Homeschooling moms have this hilarious little quirk about us…Whenever we find ourselves in another homeschooling mother’s space, we stalk her lists and charts like that creepy guy in the back alley your mother always warned you about. Seriously. Before we’ve admired the photos on the wall or the art over the mantlepiece, we’re moseying over to the refrigerator, surreptitiously glancing at the chore chart, scanning the schoolroom for a daily schedule, shaking down the bookshelves for some clue as to how this mom is making it all work. We’re weird like that. Or is it just me?? Please tell me it isn’t just me!!!!
So anyways, whenever I happen to chance upon something that’s actually working for my homeschool, I like to share it. Because inquiring minds want to know! Am I right, girls?? I thought I would write a little post about our relaxed homeschool schedule and how I’m simultaneously juggling a 3rd grader with two middle schoolers and a preschooler/aspiring kindergartner. And for the purpose of full disclosure, let me just say that this comes after 3 years of feeling more than a little lost in our homeschool! If you don’t feel like you have it all together, trust me when I say that you are in good company :)
This schedule is loosely based on the philosophy that children do best with half an hour of daily academic study per grade level. For example, I plan about an hour and a half to two hours of homework each day for my 3rd grader. You will be surprised at what can be accomplished in such a short period of time.
“But wait!” you say. “My state requires X number of hours per academic day. How can I work with a shortened homeschool schedule and still honestly do what the state is expecting of me?”
Excellent question! My answer to that is to give this a try and see what happens. If you provide a no-tech or low-tech environment during the school day, I think you will be pleased with the things your children will find to do with their nonacademic hours. In his free time, my oldest son can be found putting pencil to paper in his artwork, reading books about various wars or weather phenomena, compiling information for his scrapbook of well-known tornados, and building Lego creations with his younger brothers. My 11 year old daughter sews, cooks, writes on her blog, sends letters to friends, researches the proper care and training of dogs, and reads reads reads all the books all the time. She’s like Martha Stewart and Caesar Milan’s love child :)
My little boys? Well, the 8 year old will read some of the time. But mostly, they play! Play is the work of children. In my 7 years of homeschooling, I have found that this time for creative play and development of personal interests is especially important for children age 10 and under. If you stay loose and relaxed, you will see your kids developing more “academic” type interests around the age of 10 or so. Were I to compile all the hours my children spend in worthwhile projects and personal reading time outside of my planned academic schedule, I am certain our hours would easily exceed the state’s requirements. This really does work!! The secret is providing interesting reading material, giving them some creative freedom, and strictly limiting or disallowing TV, video games, and computer time.
Ok, so now that I’ve explained the madness to my method, here are the nuts and bolts of our daily homeschool schedule. Each child has a checklist of activities that I would like them to work on throughout the week. They don’t have to do everything every day, but having the list helps me to see what we’re consistently hitting and what we might be missing. I’ve purposely divided each child’s daily routine between the following 3 types of lessons:
1) Things they can do on their own
2) Things we will do together as a group
3) Things for which they will need one-on-one help
“So what does this look like on any given day?” you ask….Well, with the exception of read aloud time, you will be hard-pressed to find us all sitting down “doing school” together. I give each of the two older children a copy of their list. I will remind them of various things throughout the day, but they know that their list is their responsibility. My 3rd grader gets the lion’s share of my time. He is old enough to need a fair amount of academic coaching each day but still too young to manage his own schedule. My youngest child is like a free range chicken! He wanders about, joining in with anything that looks interesting. I will snag him once a day for 10-15 minutes of reading time, but seeing that he is a young 5, we really haven’t ramped up an official homeschool schedule for him.
Here’s my Secret Sauce though….Ready for this?? I hit the ground running first thing in the morning! It’s like Monopoly. “Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go straight to homeschool.” I used to think that “responsible people” (Whoever they are, bless their hearts! I hate them, but only a little bit and in the most Christian sort of way ;) ), well, responsible people would have a proper breakfast, get the children dressed, take a shower, do the morning chores, and perhaps milk the cow and gather the eggs before starting homeschool in the morning. I don’t think that anymore. Or maybe I’ve given up on being a responsible person because ain’t nobody got time for that!! I mean, really, school didn’t get off the ground until after 10 a.m. when I was trying to be “responsible.”
So now when I wake up, I get dressed and do a quick fix on my hair. I often try to take 15 minutes or so to start the day with Lord, read the Word, pray a little bit. This all takes me a half hour or less. Then I head downstairs and look for my first “victim”! If my 11 year old is up, I check her chart for any task that requires help from me, and we begin. Eventually, the others wander down.
As soon as I finish helping someone with one task, I’m checking a chart and reminding so-and-so to go practice their piano or corralling another child to work on math with me. Breakfast happens here and there and everywhere. Sometimes I make lunch. Sometimes my daughter makes it. The chores and the personal hygiene tasks get done between bits and pieces of schoolwork. Somehow it all gets done!! And at 2:00, we STOP. Two o’clock is quitting time at the factory, and we are done for the day! My older children may have a few assignments that they finish later in the day, but they know that the important thing to me is effort and a demonstration of responsibility. Our lists serve us and not the other way around!
Here’s a little visual for all you List Stalkers out there :) This is a copy of my 12 year old’s schedule from this week. I hope this post will be of help to some of you. Mostly, let me encourage you to discover your own way, to lean into routines and rhythms that jive with your personality and the natural inclinations of your household, to forget about doing it the “right” way because what is the right way anyways?? The right way is what works for you and your children and brings the maximum amount of peaceful learning to your home. So homeschool on, brave mother! You’ve got this.
P.S. We have one day a week for “Project School” or “Field Day” or “Science Projects,” but that’s another subject for another day.