Scheduling for Homeschool Moms

Ever feel like you need a few more arms to carry out all your various jobs? Maybe more arms aren't enough - you need another set of legs, another brain (or two), not to mention a second lap and reading voice! Last year my greatest wish was for a clone so we could share the teaching jobs in this house. (Great news! This year I'm hiring Kara to come in one afternoon a week to co-teach with me! Of course sweet Annie will be coming, too.)

But since extra body parts aren't readily available, we have to rely on other strategies to help us train, feed, clothe, and bathe our children, keep the house presentable and hygienic, manage the laundry, tend our gardens, love and respect our husbands, and do all of the various jobs that fall to us as wives and mothers. Add in homeschooling  - literature, composition, grammar, Latin, Spanish, Greek, biology, physics, general and physical science, geography, Bible, math from basic arithmetic to pre-calculus - some of the courses in our home this year- and your head starts to spin! The more balls you try to juggle, the more essential becomes a good plan and realistic schedules.

Developing workable yearly, weekly, and daily schedules is one of my critical tasks each summer to prevent my balls from crashing at my feet a few weeks or months into the school year. Here are some of the things I think about as I plan:

1. PRAY!
Ask for the Lord's help as you sort out the various puzzle pieces of your life, trying to fit them together in the way that will best work THIS year. Let Him guide you as you make plans, and then - let Him guide you as to when you need to stray from the plan as He brings unexpected situations and opportunities.

So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.  Do return, O LORD; how long will it be? And be sorry for Your servants.  O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.  Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us, And the years we have seen evil.  Let Your work appear to Your servants And Your majesty to their children.  Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.(Psalm 90:12-17)

A. Begin with an overall plan for the year.What do you expect to happening in the coming year? Are you expecting a new baby? Do you plan to make a mid-year move? Will there be a wedding in your family? What trips might you be taking? What breaks will you be taking for holidays or rest time? With these things in mind, figure out when  to have school and when you will be off. In Indiana we need to hold school for 180 days, so I calculate at least 36 weeks of school.

B. Build in extra days to use when the unexpected happens. When your house needs extra attention, maybe you want to take a Scrubbing Vacation! We never miss school for Snow Days, but this year we had a "Beautiful Weather Day" when we canceled school to enjoy a gorgeous spring day. Extra time in the schedule allows flexibility without causing you to fall behind or still be doing school on the Fourth of July!

              Faith, at age 6, cleaning the floor during a Scrubbing Vacation

C. Think seasonally. What is happening each month or season? Are you a mega gardener with lots of fall canning? Do you want to allow time to craft homemade Christmas gifts in October? Plan for a few days off of school as craft days or a fall break. Make the schedule work for YOUR life!

D. Pace yourself! Parenting is a long-distance event, and homeschooling certainly is too! If you try to go at an all-out sprint, you are going to wear out too soon. So plan times of rest and refreshment along with times of intense work. Maybe you will do school six weeks on and one week off. You could do three hard, structured weeks followed by one lighter, project-oriented week. I haven't been great with this pacing thing, so I'm going to try something new this year. Though our schedule is pretty traditional, I have set aside some weeks or months, such as December, as more laid back school times. We'll be dropping Greek with the little boys during the laid-back weeks, and maybe making a few other changes as well. My junior and senior high schoolers need to work pretty steadily all year, but even so, maybe we can have some times that are more intense with others somewhat more relaxed.

Once you've made an overall year plan, it's time to think about a weekly flow. Again, consider what needs to happen each week. Do you have music lessons? A co-op class? A mid-week church program? A regular library day? Think about how these things impact your life, and plan your school week accordingly. You don't have to follow the exact same schedule Monday through Friday. Looking at your weekly schedule, you may decide that you want to plan a freezer or crock-pot meal to coincide with the day you are out for co-op or music lessons, and so on.

Here's where you get down to the nitty-gritty details!

a. Begin each day with Bible and prayer. My heart often gets set aright as we sing or read Scripture together and ask for the Lord's strength for that day.  Very often this scripture is my cry as I remember His mercies are indeed new on this morning:
This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." (Lam. 3:21-24)
b. After Bible, spend time with your little ones first. While the older ones work solo for a time, read to your little ones, do simple preschool activities, or play educational games. Fill up your toddlers' and preschoolers' emotional tanks, and they will be much happier to then play independently nearby as you teach the older ones.  My young children always looked forward to this mommy time so much, and it helped them know they were not being shoved aside so we could get on with school, but they also had an important part in school. Last year was the first in twenty years that I had no "Preschool Time" - and I missed it!

c. Next, tackle the most difficult subject(s) while you are all still fresh. Often this has meant teaching reading, though this year with all my children readers, we'll be starting with math.

d. Figure out how you will divide your time among your children. I differentiate between subjects I need to directly teach and those I can tutor. Teaching takes direct instruction from me daily, while when I tutor, I can drop in periodically to instruct and check progress. What subjects can you teach to several children at once, and which ones must be individual (like math)?

I use a spreadsheet-like layout to organize each day - names of children (and myself) across the top, time going down.  As I arrange our schedule, because I am dividing myself among the crew, my time is tightest, so that's where I begin. Highlight which child(ren) you will be working with during any given segment. If you have a baby, plan nursing times during read aloud sessions or some other relatively peaceful time. Plan active projects or science experiments during toddlers' naptimes.

e. Don't forget that having older children teach younger ones benefits both. (See Multiply yourself and divide the work. )

f. Especially if you have many young children, have an alternate schedule to use when you have been up late the night before at a church event or something else has made your more rigorous schedule unworkable.

g. Much as a schedule is a great tool, be willing to flex as real life occurs! (Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." James 4:15)

h. And remember - if you hate the idea of a rigid schedule - think routine instead.


Peter Jones said…
It took me a while to leave you a comment here, but I wanted to thank you for the helpful advice on formulating a schedule. What were new thoughts for me and I will try to implement this year were 1)having preschool time first thing and 2)creating a back-up schedule for the days that the regular schedule is unreasonable to do. I shared your thoughts with some friends as we're all trying to learn how to juggle the needs and education of everyone as our families grow. Thank you!
Julie Jones

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