One thing that just comes more naturally for institutional schools is structure and scheduling. It is really the only way that a school with hundreds of students can function. But if you homeschool, that structure is a bit more difficult to come by.
Children are naturally more relaxed at home and may resist the sort of structure that you are trying to create with a homeschool schedule. This battle has many new homeschool parents ending their first days or weeks in tears and doubting their decision to homeschool in the first place.
Rest assured that while the battle may be hard at first, humans of all ages thrive on structure and routine. Once you get everyone to accept the schedule, everyone will do better because of it. In that way, it is sort of worth the headache of getting everyone adjusted to a new homeschool daily schedule.
One of the greatest things about being a homeschool family is the flexibility that comes with it. Don’t take that away from yourself by overscheduling. Plan blocks of time with plenty of white space in between so you don’t feel like you are falling behind when life inevitably gets in the way.
The amount of time that you dedicate to each subject and to the whole day for schoolwork depends largely on the ages of your students. Young elementary school students can effectively complete work in two hours per day, while older kids may benefit from four hours. If you consider that public school students attend for seven hours per day, plus do an additional sum of homework at the end of the day, homeschool time commitments look a lot different.
Post a master schedule where everyone can see it. The visual reminder can help keep everyone on track. Plus, students learn better and transition between activities better when they know what is coming.
Rather than thinking about your homeschool schedule as a set part of your day, think about all of the things you want to include in your day and make a block of time for each.
Keeping a flexible schedule and time-blocking rather than planning every minute sometimes means that not everything gets done. If your schedule feels too full most of the time, try slimming it down by alternating different subjects on different days.
Very important tasks can also be scheduled at the beginning of the day, immediately following the start of the day circle time where it is less likely you will run out of time to get to them. But if that doesn’t work, try scheduling important activities alongside regular mealtimes or set activities.
When building your schedule, start with a master time-block schedule that will be your go-to default week after week. Once you have the basic framework, making small adjustments for special activities or fleshing out the curriculum within each time block will be an easy task.
On the Sunday before each school week starts (or whatever day works best for your set up), edit and print a copy of the master schedule. Add shorthand curriculum notes to each time block so you know what you are doing and prep your materials for that week.
No matter what your scheduling style is, planning every minute or going with the flow, a basic framework for what to do, and when is necessary to accomplish the school work that needs to be done. This is especially true when you have multiple learners at different ages.
However, the schedule is a living document. It can be changed at any time (even on the fly) to accommodate individual needs. Listen to yourself and your children on their feedback on how the schedule is working for them. Make adjustments as necessary and continue to keep using your schedule.
Unless you are incredibly good at staying on track (most of us aren’t), you will never be able to fit five hours of schoolwork into a five-hour block of time. Plan less and allow more time than you think something will take. If you have free time, keep a list of go-to filler activities that can stand alone outside of a particular lesson so that you are still spending free time with a purpose.
Scheduling homeschool is more about scheduling a whole day that includes homeschool and life skill activities. Many homeschool parents choose to schedule household chores along with regular school subjects so that everything gets done in a way that works for them.