Figuring out homeschool scheduling can be confusing. It's important to remember that what is right for one family is not right for everyone. For as many different methods for homeschooling exist, there also exist that many different ways to schedule your homeschool.
Homeschool Scheduling for the Year
One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can do whatever suits your family best. You don't have to use a traditional school schedule if that is not working for you. Consider the many options you have when you are thinking about planning your whole year.
Year Round Schooling
Many families opt to 'do school' throughout the entire year. Schooling year round doesn't mean never taking a break or vacation but rather taking smaller breaks and vacations more frequently. Some families homeschool four days a week year round leaving the last day of the week for errands, appointments or co-op type activities. Other families school for an equivalent of three weeks per month taking the last week in the month off. There are several advantages to homeschooling throughout the year:
- Students never have a long summer break and don't experience that 'summer learning gap' and therefore, don't need to spend the fall reviewing last year's material.
- When you have infants and toddlers who are dependent on a schedule, homeschooling year round sets up daily expectations and can help things run more smoothly.
- Over the course of the year, you can fit the same amount of schooling in, but you can do it in smaller chunks making it ideal for kids with short attention spans.
Traditional scheduling looks very much like your local public school's schedule. You would do a solid 180 days of school (or around that many days), take summers off, and have Christmas and spring break like traditional school. Many families prefer this method, especially if they have some children homeschooling and others still in school.
Block Homeschool Scheduling
Block scheduling allows your student to focus on one or two classes at once and in depth. Families that follow a block schedule do a whole year's worth of work in one semester in those one or two classes. So for example, a block schedule might include English and science in the fall semester and math and history in the spring semester. Families who do block scheduling tend to pair a harder class with an easier one. This is not right for everyone and tends to work better with high school aged teens.
Daily Homeschool Scheduling
Now that you have thought a little bit about how your year will be scheduled, it's time to think about the daily grind. Fitting all your subjects in daily can be intimidating at best and sometimes impossible. Many new homeschoolers wonder how often they have to do subjects like spelling or art? How do you fit it all in? Which subjects do you need to do daily? A good rule of thumb is that if the subject is something that needs to be practiced frequently, or is foundational to future academic success-it is something that should be done daily. This would include subjects like music, math and language arts. If it is a subject that is an elective, then how often you do it really depends on your schedule and your child's learning style. Most homeschoolers will try to do at least math, writing, and reading on a daily basis.
In an effort to touch on everything often, some homeschoolers 'loop' their academic course work. To manage a loop schedule, start with a set time for homeschooling for the day. Make a list of all the subjects that you want to cover. Go through your list and when time is up for homeschooling, you stop. The next day, pick up where you left off.
This system tends to work well for families who get to most of their subjects in a day. However, it gives equal importance to all subjects. In other words, your child would do math as often as he would do art.
Priority scheduling is a flexible schedule that allows you to decide what subjects you must get in every day versus what subjects you can do intermittently. For example, if you decide that math, writing and reading are at the top of your priority list, then these would get done every day in the morning. The afternoon is then free to explore history and science or other electives. Families who lean towards a hands-on approach in history and science like these types of schedules. It ensures that you get to the important subjects, but allows you and your children enough flexibility to explore other academic areas.
This type of system is very structured and is ideal for families who are dependent on a strict structure to get through their day. To set up an hourly schedule, you would decide how much time it takes to complete a subject and then schedule it in. An hourly schedule might look something like this:
Everything is planned out and the student then knows exactly what to do and when. Adjustments can be made over time if something isn't working. Scheduling regular breaks helps the student stay on task and work towards a goal.
How to Stick to Your Schedule
Now that you've made your schedule, you have to remember to stick to it. The key to sticking to a schedule is really being realistic about what your needs are. A strict hourly schedule really might not work well for a family who learns by going into tangents on historical events and a loop schedule might not work well for a family who needs more structure. As you find your niche, you will also likely find that what works for you is a unique combination of various scheduling styles. Don't be afraid to keep what is working and ditch what isn't.