7 Tips for Establishing a Successful Homeschool Schedule
Posted on November 11 2019
Any discussion about the benefits or detriments of homeschooling starts and ends with the question: What form of education is best for the student? Researchers struggle to determine the total number of children who are educated at home. There’s also debate about the quality of instruction homeschooled children receive compared with students in traditional education environments.
Some research shows that homeschooled students academically outperform their counterparts who are receiving a traditional education. A systematic review of empirical research on homeschooling was conducted by the Journal of School Choice. The review found that 11 of 14 studies comparing standardized test scores and other academic measures for both groups of students concluded that homeschooling had a “positive effect” on students.
A challenge for many families who choose homeschooling is establishing a successful homeschool schedule that doesn’t overwhelm students, whether by piling on too much work or presenting material that is too difficult for them. Homeschool schedules must be structured to become a comfortable routine, yet be flexible enough to accommodate special events — whether for educational purposes or just for having fun. Another area of concern for homeschooling families is ensuring that students have ample opportunity to make friends, build relationships with peers, and engage in social activities.
The seven tips presented here are meant to help parents devise and implement a homeschooling schedule that prepares students for life after graduation, whether they plan to enroll in college or other educational settings, or as they enter the work world.
Decide on a Homeschool Schedule for Your Student
One of the benefits of homeschooling is its flexibility. Schedules may not look like those used by brick-and-mortar schools with regular start and stop times for subjects throughout the day. The Homeschool Solutions blog suggests that homeschoolers establish a “routine” rather than a schedule.
One approach suggested by ThoughtCo, an education content reference website, is to break the homeschool day into blocks up to two hours long. Subjects can alternate through the week. For example, students may spend two hours studying history on Mondays and Wednesdays, and two hours working on science projects on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This block scheduling can give students more time to focus on a single topic without trying to fill a given school day with many different subjects.
Homeschooling families must also be mindful of state laws that apply to their children’s instruction. The Coalition for Responsible Education explains the five levels of current state regulation of homeschooling:
- 11 states require no notice to, or contact with, state agencies.
- 15 states require only that homeschoolers notify state agencies of their intent to homeschool.
- 12 states require assessments but make several exceptions available.
- 7 states require assessments but have “lax thresholds for intervention.”
- 5 states require a thorough assessment as well as other provisions.
Allow Schedule Flexibility Based on Student Performance
In addition to flexibility in daily schedules, homeschooling allows families to alter their instruction schedule for each week, month, and entire school year. Certain states mandate a minimum number of days or hours of instruction each year. Basing a yearly schedule on 180 days of teaching allows the school year to be divided into four nine-week quarters, two 18-week semesters, or a single 36-week block.
Another key advantage of homeschooling is the ability to adjust the instruction schedule to increase time for subjects in which the student is struggling. A popular scheduling approach is to create a loop schedule of subjects that are not taught every day or even every week, such as art, geography, music, and cooking. Each weekly schedule includes time for a loop subject that can be studied in a particular order or randomly. Extra study time for subjects in which the student is struggling can be added to the loop schedule to give that subject the extra attention it needs.
Don’t Overwhelm the Student with Material
An important consideration when planning the schedule of instruction for each day, week, and year is to set a pace of learning and a mix of activities that allow students to shift smoothly from subject to subject.
Parents often find they can complete a day’s worth of instruction in only three or four hours. This is particularly so with young students. As a result, some parents may feel they are not delivering enough total teaching time during each school day, or that they need to do more to fulfill their state’s required number of instruction hours each day. Parents shouldn’t feel the need to load up the school day with unscheduled subjects or added lessons in scheduled subjects.
Homeschooling’s one-to-one attention often enables students to learn more in less time than is spent in standard classrooms. Also, homeschooling eliminates the need for many administrative tasks that take time away from instruction in traditional school classrooms.
Provide a Hands-on Education
Homeschooling’s flexibility is conducive to diving deep into topics of interest to the student. A homeschooling plan should be modeled on typical courses of study for various grade levels such as those described by ThoughtCo, but it should also cover topics and concepts that are relevant and present them in a cohesive and logical order.
An important consideration many parents neglect is to ask their children what subjects they are most interested in studying. Often the student’s interests can be leveraged in several different subjects, such as building on a child’s interest in mythology to tie together lessons in history, art, science, and literature. Similarly, large projects can be planned as part of the student’s curriculum that combine areas of study in many different subjects.
Set Aside Time for Leisure and Relaxation
All students, whether being homeschooled or learning in traditional classroom settings, need plenty of time for rest and recreation. The image of homeschooling many people have often includes makeshift classrooms on beaches or educational excursions to the local amusement park. Homeschooling families sometimes need to be reminded to take advantage of the flexibility at their disposal when the opportunity for a recreation break arises.
For example, Homeschool Superfreak, the online homeschooling community, describes a parent who faced a dilemma when her daughter noticed a documentary about Abraham Lincoln was about to air on television. The parent had a full day of instruction planned, including a trip to the library to work on an important writing project. On this particular morning, however, steady rain was falling, and the prospect of extra drive time convinced the parent to make a change. She rearranged that week’s schedule to accommodate the library writing project and the unplanned viewing of the Abraham Lincoln documentary. In this case, a leisure activity became an unscheduled learning opportunity.
Encourage Relationships with Peers
Homeschool environments usually don’t provide students with opportunities to make friends or develop other kinds of relationships with children or adults outside their family. Some school districts, however, do allow homeschooled students to participate in sports and other activities. Overall, homeschool schedules need to consider ways to encourage students’ participation in activities and programs that allow connections with peers and potential mentors.
Phys.org reports on a survey of homeschooled children in Australia that found the children regularly engage in learning and community groups, including homeschool co-ops. The researchers cite previous work showing homeschooled children scored higher on socialization tests than their traditional school counterparts and they often have “higher quality friendships and better relationships with their parents and other adults.” Parents should encourage their children’s participation in community groups, clubs for young people, and regular play dates with children their age, whether they are homeschooled or attending regular schools.
Plan for the Long Term
It’s natural for parents to get caught up in the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedule for homeschooling their children. The website Homeschool Facts highlights the importance of devising homeschool plans that extend up to five years to avoid being “caught off guard when we arrive at significant life stages.” For example, as students move from early grades to middle school and high school, the cost of instruction materials increases as reference books and microscopes replace crayons, glue, and construction paper. More importantly, students must prepare for standardized tests and very likely will be submitting applications and test scores to colleges. It is never too soon for students to contemplate their career objectives and educational goals.
Create a Successful Home School Schedule
Assembling the pieces of a successful homeschool schedule requires thoughtfully putting together plans for the study “blocks” that comprise each school day, as well as plans that build toward a long-term strategy that is customized to the interests and goals of each student. The American Academy offers parents of homeschooled children a way to supplement their current curriculum. Many parents find the integration of an online school beneficial, especially when it comes to topics they may not be as familiar with or expanding their child’s elective and career pathway options.
The American Academy’s programs support alternative learning in diverse homeschool environments. Students who wish to complete the self-paced instruction and receive personalized feedback have 24/7 access to online curriculum.
Whether supplementing an existing homeschool plan or providing a full high school diploma, The American Academy is ready to help your children achieve their educational goals in a safe and supportive environment.