Many families are turning to homeschooling either out of necessity or a desire to create a more custom-fit education that works for their kids. This can be exciting or terrifying, depending on your reasons for beginning and how much the other areas of your life line up with this kind of approach.
One way you can make any homeschooling journey less scary is to set up systems that work.
A good homeschooling schedule is a great way to create structure in your day and make a smooth transition to home education. But there isn’t one schedule that will work for every family.
After many years of trial by fire, here are some of my best tips for creating a homeschool schedule that works for you:
Create a Family Vision or Mission Statement
The first thing to do when you’re trying to create a homeschooling schedule that works for your family is to figure out what your overall vision is for your homeschool. Having a clear vision to work towards can help you include the most important things in your homeschool schedule while eliminating unnecessary things.
For my family, we decided to prioritize skills that aren’t likely to be outsourced to technology. These include critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and the ability to connect dots where other people don’t see them.
When planning our homeschooling schedule, we take these goals into account and make decisions based on how we can best facilitate learning these skills.
- To come up with your family vision or mission statement, start by writing down all of the reasons you have chosen to homeschool, all of the skills you would like your children to leave home with, and any other characteristics, skills, or rituals that are important to your family.
- Using those ideas write your mission into a few sentences or a bullet point list.
- Refer back to this mission or vision as you work on your schedule. We’ve even turned ours into art and have it hanging on the wall.
Once you have your vision or mission statement, you can start making goals for the year. Setting goals is a great practice for homeschooling in general, but it can also help you create your schedule.
We set goals for math skills, reading skills, etc., but we don’t set arbitrary rules around what constitutes learning. For example, if my child can demonstrate that they know the correct answer to a math problem, I don’t require them to show their work or do the work a certain way. We want them to think outside the box, come up with creative solutions, and be innovative, so we encourage that kind of problem-solving.
Goals might look like:
- Learn to write a persuasive essay
- Learn how to give change from a dollar
- Make a plan for a profitable business
Setting goals this way means we can focus on the end product (developing a skill) and not get tripped up and distracted by the “how.” There are only so many hours in a day (and focus a child can give!), so we have to be choosy about how we spend our time.
Evaluate Your Family’s Needs
Every family is different and has different needs for their schedules. The most important thing you need to do when creating your schedule is to be honest about what suits your family. If you’re night owls, don’t try to start your day at 8 a.m.! Or if your kids focus better in the morning, make sure you get the basics (reading, writing, and math) out of the way early.
Consider these questions:
- What routines do you already have in place? Are they working for you?
- Do you have work schedules to work around?
- Do your kids have outside activities (dance class, soccer practice, etc)?
Some families find that schooling in the afternoon or evenings works for them. Others do fewer hours each day but continue school year-round. Another option is to do school for six to eight weeks and then take a break for a week or two. There are endless possibilities!
If you will be following a public school schedule (virtual or e-learning), use these principles in the flexible time blocks you have available.
Make It Flexible
It doesn’t matter so much what you call it (a schedule or a routine) as long as you know you will need to build in flexibility. It’s unrealistic to think that you will be able to start math at 9:10 a.m. every day.
When homeschooling, you are typically at home (or at least you start there!) and will have home-related things pop up. The baby is hungry, the dog wants to go out, there are no clean water glasses so you have to run the dishwasher — there are lots of possible distractions.
I personally like a schedule because it gives me an idea of when certain things might happen, but I don’t worry if we get behind. One tip that helps: block out extra time for transitions. For example, if I want to do a lesson for 20 minutes, I block out 30 minutes for it.
If you get frustrated or anxious when you get behind in your schedule, don’t schedule! Instead, create a routine so you know what to do next but there aren’t any times assigned to those tasks. Your routine might look something like this:
- Soccer practice
Again, you are in charge of what your schedule or routine looks like, so do what works best for your family.
As I mentioned, things pop up during a homeschool day that don’t happen during a school day. Don’t expect your schedule or routine to be perfect. Overscheduling and trying to “do it all” is a recipe for disaster.
We follow the 80/20 rule which says that 20 percent of actions equal 80 percent of results. Because we want our kids to learn those skills I mentioned above (over skills that may be irrelevant in 20 years), we make them a priority.
I know that we won’t be able to do everything in our homeschool, so by prioritizing those 20 percent skills, we are making sure that our kids will be ready for the future world.
Draft Your Schedule
Now’s the time to write down a schedule for your family. Start with coming up with a yearly calendar. You can use a planner or just a simple wall calendar. Many families follow the local public school calendar to make it easy for kids to see their public-schooled friends. Others will create their own yearly calendar.
- Mark the days you won’t be doing school because of holidays or family vacations. If your state requires a certain number of days of school, now is the time to plan those out (hint: plan for a few extra in case of illness).
- Now it’s time to come up with a basic weekly schedule. You can quickly make a weekly schedule with a pencil and paper or you can use other tools like excel or calendar apps. Add in the outside activities like co-op classes or sports practices first. Next include work schedules and other commitments.
- Then you can start working in school blocks. I always recommend prioritizing reading, writing, and math every day. Then once or twice a week you can add in geography, history, science, arts, etc. For older kids (middle and high school) you may need to do those “extra” subjects a few additional times throughout the week based on your goals.
Ease Into Your Schedule
Many families are concerned that their kids won’t like their new routine at home. I recently chatted with our Wellness Mama editor, Carrie Husse, on the podcast since she is a long-time homeschooling mom of 3. She recommends easing into your schedule instead of jumping in suddenly. This helps kids to adjust to the new schedule with less resistance.
Here’s what works for her:
- Start working on just your morning routines a few weeks before you want to start school. Streamline wake-up times, breakfast, and chores. This is half the battle and sets up a successful day.
- Ease into subjects by choosing one to start with and adding the others in as you build new habits to support your new routine.
Be Prepared to Make Changes
No matter how much thought you put into your homeschooling schedule, you will inevitably need to make changes. Depending on kids’ ages, work schedules, and other commitments, your schedule may change every year or even every few months.
You may also find that without the confines of traditional school, your family’s natural schedule emerges and surprises you. Maybe afternoons are your favorite time to read together while math is great just before lunch. Follow what works for your family and adjust as needed.
More Homeschooling Help
- 367: Creating Your Tribe: Micro-communities for School, Activities, and Social Support
- 361: Homeschooling and Raising Entrepreneurs With Nathan Barry
- 341: Q&A With Katie: Motivation, Magnesium, Homeschooling & Parenting Teens
- 6 Favorite Practical Homeschool Resources (My Kids Love)
- How to Set up a Homeschool Classroom
What helps you create a homeschool schedule that works? Let’s help each other by sharing our best tips and tricks!