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I LOVE a schedule.
Bringing kids into my world has felt like a cosmic joke sometimes. Before kids, I could plan my schedule down to the minute. I knew exactly how long things took. I wasn’t sidelined by stuff like a missing stuffed animal, a refusal to put on pants, or an unexpected need to poop just as I was walking out the door.
Then I had kids.
Scheduling anything in this house feels like a waste of time. Things rarely work out the way I planned. In the old days, a rigid schedule helped me feel calm and organized. Today, it makes me crazy.
We’re homeschooling, though, and that requires organization. I need to choose what we’ll be studying each week. I need to keep us on track to complete our curriculum on schedule. And I need to keep a record of everything we’ve done as part of my homeschool review with my local school district here in the state of Maryland.
So, I need to stay on track and organized but incredibly flexible. I need to log what we’ve done in school, but I need that log to be simple enough that I will actually keep up on it.
My solution? Instead of spending hours micro-planning a homeschool routine that likely won’t work out the way I intend it to, I’ve switched to an unbelievably simple two-part system of scheduling and logging.
How to Create a Simple Homeschool Schedule:
When I first began creating my schedule, I asked myself several questions. (You can download a copy of those questions by accessing the free Homeschool Schedule Creator in my Subscriber Hub).
Answering my list of questions and placing my existing commitments on a weekly calendar helped me to clarify the three essential components of my schedule:
- the days of the week I wanted to homeschool
- the times we’d do school each day
- the tasks we needed to complete each week
How long does homeschooling take, and when will we fit it in?
Since my older son and I already did kindergarten together, I know how long his attention span is.
I also know about how long it takes the two of us to complete the work we have to do. As a result, I knew that for first grade I wanted to do school about five days per week for about 1-2 hours per day.
After writing my existing commitments down on a blank weekly calendar, I recognized that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are busy days for us with little homeschool time. To avoid feeling overwhelmed on those days, we scheduled focused school time on the weekends.
That’s right. When it’s your school, you get to decide what days of the week school is in session.
What time should school start?
Part of brainstorming our schedule initially involved thinking about when my son and I do our best work and are at our most cheerful. He and I are both morning people. I knew we would enjoy doing schoolwork the most right after breakfast in the morning when we are fresh and fed (and I’m caffeinated).
Right after lunch is a good ‘plan B’ if the morning has gotten away from us. While setting up my schedule, I blocked off 9-11 a.m. and 1-2 p.m. on school days as our optimum times. I wrote those times on my weekly calendar.
What exactly are we going to do?
Currently, we are working through Build Your Library Level 1, Logic of English Foundations C, Shiller Math Volume 3, and Oak Meadow’s Healthy Living from the Start. I’d like, ideally, to complete these volumes by May. Therefore, while brainstorming my schedule, I came up with a target number of lessons in each subject to complete each week.
Every week, we try to complete two English lessons plus copy work, two+ math lessons, one week of Build Your Library Level 1, and one health unit. To comply with requirements in the state of Maryland, we add extra music, art, and physical education activities each week.
One of our most treasured resources for teaching phonics, spelling, reading, and handwriting: Logic of English.
How to plan your homeschool week
Every Friday, I use the guidelines I established above to jot down a quick list of specific activities/lessons I think we should try to accomplish in the coming week. (Because we do school on Saturday and Sunday, our ‘week’ runs from Saturday to Friday).
I’ll add to my list any enrichment activities such as holiday crafts or educational videos I think the kids will like. I also take into account any doctor’s appointments, play dates, or travel that might affect the time we have for school.
How to use your homeschool schedule each day
When we sit down for school each day, I pull out my list of activities for the week and let my son choose what we work on and in what order.
If we should fall down some rabbit holes and do lots of extra work on a certain subject, I might cross that subject off the list for tomorrow. Or, I might do the opposite—hurry to find more engaging materials on this subject that lights his fire. Because our schedule is so loose and is only planned for a week or two at a time, we have tons of flexibility.
We work through a few activities on my list, and then school is done for the day. Some days, we are really loving the material. We fill our whole 2-3 hours but want to continue writing in hieroglyphics or reading an engaging novel.
Other days, focus is just not there, and we spend less than an hour in school. Because I’ve planned my activities in a weekly batch, I don’t stress too much about what we accomplish each individual day. I know we can catch up tomorrow. If this turns out to be an ‘off’ week, I can take that into account when I sit down to plan for next week.
How to log all this stuff
I use an incredibly simple, pretty old-school method for keeping track of all we’ve done as part of our homeschooling days. All the data is recorded in a humble spreadsheet. Our homeschool log spreadsheet is organized by week along the rows. Across the top columns, I’ve listed all the subjects the state of Maryland requires me to teach.
I’ve also made columns for books we’ve read, dishes we’ve cooked together, Spanish lessons we’ve completed, and field trips we’ve taken. The state of Maryland doesn’t care about the progress we’re making in those areas, but making sure I remember to include them as part of my planning is important to me.
As we do homeschool work each day, I jot down our activities in their respective columns. I can see at a glance if we haven’t done any science activities yet that week or if it’s been a month since our last field trip. When I’m making my list of activities the following Friday, I’m careful to include any neglected subjects.
This simple scheduling and logging system works out beautifully for me. Although I have a very loose big picture, I’m never planning much more than a week or two ahead. If our pace really speeds up (or really slows down) compared to the schedule I anticipated, things aren’t hard to change.
I know I’m providing the “regular and thorough instruction” in the eight subjects the state of Maryland requires me to teach. I know if I’m on pace to move through our books on the schedule I’d anticipated. (And I can see quickly if the arbitrary schedule I created was unrealistic). Best of all, I’ve got incredible flexibility for when life (inevitably) happens.
Now if I could just get the kiddos in the habit of going to the bathroom before it was time to run out the door…