocking out 37 minutes to work on a science lesson, then 49 minutes to work on a math lesson and so on. What I do mean is creating a window or block of time where you sit down and work through all the subjects you study together as a family. This block of time could be 1, 2, or even 3 hours.
You could create a 1 hour block of time where you sit down and work through all the worksheets with your kindergartener. You can create a 2 hour block of time where you’re available for checking papers, answering questions, giving spelling lists, and working through hard concepts with your older children.
Using this concept of time blocking gives structure to your homeschooling day. It gives you a path, a pattern to follow. It allows you to work around the big anchor points of your day (such as lunch and the time you start school), but it also allows for flexibility.
You see, when you set aside a block of time to work through all the subjects you study together as a family, everyone knows this is the time where you work together. However, within this block of time, each individual lesson can be a different length of time from day to day. For example, on Monday your history lesson may take 20 minutes and then you move on to your science lesson which might take 45 minutes. But on Tuesday, your history lesson may take 45 minutes and your science lesson might take 25 minutes. Both lessons are still happening within the same time block, but the flexibility comes when you’re able to give each lesson the time it needs.
The first thing you need to identify are your anchor points in your day. What activities will stay consistent each and every day? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- When will school start?
- What time is lunch? How long will you take for lunch?
- Will you take a break around lunch, a recess if you will, or will you go directly back to your schoolwork as soon as you’re done eating?
- What time will you be done with school?
The goal in identifying these anchor points is to give yourself an outline of the day. To create a framework for your homeschooling day where you can then see where your time blocks will best fit.
Once you have these anchor points in place, it’s time to start creating your time blocks and figuring out what time of day they work best.
Working Together Time Block
As you’re creating your routine for your homeschooling day, start by identifying the time where you will all work together. Set a start time where everyone knows that your group subjects will be starting. By identifying this time, you set the expectation that everyone needs to be in a certain place (say, the school room) at a specific time (say 9am) and you’ll begin working through your lessons together.
Keep in mind, you do not need to assign a specific time limit for each subject you’ll be working through together. However, having a list of what you’re going to work through will be very helpful.
Remember, the subjects you’ll work through together are things like history or science. The subjects where everyone can study the same material even though they’re on different grade levels. If you’re not sure which of your subjects will best fit this one-room schoolhouse approach of working together, check out the post How to Create Your Yearly Curriculum Plan. In it, you’ll learn how to figure out which subjects are best to learn individually, which ones are best to learn together, and which ones need to be taught one on one.
As you look at the subjects you’re going to cover in your working together time block, be sure to give yourself some extra time. If you think you can get through all the subjects in 1 hour, give yourself a 2 hour block. If you think you can work through all the material in 2 hours, give yourself a 3 hour time block.
Now, this isn’t to say that you have to use the full 2 hours or 3 hours each and every day! There will be days you’ll get through the material in 90 minutes. But there will also be days where you’ll need the full 3 hour block and maybe a few extra minutes, too. By giving yourself a bit more time that you need, you build in a grace time. And, on those days when you get done early, you can feel very ahead of the game – and that’s always a good feeling!
The final question you need to answer is this: Where does this working together time block fit for your family? When is the best time of day for you to sit down and work through these subjects? Is it easier for you to focus as a group right after breakfast? Right after lunch? When is the time where your children focus the best?
If you don’t know right away, it might take some trial and error to find that sweet spot, but, believe me, my Friend, it’s there! Don’t be afraid to try different times of day for this time block. Some times may be a horrible failure, but others may be a huge success. Don’t give up until you find the best time spot for you and your family to work together through your schoolwork.
One on One Work Time Block
Once you identify the block of time where you’ll work together with all your children, you need to consider your younger children. Do you have little ones in preschool or Kindergarten who need to work with you one on one to get their work accomplished? Do you have a child who needs to read to you every day as part of their reading work? If so, you need to create a block of time in your homeschooling routine for the one on one work.
Keep in mind as you start to identify what time of the day you’ll work with your child, you need to find the best time of day for them as well. You see, each child has a timing ‘sweet spot’ for learning.
Take my family for example: When I was teaching each of my children to read, I learned there was a timing sweet spot where they focused and took on this new challenge of reading with enthusiasm. When we tried to do our reading lesson outside of that timing sweet spot, we both ended up frustrated and sometimes in tears over a lesson that would have been so much easier simply by moving it to a different time of day.
Now, this part will most likely take some trial and error to find the exact timing sweet spot for your child because every child is different! For one of my children, the timing sweet spot for learning to read was just after lunch. For another one, it was about 30 minutes before lunch. For another one, it was first thing in the morning before any other school work started. Each child is different. Each child has their own timing sweet spot.
But the good news is, when you’re willing to work with your child you’ll find that timing sweet spot! And when you do, make sure to add it to your homeschooling routine!
One quick reminder here: If you have more than one child who needs to work with you one on one, you may need to create multiple smaller time blocks assigned to each child. Again, each child has their learning sweet spot and as you’re creating your homeschooling routine, you want to find those pockets of time. Depending on your child and the amount of work you need to cover together, these time blocks could be as short as 30 minutes or as long as 2 hours. It all depends on your child and the amount of material you need to work through with them in that specific time block.
Question and Answer Time Block
Now, if you’ve been tracking with me here, you’re probably realizing there are certain lessons that are not worked through together but that still need to be accomplished. Things like completing a math worksheet or taking a spelling test or working on a zoology report. These are things your older children can work through on their own. In fact, I believe they should be learning how to work through these things on their own!
The best way to let your children know what assignments you expect them to accomplish is to give them a list. If you missed the post about Set Your Homeschool Day Up For Greater Success: Using The Power Of Daily Lists, be sure to check it out as I go through how you can start utilizing lists to keep your children on track with their schoolwork while maximizing your time in the process.
But what do your children do when they’re done? How does their math worksheet get checked? What happens when they need to take their spelling test? What happens when they’re struggling with a concept and need to work with you and talk through the lesson to ensure they master it?
The answer: Create a 1 to 2 hour time block for open questions. Set the expectation with your children that you understand they’ll have questions. You understand they need you to give spelling lists. You’ll need to check their work before they are done with their school day. But at the same time, things need to happen in order.
When you’re working with all your children in a group, that’s not the time to give one child their spelling list. When you’re working with your kindergartener, that’s not the time to answer Algebra questions. However, when you reach your question and answer time block, that’s the window of time set aside for those math questions, spelling tests, and checking worksheets.
Now, the great part about creating this time block is that if you finish your group work early and finish the one on one work early, you can absolutely open up the question and answer time block early! That’s the beauty of homeschooling. But at the same time, creating this time block sets the expectation of needing to wait for this time block before the questions about all the different worksheets come flooding in!
Specific Times for Specific Subjects
Now, I understand there are times when specific subjects are taught by a specific person at a specific time of day. Perhaps this is dad teaching math to each child one on one before he leaves for work. Perhaps this is a live online science class where your child needs to be at the computer and logged in at a specific time each day.
Now, you know that I’m not a big fan of assigning every subject a specific time window where it must be accomplished. Part of the beauty of homeschooling is that you can work through a lesson and move on if everyone understands it. Or you can slow down and take your time to ensure that everyone grasps the lesson. However, there are some subjects that you do need to assign a specific time for, particularly when online classes or other time constraints (like dad needing to leave for work) are involved.
The short version is, if scheduling a specific time for a specific subject works for you, go for it! However, I do not recommend that you schedule your entire day out minute by minute. Use the specific times for specific subjects only where you need to.
Expectations and Communication
Simply creating a homeschooling routine for your family isn’t enough. Figuring out what your routine will look like and creating the expectations that come with your routine is a wonderful thing. But if you’re the only one who knows the routine, if you’re the only one who knows the expectations, you’re setting yourself up for failure before you even begin.
For example, let’s say you decide your school day will start at 9am with your working together time block. So, all your children need to be up, dressed, eaten breakfast, and sitting at the school room table ready to start their school lessons by 9am. That’s a clear expectation. But, if you don’t tell anyone this expectation, if you simply keep this information inside your head, no one else is going to know about it! So what happens when Monday comes and you’re in the school room ready to start your school lessons, but all your children are still asleep? You’re going to be extremely frustrated and annoyed that everyone is not ready to start school with you. And yet everyone else is going to be clueless why you’re so frustrated.
This is one of the biggest components of creating a homeschooling schedule. You not only have to create the expectation and set the expectation, you have to clearly communicate those expectations to your family. You all need to be on the same page.
When you set and communicate clear expectations, everyone knows what to expect. Everyone understands what’s coming, they understand what’s expected of them, and there are no last minute surprises. Or, at least, there are fewer last minute surprises!
Keep in mind that your homeschooling routine will most likely change from year to year. While the same basic pattern might hold true, you’ll have some variations based on where your children are in their learning journey. Based on how many children you need to work with one on one. And based on what specific subjects need specific time blocks.
This is the beauty of homeschooling. As your life shifts and changes, as seasons of your life come and go, you’re able to adjust your homeschooling schedule to work in harmony with the other events happening in your life.
Yes, you should create a patten. Yes, you should create a routine and do your best to stick to it. However, don’t get so stuck on using one schedule year after year that you don’t have any flexibility.
Remember, patterns can change. Patterns and routines do change in different seasons of life. Don’t be afraid of that! Embrace it! View it as a challenge to find the best pattern for your homeschooling in this season of your life.
Never forget that your family is not identical to any other family. Your family is made up of a unique set of individuals with a unique set of personalities. No one else has the exact mix of personalities you have in your family. You might have night owls, you might have morning people. You might have a mix of both. You need to take this into account as you create your daily routine. Just because a certain routine works well for one family doesn’t mean that pattern will be the right one for your family.
You can absolutely borrow a routine to get you started, but don’t lock yourself into that pattern simply because you think that is the “right” routine for homeschooling. Just because a pattern works really well for someone you know doesn’t mean that schedule, that pattern will be the right one for your family. Take the ideas you like about their pattern and use those to get you going. But don’t be afraid to adjust and change your pattern until you find the right routine for you and your family.
Remember, the best homeschooling routine for you is one that you help create, one that you can keep going, and one that fits your family and your life.
- How to Intentionally Create a Pattern for Your Day
- How to Create a Yearly Homeschooling Calendar
- How to Create Your Yearly Curriculum Plan
- Set Your Homeschool Day Up For Greater Success: Using The Power Of Daily Lists
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.