Sunday, June 22, 2014

Homeschool Scheduling: Taming the Beast!

     Making and sticking to a homeschooling schedule can be a challenge. For us, it seemed that things were always coming up or that life changes always seemed to complicate things. Assignments were not being completed and I found myself ill-prepared on some days. What I came to realize is that although these changes did have a significant impact, the real problem was the schedule itself.

     In reviewing schedules from the past 8 years, I've realized that I've often over scheduled. Over scheduling has truly been the main cause of my grief. I also noticed that I never really scheduled in time to perform my own homeschooling tasks and that led to me missing out on quality family time. I remember my husband always taking the kids off on his own because I was "too busy" with homeschooling tasks. For that, I felt resentment. I loved homeschooling, but always felt left out of the fun. A few years ago, that led me to really begin to think about scheduling and planning. Homeschool schedules are going to be different for each family so I'll share our schedule and give a few tips to consider when scheduling yours.

Our Schedule:
  • Year Round: This model gives us the ability to take more breaks and to spread out learning units. Education, in our home, is a continuous process.
  • Block Scheduling: We homeschool 5 weeks on and 1 week off. That gives the kids a break and also gives time for those who may not have completed assignments from the previous block. During the break, I work on plans and preperation for the next block. Block scheduling also helps to minimize scheduling conflicts because you are not scheduling too far in advance. In addition, this model allows me to spend quality time with my husband and to keep up with responsibilities of our urban homestead.
  • Weekly Schedule: A new change I implemented this year was to homeschool Monday through Thursday and have "Friday fun-day"! Fridays will be used for fun learning and also the day that any scheduled activities will take place. All orthodontist or doctor's appointments will be scheduled on this day to alleviate any distractions to instructional days. The free Friday's also allows a buffer during the week should there be a field trip that we decide to go on. Assignments can be easily shifted back a day and no one is stressed about it.
  • Daily Schedule: No more scheduled school days. My kids are free to tackle their lessons whenever they choose, however, I have imposed one limitation. I have realized how valuable it is to have my own personal time, therefore the only limitation is that I will not be available to assist with lessons after 8pm.
 Scheduling Tips and Tricks:

  • Take into consideration your homeschooling style: Unschoolers, classical homeschoolers, Waldorf homeschoolers, Charlotte-Mason homeschoolers, and eclectic homeschoolers all have different guiding principles. It is imperative that you consider these principles when preparing your schedules.
  • Family finance: Every homeschooling family has to consider financing into their homeschool schedule. Some are single parents who also work. Some are families where both parents are working and homeschooling. Some are work for home parents who also homeschool. Some are SAH parents who are homeschooling.  Whatever the case may be, our financial obligations, shape our needs and these will tremendously impact our schedule. I have personally homeschooled through each of these situations and am fully aware of how they affected our homeschooling.
  • Consider each child's learning style: Our children do not fit into little boxes and they learn differently. Some will pick up on topics in one sitting and others will require evening time to reinforce a concept. Some children are capable of working almost independently and others will need more one on one guidance each day. Knowing your child's individual learning styles and needs is important and will help you to make a more balanced schedule.
  • Remember family traditions: Does your family take summer vacations? Do you celebrate birthdays for a week? Does your family always get together during holidays? Remember that homeschooling allows for flexibility so do not overlook your family traditions when scheduling or they will become a source of stress. This is also very important for those who use virtual schooling where there is an obligation to complete a set number of assignments each week. Consider your traditions and communicate them with virtual teachers in advance.
  • Co-ops and extra-curricular activities: Joining a co-op is an excellent way to give your child the opportunity to engage in fun learning activities with other children. However, co-ops are a commitment and require time out of your schedule. Extra-curricular activities such as 4H, scouts, music lessons, and sports are the same. These activities can easily be incorporated into your homeschooling schedule.
  • Virtual homeschooling: Deciding to enroll your child into a virtual homeschool can impose significantly upon your homeschooling schedule. Virtual homeschools come in a variety of methods and requirements. Some follow a traditional school year and others allow for more flexibility. Also be mindful that placing your child into a virtual school may be more convenient but does not eliminate the need for parental involvement or oversight.  Be sure to incorporate your child's virtual school scheduling requirements into your homeschool schedule and allow time to review your child's progress and communicate with instructors.
  • Everything you do does not have to be a class: Being a homeschooler allows our children to engage in many learning  activities. The children are free to learn things that they choose. Does that mean that everything is going to be a class? No! Does that mean that time cannot be set aside for your child to learn the things that they want to learn, absolutely not. Not every learning opportunity needs to be a part of your homeschooling schedule. Allow free learning to happen, as it should. Be sure to not over schedule and give your children the freedom to explore on their own.  If you feel the need to document these learning activities, you can do so by adding them to a journal rather than feeling the need to create a scheduled/structured class.
  • Consider state laws and requirements: Some states grant a lot more flexibility and freedom to homeschoolers than others. Some have strict assessment timelines and guidelines. These can impact your homeschooling schedule. Be mindful of your states deadlines to submit yearly assessments and allow ample time to complete needed tasks.
  •  You don't have to do every class every day: Be mindful of how you approach certain topics. There are some things that may need daily reinforcement. On the other hand, some classes, such as science and history, can be very hands on and time consuming. There's nothing like ruining a good science lab  because you feel the need to move on to the next subject.  It's also equally frustrating when you chose to complete the lab but you don't complete the other scheduled activities. Instead, consider alternating days for science and history and making each one a little longer. That allows time to complete labs and doesn't impose upon other scheduled activities. 
  • Build flexibility into your schedule: You have the freedom to make your homeschooling schedule work for you. That being said, there is no way to foresee every problem that may arise. There will be days that you are sick or too tired to teach. Your child may become ill. Family emergencies may arise. Instead of being stressed when these things inevitably occur, build free/unscheduled days into your schedule. These days will become a buffer for your own sanity. 
 Planning and Scheduling resources:
  • Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus offers free homeschool planners and student planners that are customizable and suitable for parents of one or multiple children. 
  • Donna Young offers a variety of homeschool plannning resources.  These can be used to create customized planners that fit your family's needs.
  • I've created planners a few years back and if interested, feel free to use the homeschool planner and/or student planner
Peace and blessings,

D.T.

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