You will be living with your daily schedule on a…well…daily basis! Don’t be surprised if the final outcome doesn’t look a whole lot like your initial plans. Rather than chisel your schedule in stone, you may want to pencil in a daily plan. Start by implementing one child and one subject at a time. As those plans become workable, add children and subjects until your schedule is fleshed out. Finally, as you work on your initial daily schedule consider the following ideas:
Start the day right. Devotionals are a great way to start the day. Praising God and giving thanks to Him helps us keep things in the proper perspective. As we ask for His guidance throughout the day, our children will witness our love and devotion to the Lord. When things don’t go exactly as we planned, they will see us rely on the One who can best help us. And when things do go well, our children will see us give Him the glory. Putting God first and letting Him lead will be the most important element to a successful schedule.
Schedule in blocks. In a homeschool environment scheduling in hourly increments may not be the best solution. First, subjects rarely take an hour in a tutorial environment. Second, as we work at the student’s pace, a subject that takes thirty minutes one day might take sixty the next. Instead, schedule in blocks of time. For example, use the morning for “one-on-one time,” the afternoon for “group time.” The key is to schedule the progression of events rather the time in which they are to occur.
Determine your one-on-one time. As mentioned previously, unless you are very brave you will be teaching some subjects to all of your children at one time — whether through a literature approach, unit study or some other method. Other subjects will require you to spend one-on-one time with each child. Math for an older student may be as simple as tutoring them in the day’s lesson, working sample problems with them, and then sending them off to work the practice problems. Our younger children will need our undivided attention during their phonics lessons. Determine which children will need one-on-one time and in which subjects, and schedule those times so as not to overlap. Remember, in a tutorial situation, one lesson does NOT mean one hour.
Multitasking. One of our favorite terms! In computer jargon, it means that one computer processing unit is working on more than one job at a time. In homeschool lingo, it means every child is working on something productive at once. Imagine the flurry of activity. Imagine the productivity. Imagine mom with more than a single pair of hands! So how do you incorporate this time-saving mechanism into your homeschool? Let’s start with an example: You spend the early morning with Student A working through spelling words, language, and perhaps math. Student A takes their work and moves to a different location to finish the lessons. In comes Student B with whom you spend time in phonics and language. Student B moves to another location to practice math facts on a computer. Student A returns. You go over Student A’s work with Student A, making corrections and suggestions. Then attack math or reading with Student A. Student A moves to the computer to practice math facts while Student B returns to do math. When finished, Student B moves to a new location to work on a project. So forth and so on! The objective is no child left behind…er, without something productive to work on.
Assignment lists. As you work with your older children have them compile a list of assignments that they can work on independently, including an additional assignment should they finish all the others before you are ready for them. This will prevent them from standing around waiting on you.
Enlist the skills of your older children. Older children can practice their oral reading skills on the younger children. They may even be able to help younger children with some of their projects or assignments.
Make use of “reading time.” Reading time gives mom and the children an hour or so to take a break and re-group. Older children can use the time to read literature selections. Younger children can “read,” color, or listen to audio tapes. After reading time and perhaps a snack, everyone will be ready to move on to the next project.
Productive use of “play time.” Have your child make a list of projects he finds interesting. Then during his free time ask him to work on an activity or project from the list. He can always add to the list. This prevents the “I don’t have anything to do” syndrome. It is also a good way to discover and encourage him in his interests.
Be flexible. Your first schedule will almost certainly not be your last. As you may have realized, there are many variables: How long will my child need for math? How long will it take to go over science? What if one child doesn’t finish before the other is ready? Particularly in the beginning, it will be important to tweak your schedule as needed. By the end of the year you should have it down perfectly!