How to Stick to a Homeschooling Schedule

The first thing you should do when trying to figure out a way to stick to a homeschool schedule is stop thinking of the daily learning plan as well… a schedule. Developing a homeschool routine instead of a rigid schedule that mirrors a public school day is often a part of the “deschooling” process for both parents (or grandparents) and children.

A homeschool schedule sounds like a written in stone (or at least permanent ink) type of plan. I admit to falling into this same trap when first preparing to homeschool my daughter, and now helping her do the same with her brood.

two children during homeschooling

Expecting any two homeschool days to pan out exactly alike, especially when teaching more than one child is sheer lunacy. It’s just not going to happen, folks.

Homeschooling schedules help newbie teachers feel like they are ticking off all the boxes that require a checkmark in order to educate their children properly.

However, these well-intentioned parents and grandparents often become extremely frustrated a few mere weeks into the homeschooling process, and would rather chew on glass than try to work through another tightly planned day of home education.

Sadly, some of these parents throw in the towel or hit near nervous breakdown territory because they just cannot figure out why they keep getting off schedule or not making it to all of the engaging and exciting lessons they have carefully planned out for their children.

Thinking about all of the time or money (sometimes both) spent putting together a stellar homeschool curriculum as slightly organized chaos revolves around you does nothing to bolster confidence in a new homeschool mom, dad, or grandma.

To prevent homeschooling from becoming a stressful and dreaded part of your day instead of the joyful adventure it should be, ditch the wire bound planner for a moment, take a deep breath, and try incorporating the ideas below to lesson the burden and increase the fun and sense of accomplishment in your homeschooling day.

Schedule vs. Routine

If you have to keep glancing at the clock on the wall when homeschooling your children in order to stay on schedule, you’re doing it wrong. Why would you want to stop the learning and discovery before it naturally plays out?

If a child needs more help and a longer time to understand a learning concept, do not cut him or her off when a figurative bell rings, nor should you rush to end all of the conversation after a story or documentary film has finished simply to start a new worksheet or lesson on time.

Doing so will only lessen the joy or importance of learning for the children…

A love of dinosaurs that prompts more questions, sharing of facts, and extension project fun after a book or lesson on the subject should be embraced and encouraged, and not stifled by schedule adherence.

Will you feel anxious at first when an activity you planned takes two hours instead of one? Quite likely. But, when you can relax enough to enjoy watching the children discover and learn those feelings of “being behind” will dissipate.

A detailed homeschooling schedule is often written to tightly fit into a week of at home learning. Whereas a routine should be developed on a monthly basis (once you get comfortable with this planning style) so you have time to bump planned lessons to the following day or week if doing so becomes necessary.

Because homeschool hours are a lot fewer than public school hours thanks to the vast difference in “class” size, and typically involve three or maybe four days of traditional instruction, there is plenty of time to “get back on track” when activities take on a life of their own from a timeline perspective.

Block Teaching

Plan your homeschool routine in blocks or chunks of time instead of hourly or even two hours segments. Micro-scheduling the homeschooling day creates unnecessary rushing and stress for everyone involved.

Even if your state department of education requires a minimum number of hours for specific subjects, you don’t need to teach those lessons every day to achieve the mandated number.

For example, using a Monday and Wednesday morning block for teaching language arts. On Tuesday and Thursday you can block out the morning for math.

An even better use of your time and energy would be to use multi-subject unit studies or theme units which hit upon more than a single academic concept at a single time.

This is partly because of the less than in-depth nature of many homeschool theme units and expense of curriculums in general, as well as my desire to ensure my grandchildren had a Charlotte Mason-ish hands-on curriculum that would grow with them through the years, I created one myself.

You do not need to break subjects into categories when using a homeschool block routine.

You can simply break apart the time spent on the lessons as a whole into any categories necessary if your state requires the reporting of homeschool hours by subject instead of as a whole.

Backup Activities

Having a backup activity planned (in case a lesson does not take all of the block or the amount of time estimated in any type of routine you create) can be a life saver.

Sometimes, a planned activity will go more quickly than planned, be an epic fail that needs to be revamped and tried again another day, inclement weather could cause it to be postponed if it is outdoors, or involves a field trip.

When you’re educating multiple children, expect them to complete a lesson at different speeds even if they are the same or close in age.

A hands-on single child activity, a documentary that is short in duration and of specific interest to only that child, a storybook on a topic they love, etc. will keep one or more children occupied when they have extra time on their hands, or when a block has to be altered at the last minute.

Plan For The Unexpected

Much like with a backup activity meant to take up only a small amount of time during a homeschool day, you should also plan to pull a full day of activities out of your pocket.

Why is planning for the unexpected so important?

What will your kiddos or grandkiddos do all day if the power goes out due to a storm, the field trip is cancelled because of snow, you are sick and simply cannot do much more than sit on the couch and supervise the children from afar, or the hot water tank springs a leak and you must deal with that mess and getting a plumber into the house asap?

Keeping some special activities tucked away that the children will enjoy, learn from, and do so basically on their own and without internet or even electricity will save you from wasting an entire day of homeschooling – and having children complaining they are bored all day as they start fussing with siblings.

kids playing wildlife bingo

Bad Day Goodie Box Ideas:

  • Simple snack recipes the children can make with all of the supplies stored on a shelf together so they do not get used until needed.
  • New coloring books and markers. Dollar Tree has superb grade level specific activity, coloring, and sticker placement books that are fun, and truly have educational value.
  • Stream or buy a movie that the children will enjoy. Educational movies are best, but you can create a simple little activity for comprehension, critical thinking, and predicting that can be used with any type of movie, even just a fun cartoon. Take the book report in a bag concept, and use it for the movie. Give each child a brown paper bag to decorate in the movie theme, then fill it with decorated printables you already have stockpiled, or task them with making or finding their own little trinkets from around the house that can be placed in the bag and used for story retelling purposes.
  • Buy some storybooks, and hide them back for an indoor (or outdoor) reading and snack on a blanket fun. Making a tent with sheets over chairs indoors can give the kids their own little temporary reading nook to enjoy after the day’s routine has been altered.
  • Make a building block fun tub with pattern cards and building prompts (Pinterest is a great resource for free printables for these types of activities) the children can work on alone and share what they create.
  • Games, games, games! Gameschooling can be an important part of the homeschooling day in general, but making or buying some board games to pull out only on special homeschool days, make them an extra enticing treat for your little learners.

Never Try To Do Too Much At Once

Resist the urge to teach all subjects every day, or to work too much into a block or the weekly homeschool hours routine. You will get overwhelmed, and so will the children, even if the lesson you have planned is full of fun, engaging, and hands-on activities.

If you do not know how long it is going to take the children to build a volcano, get it to successfully erupt, AND clean up the mess, DO NOT jot it down as a single day project.

Space out the fun. This will not only allow for extra learning conversations and activities, but will heighten the anticipation of a special project or new topic of discovery.

Also, and this might be the most important routine drafting tip I can give you, do not lump all language arts lessons into a single block.

Break out all of the different parts of a language arts curriculum, and work on them either separately or over the course of a week or two while completing a multi-subject unit study.

The lessons that fall under a language arts heading include: reading, writing, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar.

While it is not usually difficult to make reading, or even writing fun for all types of learners when presented and taught correctly, working on spelling, grammar, and vocabulary lessons can be tedious for even an energetic learner – especially when crammed in together with a broad range of language arts activities that a “scheduled” to be accomplished in a single morning or afternoon block of time.

little girl raising hands in homeschool classroom

Go Heavy In The Morning, Not The Afternoon

Teach more intricate lessons, or introduce new subject matter in the morning when the children are the most alert and eager to start the day. When teaching multiple children, you may need different subjects to different children at the same time when homeschooling.

Should one child love science and the other hate or struggle with it, it can be considered a heavy subject for one but enjoyed by the other.

Waiting until afternoon to do a science lesson for the less inclined child will not only likely cause time sucking friction while teaching, but place a sense of dread over the child the whole day, which needlessly impacts learning activities he or she would otherwise enjoy.

Get Colorful And Creative

Should the homeschooling day start to go south for any reason, perhaps because it was just after or right before a holiday break, embrace a brief stepping away from lessons to help get everyone (perhaps including you) back on track.

A scheduled homeschool would not dare “waste” 20 minutes making ice cream sundaes after starting lessons again after a two week Christmas break of jamming to loud music, while dancing around the house with the children.

But, you are no longer that scheduled homeschooling mom. Nope, you have now learned the value in going with the flow, and can adapt and overcome with the fierceness of a Marine.

Call a halt to the lesson, and just change the mood by refreshing the homeschool environment with some energy expending fun or a calming treat that removes the frustration or adversarial interactions that could be developing.

This same type of quickie break may also be necessary after times of upset for an individual child or the whole family.

If a loved one has passed away, a beloved family pet perished, or similarly emotion inducing incident has happened, some creative and caring solutions to getting the children out of a distracted and sorrowful mindset will be necessary before they can ever settle down and focus on an academic lesson.

Set Priorities

If you want to make sure that a particular lesson, aspect of a lesson, or hands-on learning experience does not get bumped off the plan for the day or week, set it as a priority by hanging a index card on a magnet in the learning area.

Highlighting in on the routine, or otherwise create a visual reminder that should the carefully but not tightly planned learning activities take longer than anticipated, this one or a few items on the homeschool agenda need to take precedence over other items jotted down on the weekly routine planner.

Use Your Time Wisely

Sneak extra learning in throughout the lives of the children, and not just during the direct instruction time planned for the week.

Get the children more comfortable with public speaking and giving oral reports – while increasing their comprehension by prompting engaging conversations at specific times – forming habits like this is one of the most important aspects of homeschooling for Charlotte Mason fans.

Once little Timmy realizes that car ride or dinner conversation after his karate lessons will focus on what occurred during his class, he will start to pay better attention to smaller details about the class, and be able to relay them in an organized manner.

Purchase a book about karate for him to read alone, or for you to read at bedtime that becomes a part of not just homeschool language arts hours, but the basis of more conversations and fun and short book reports – perhaps a video made by Timmy talking about the book and relaying facts while showing of his latest moves.

Other sneaky learning lesson opportunities can come during trips to the grocery store. Children can add up the cost of items that go into the card, learn how to work within a budget, read ingredients to bolster their vocabulary, discuss nutrition as part of the health and science education, etc.

Take a camera on a car ride to anywhere, and task the child or children with finding specific items along the way – scavenger hunt style. Paying attention to detail is part of the critical thinking process and reading road signs and other signage is extra reading practice.

Playing the alphabet on car rides is another way to get the children extra reading in while having a blast competing against each other. Toss out a word, and spell it while riding in a car or waiting for an appointment.

The child has to come up with a new word to say and spell using the last letter of your word. If you are studying the pioneering era this month in your homeschool, choose vocabulary words related to the topic, and make up any time you feel got lost during the week while the children are outside of the typical homeschool learning area.

Start Each Day Calmly

You no longer have to make sure the children cram breakfast down, and rush out the door to catch a bus or beat the long line of parent drop offs at school. You and the children are homeschooling. Learning in pajamas is allowed.

Jumping out of bed and hitting the floor running because everyone overslept by 20 minutes is completely not necessary – or advised. The homeschool mornings should be a calm and relaxed way to start the day – and doing so will not throw off your routine.

Creating a morning basket of simple warm-up independent activities the children can do while getting ready for more detailed learning helps everyone have time to get their brain fully awake and bellies fed before in-depth lessons begin.

A morning basket might have some building block challenges in it, a storybook or chapter book to read from for a short amount of time, math bead threading for little ones, etc.

The morning time could also be used to play an educational video or short film the children enjoy while eating breakfast – that a lesson activity will stem from once the a.m. dishes are all washed and put away.

Final Thoughts

A bored, stressed out, or distracted child is not one that is enjoying the homeschool experience or even learning from it.

Including the children in planning the homeschool schedule turned routine often helps them to both understand how much work goes into the process, and give input on how long they feel an activity will take.

Having a sense of ownership in the process increases a child’s sense of independence and responsibility in regards to their education.

Don’t be surprised when even young children start suggesting projects related to a subject lesson, and give input into what they want to learn about.

If a child is into horses, let them read and write as much as they want to on the subject even if it was not a part of your planned routine for the week or month.

Reading skills are vital to the learning of all subjects. When a child embraces reading, and does not feel constrained by a schedule and books that were chosen for him or her, they often excel far more rapidly in both word identification, and comprehension.

Learning is, after all, your goal, not spending hours writing a schedule in a pretty homeschool planner.

Sticking to your homeschooling schedule by turning it into a routine with a reasonable amount of learning activity planned in blocks with ample breaks for moving around and working off some energy will help both your and your beloved little ones keep your sanity.

Trust your instincts. If you, the adult in the room, are getting stressed, tired of sitting in one spot, and start looking at the clock to either see how much longer you have to endure an activity or how quickly you must work to complete – your children are almost assuredly struggling with the same emotions and frustrations … tenfold.

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