You need a rhythm that works for your family, but how do you find it? Read on for how to make a successful homeschooling schedule.
Homeschooling is supposed to be flexible, and it is. Unfortunately, without a schedule, you may find your days frittering away with too many video games, Legos, and Disney+ (but don’t get me wrong–all of those can be leveraged into legitimate learning opportunities).
A homeschool schedule is a flexible framework for your year, month, week, and day. This schedule will keep you on track with your goals and keep your days humming with both purpose and fun. There is no one-size-fits-all homeschooling schedule. The most successful homeschooling schedule is the one that fits the pattern and personality of your family.
Traditional schools follow a 180-day school year. That’s 40 weeks. Some states’ homeschooling laws require you to count your homeschooling days so they equal, or exceed, that number. Check with your state homeschooling association for the laws in your area.
The good news is that the homeschooling classroom is not relegated to four walls. Field trips (even family vacations) that are educational in nature can also count toward your 180-day total.
The biggest decision with yearly planning is this: do you want a traditional summer break or do you want to school year-round? Year-round schooling sounds like a bear, but you actually get as much time off as the traditional schedule. You could take 4 weeks at Christmas this way, and still have 8 more weeks to intersperse throughout your year. A plus to year-round schooling is that your children won’t go through the summer slide in knowledge.
The benefit to a summer break is that–whew!–everybody needs one. You are ready for a long stretch of time where you don’t have to be a teacher AND parent. You may also want to take part in seasonal camps, activities, and vacations.
Every month is not the same. Some months are jam-packed with lots of extras (Hello, December!). You may also have months with a lot of upheaval: trips, visiting family, or a new baby. Account for those months at the outset. Don’t expect to maintain the same pace of learning as before.
You may also want to consider subject-focus months. If you have a child with attention issues, he or she may benefit from drilling down on one content subject at a time. You keep the essential skill subjects in place (reading, handwriting, spelling, and math), but you spend each month focusing on a different content area. January could be plants and botany. February could be typing or computer coding. March could be the history of ancient Egypt.
If you are a fan of unit studies (building your entire curriculum around a particular theme or area of study), you can plan for this month-by-month as well.
The days of the week have their own obligations. Perhaps Friday is your grocery shopping day. Wednesday you attend a co-op. Monday is your son’s karate class. Plan your week to allow for lighter and heavier school schedules depending on the flow of the day.
If your children are young and thereby do less school, consider allotting a special day just for fun or field trips. This could be Fun Friday; you’ll build memories that will last a lifetime. (Do you want to count it as a school day? Go on nature walks, listen to audiobooks or educational podcasts as you drive, or visit museums. Learning is everywhere!)
If you have multiple children, save yourself some sanity and try to school them together when possible. Everyone can learn about the Renaissance together; your older one could write a paragraph summary while your younger ones do a coloring page. Streamline your life; you do a lot!
Everyone has their own circadian rhythms. Some people are naturally early risers; others are night owls. If you or your kids are super sluggish in the morning, don’t plan a math lesson at 7 a.m. Know yourself.
Consider your family schedule. I knew a family in which one parent worked nights, so the whole family adopted the schedule of sleeping till 3 pm and then beginning the school day.
If you have a new baby, your homeschool schedule may have lots of gaps as you work around the baby’s nap times. If you have a student who struggles to pay attention, you may need to plan for frequent brain breaks (even every 10 minutes) to create the best learning environment possible.
Example of a Daily Schedule
Here is a sample schedule. This schedule is for a house with three kids: 1st grade, 5th grade, and 8th grade. Notice that the 10 am slot is different for Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday. Following this schedule, you would have a shortened Friday for play, co-op, or a field trip.
- Handwriting for 1st and 5th grader while drinking morning juice
- 8th grader meets with the parent to go over daily assignments
- Breakfast together
- Reading and math instruction with 1st grader
- 5th and 8th grader do some independent work
- 1st grader gets play break
- Check-in with the older two
10 am Monday and Wednesday
- Read-aloud history book with all three
- 1st grader colors a history coloring book page
- 5th grader does a geography activity
- Further history study with 8th grader or independent assignment
10 am Tuesday and Thursday
- Read-aloud science book with all three
- Hands-on activity led by 8th grader
- 8th grader writes up the science activity
- 5th grader does a less detailed version
- 1st grader draws a picture of the activity
- Math with 5th grader
- 1st grader plays in the backyard or does a craft activity
- 8th grader works on writing assignment
- Math with 8th grader
- 5th grader reads a book to 1st grader
- Lunch break
- Nature walk
- 5th and 8th grader independent reading
- 1st grader plays while listening to an audiobook
Chores and extracurriculars
Creating a Successful Homeschooling Schedule
Remember, there will still be days and weeks where your best-laid plans fall like a house of cards. That’s okay. You can continue to tweak your schedule until you find one that works for you. You can take a break from your schedule or follow a reduced schedule during busy times (Keep it simple: math and reading only!).
Even if you choose to alter it every day, having a flexible schedule will allow you and your children to reach your goals for the year. It will also give your children a sense of purpose and assurance, knowing what to expect.