Time Management: Tips on Establishing a Schedule for Homeschoolers

Posted on December 07 2011

One big challenge in homeschooling is ensuring that you are able to fit everything that needs to be done for the day. Although homeschooling gives you more freedom and flexibility, you still need to meet the requirements with regards to completing a curriculum and having a fair share of learning activities and projects. This may vary, depending on the state you live in.

What you need is a schedule. A schedule is a rock upon which the day's activities are anchored. With a schedule, you are not easily buffeted by the day's distractions. You can also easily move from one activity to the next. This way, you also achieve your child's learning goals - and keep your sanity!
A schedule works well for the child. With it, he knows how his day will go, what to expect. They are not left wondering what to do next.
Whether you are strictly following a schedule or using it as a guideline, a schedule is useful in providing the day's framework. Also, a schedule makes it possible for homeschooled kids to continue what they are doing and to still meet learning goals even if you (the homeschooling parent) will be gone for a few days. Even if you fall off schedule on some days, a schedule makes it easier to recover lost time and jump right back into accomplishing your learning goals for the week or month.

Crafting a schedule
There are no cut and dried schedule that will fit all families. You must remember to take your family's needs and dynamics in mind and craft a schedule specifically for your family.
When creating a schedule, here are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Start with the basics. Before crafting your homeschool schedule, examine the day's basic activities, such as waking up, naps and meals. Then, add in homeschool-related activities into the schedule.
  • Be realistic. Don't try to cram too many activities into one day! This will only lead to stress for you and frustration for your homeschooled child. Schedule in times of fun and play, times for breaks and breathers - it will do good not just for your child but for you as well. Also, determine your child's pace - this will help indicate how long your child can reasonably complete a certain learning task or drill.
  • Keep it simple. There's no need to overload a day with activities and lessons.
  • Make a schedule but keep it simple. School activities do not take all day in most cases. For elementary age students three to four hours is plenty. Once your child is reading well he will be doing most of it on his own anyway. Understand that you are facilitating learning not forcing learning
  • Be consistent but not monotonous. You need to have a consistent structure that's flexible enough to add in variations within the week. Of course, you need to make sure that the day has more or less the same structure throughout the week. However, you should also add a bit of variation to add color to the day. You should not expect your child to look forward to a day that's filled only with math drills and verb conjugations! Allot some time for projects and field trips so that a day is neither boring nor tedious for your child.
  • Assign lessons and activities to the right time slot. Generally, a child is more alert and attentive during mornings. This is the best time to do key lessons such as English and Math. The time after lunch may be best for a nap or for free time, as the child may be a little sleepy after a heavy meal.
  • Examine your child's subjects. Take a look at the curriculum. Determine which ones should be done on a daily basis and which ones can be done on a weekly basis. Also, determine which subjects need a lesson-based learning activity, field trip or project you can insert every so often. This can be something your child can look forward to and can serve as motivation for him to finish his lessons.
  • Look at some examples. The internet is an excellent source of sample homeschooling schedules. Some homeschool parents have been generous enough to share their own schedule and time-managements tips.

Other considerations include:

  • State laws and requirements. What does your state require with regards to the number of home school hours in a week or the number of school days in a year?
  • Your child's age. Children have different needs at certain stages of development. A homeschooled preschooler will need a different schedule than a grade schooler. If your child is in the high school level, you can even allow him to create his own schedule, with your supervision.
  • Number of days allotted in a week. How many days in a week do you plan to homeschool?

Enforcing a schedule
Now that the first step is one, the next challenge is being able to stick to the schedule

  • Be flexible. Again, schedules are not set in stone. If a schedule does not work, stop using in and craft a new one. Also, use your discretion when a lesson calls for more time or an activity. You don't need to say no to a project or field trip related to the lesson just because it's not in the schedule.
  • Guard your time against distractions. Phone calls, unexpected visitors and other distractions will carve away at your time. As much as possible, avoid these distractions. Turn on the answering machine so you don't need to answer all the phone calls that come in during the day.

Remember, a schedule is a tool - you control it and not the other way around! As long as you are able to make a schedule work for you and that it helps you meet your child's learning goals, you can use the schedule to you and your child's advantage. Avoid the pitfall of feeling guilty about your schedule when another homeschooling parent seems to be able to pencil in more lessons and activities. Each family will have different needs and dynamics.

Schedule Flexibility with The American Academy
The American Academy has an online high school program that provides more scheduling flexibility. In this virtual high school, lessons start on Monday but are available to the homeschooler at all hours of the day so he or she can access it according to his unique schedule. Whether your child is just aiming to catch up on lessons missed or is planning to get a high school diploma online, the program ensures that your child has what he or she needs in order to complete the required high school course work.
Also, credits earned can easily be transferred to other schools since The American Academy is an accredited online high school. The American Academy has a comprehensive list of over 100 high school courses.