I am all too familiar with the challenge of being a homeschool mom. I start Monday morning with goals and best of intentions, but by Wednesday afternoon chaos has broken out and I have only accomplished a third of what I intended to. We all know how things come up, appointments get moved around, sunshine beckons us to go play; illnesses and toddlers strike at the worst of times. But it is also the beauty of homeschooling. Our schedule does not control us rather we control it! But with this freedom comes one great challenge for many – routine.
Creating a workable, but flexible routine is critical in being a successful homeschooler. If we don’t stick to some sort of schedule, we can spend half the day in our pajamas, reading a book, or scrolling Facebook while our kids run feral through the house. It’s great to have those days, but a lack of planning and intentionality are the death of productivity.
So, how do we find the balance in a routine? Start with mapping out your week. Do you have weekly appointments, lessons, or commitments? Make sure to include transition time in your schedule for locating the rogue shoes, and actually getting into the car, and back into the house. Once you have those times blocked out, decide how much time per day you need for schoolwork. This will vary depending the grade and personality of each child. You don’t need to get into the amount of time devoted to each subject. That can vary by day.
Once you have your days blocked out for appointments and schoolwork, now you can work backwards into your morning to determine what time you all need to be up, dressed and fed by. I recommend putting as much on the kids as possible. Create a chart or a list of the required morning chores and activities that are to be completed by a certain time. I would also suggest that breakfast be the last item on the list. Hunger motivates! I also put a closing time on the kitchen so they aren’t tempted to snack while doing schoolwork. A successful morning routine will impact the success of the rest of your day. This routine should remain largely the same every day of the week (except weekends) to build efficiency and familiarity. This requires training and follow-through, but kids thrive on this structure and continuity.
Now we can talk about the part of the routine that gets the schoolwork done. I recommend having a list of assignments and activities written (or drawn for the young students) for every day. Some activities will have an assigned amount of time (reading, practicing music, or math facts) while others can be more flexible. Sometimes I give a minimum amount of time they are to spend on a subject; sometimes it’s a certain number of lessons or pages. Knowing your student is key to making an effective plan.
I believe that choices and independence foster responsibility, autonomy, and a sense of pride in students. If I’m creating a more specific schedule, I like to sandwich the favorite subjects with the not-so-favorite subjects to encourage them to work hard. But I often just lay out the required assignments and let the student choose which one they want to do first. This cuts down on the power struggles and nagging. If they want to get the ugly stuff done first, they can. Or they can start with the favored things and work their way down. Again, knowing your student is key. Some need a strict schedule with the same subjects studied at the same time every day. That is fine if that is what works for them. As parent/teachers we need to be willing to look at what best serves our student, and that often means giving up control over the small things.
Having breaks and a stopping time is critical for students! Even just a two-minute leg stretch, a five-minute jump on the trampoline, or a quick snack is all it takes to snap a kid out of a slump. You also want to know what time you are ending each day. Sometimes a student drags their feet all day and needs more time to complete an assignment. Where you fit that time is up to you. I also find it imperative that students are given the option to put an assignment or subject aside and return to it another time. Frustration or burn-out impedes learning, and you will not achieve the desired result.
In summary, know what you need to accomplish each day and be intentional about it. Routines are a great tool in cutting down nagging, micromanaging, and power struggles. Do they need a strict schedule that changes very little day to day? Or do they thrive on flexibility? Know your student and find what works for them. Your routine doesn’t have to look like mine. Just find a way to be successful at it, and you will settle into an enjoyable and productive rhythm.