How to Structure Your Student’s Day
One of the hottest topics in homeschool community discussions is scheduling. There’s this idea that if you can just find the perfect schedule before you start homeschooling, then the whole experience will be set up for success (or, conversely, failure). Well, we are here to tell you that this isn’t true. Schedules can, and should, change. Here’s some guidance to help you figure out how you might schedule your student’s day…and reschedule when things don’t work out the first time!
Why is having a schedule important?
Structuring your homeschool days allows you and your child to know what to expect at any given time during the day, and this helps tremendously when transitioning from relating as parent/child to teacher/student. Schedules also give you a greater sense of purpose during your day, and they help your child to develop personal habits that can serve them well throughout their life.
Schedules help students know when they have to focus, and when they can relax. They know the windows of time they have to work on certain projects, and they can look forward to the time when they are meant to play or rest. What’s more, schedules help parents, too. They give you a sense of direction and accountability, and working them out ahead of time helps a homeschooling parent to think through their curricular goals for each child and subject before they actually start teaching the lesson.
How to Schedule
We know that every child and every family is different. This means, of course, that everyone’s days are going to be different. For some families, scheduling the same subject every day at the same time provides consistency across days that lends stability to the week. Other families find that working on subjects for longer periods of time, but only two or three days a week, works best for them. Do a little experimenting to find what routine works best for your family, and then stick with it for a while. When children know what to expect each day, they experience comfort in the routine and can even begin to work independently after adjusting to the rhythm of a school day in your home.
Homeschool Scheduling Resources
To start the process of setting up your own plan for the coming year, check out the sections on scheduling in The Well-Trained Mind (4th edition). You’ll find daily schedules, weekly schedules, and suggested schedules for each subject. Once you start planning your days, we suggest that you always start with the hardest subject for your student to learn. Students, like most adult workers, are most focused at the start of their school day. It only makes sense, then, that this is the best time to tackle the work they find most difficult. This strategy also allows you another benefit: if you have a student who tends to argue about her schedule, you can compromise by saying once she gets through the hard subject, she can work on whatever subject she’d like after.
Fortunately, the homeschooling world is full of generous and kind people, now more than ever! There are many bloggers out there willing to share their scheduling tips. Homeschooling Facebook groups are a great resource; join one that feels right for you (this could be a local group, a religiously-affiliated group, or a curriculum-driven group, like Well-Trained Mind). You’ll also find an endless flow of advice on the Well-Trained Mind community boards.
Homeschool Scheduling Pro Tips
- When working with young children, instead of trying to get through a set amount of material each day, work for a set amount of time. This approach also works well for older kids who are trying a new curriculum. This method helps everyone to focus less on achieving a set list of standards and letting the lesson flow towards the student’s interest, which can help your student to develop excitement for the subject at hand.
- There are many visual organizers and planners available for free on the internet, like this one from worksheetworks.com.
- Because they school at home, homeschoolers are always “on.” It is important to set firm boundaries around the school day so students can decompress, relax, and re-energize. Just like adults need to put “work” away when they end their workday, so too do children need permission and encouragement to enjoy a well-rounded social and family life outside of their studies.
- Nothing is going to happen to your student, or to you, if you feel like taking a break one day and doing something else! If there is a day where you just don’t feel like school, and a field trip to the zoo seems like exactly the right thing to do, go with your gut! You know your family best, and you know just how they work best.
Schedules can change!
Remember! One of the greatest joys of homeschooling is the flexibility that it offers. Embrace that element of the homeschooling life. Schooling at home allows you and your family to find the time that works best for you to learn, play, and attend to chores as a unit. Not only will homeschooling give your child the education they need, but it will also be a time for your family bonds to grow!