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Homeschool schedule – what’s best?

It seems like such a simple question, but so much can affect what kind of homeschooling schedule is best for your family.  The ages of your children, number of children, scheduled activities, parent work schedules, family dynamics, personalities…all of these factors lead to a wide variation of schedules among homeschooling families.  There is also tremendous variation when it comes to homeschooling approaches and philosophies.  Let’s explore some options for your homeschool schedule, both on a yearly basis and daily. 

Some families prefer not to set a schedule at all, believing that keeping life unscheduled allows for free exploration and meaningful learning.  Others follow essentially the same schedule as the public schools, with breaks at holidays and during the summer.  Families that choose year-round schooling take breaks for a week or two at intervals during the year rather than taking the bulk of it at one time during the summer. 

Many homeschooling families find that without a large class and the logistics of learning at school, they are able to get most of their studies done in the morning.  Others choose to “do school” only three or four days per week.  It may seem like it would be difficult to “cover everything” or accumulate sufficient hours in such a manner. But when you stop to really evaluate the time your children spend learning (discussing, exploring, reading, investigating, observing, building, testing…), you’ll find that their education extends into much more of the day than scheduled lessons. 

Daily schedules

As for the daily schedule, some families “do school” for set hours each day with specific times dedicated to each subject.  Others take a more relaxed approach and base the schedule either on content and activities or time of day.  For example, 9:00-12:00 is learning time and everything done during that time must be educational in nature. 

When my daughter was young, I wrote a list on a dry erase board each day of what activities or subjects we would do, and she was able to choose the order and erase them as they were completed.  When those activities were done, school was done for the day (learning continued, of course!).  That method was too wide open for schooling my two children, though, so when my son joined us we had to change the approach.  I carefully thought through which subjects each child could do independently and which required my help. Then I arranged the schedule so that they wouldn’t both need me at the same time.  We did much of our learning together, but I was able to do some individual instruction by staggering independent work and guided lessons.  We didn’t follow the same schedule every day, though.  I thought about what I wanted each day to be like and what I needed to include for each child. Then I laid out a schedule that would work. 

As school gets more demanding (this happens as kids get older!), my son seems to need more structure. This year, I am going to do my best to keep a regular schedule of subjects several days each week. I think I might include a day for freeform learning and a day for exploration (field trips, youTube, etc.).  Freeform learning will be the type of schedule mentioned earlier during which kids have to do something educational for the allotted time, but have freedom as to what that is. 

We live a lifestyle of learning.  Every day we learn new things.  It is important to me that we also deliberately study core subjects, though, and develop good study habits.  So, each year I spend time thinking about how my children are learning and growing and what will best suit our family.  I try to keep flexibility in our schedule while maintaining some structure as well.  Most of all, I try to keep learning fun and interesting so my children will continue to be curious and see learning for the adventure that it is, rather than feeling it is something to be avoided (a great tragedy which can spoil even the best education).  My son may complain about tasks and assignments, but he still loves learning, asks questions, and has the promise of a lifelong learner.  I just keep trying to find the best balance and approach for us, and it changes every year.

Find what works for you

It isn’t easy, but try to avoid the pressures (often self-inflicted) that come with feeling like a certain schedule is better than others and your family has to adapt to it.  Homeschooling families can thrive in many different ways.  Thoughtfully plan a schedule for your family, try it out, and change it as needed.  You can make changes at any time; don’t stick with a schedule that doesn’t work for a whole school year!  Just give your family some time to settle in, thoughtfully reflect on how things are going, and make tweaks as needed.  What’s the best homeschooling schedule?  The one that works for your family!

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