What's the best way to structure/schedule a day of homeschooling? Should you divide it into subject based periods? Should the periods be equal?

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Jenny Bristol, Homeschooling Parent, Writer, and Editor

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There are as many ways to structure your homeschooling day as there are families who homeschool. It greatly depends on your priorities, your schedule, your needs, your kids' needs, and how they best learn. We have used everything from a set daily schedule to a list of what I want to cover in a given week, and we just make sure to cover it all before the week is out. But here are some additional guidelines.

  1. Be flexible. No matter what kind of schedule you decide on, things come up, subjects grow or shrink in scope, and you'll need to make adjustments.
  2. Pick a schedule structure and stick with it for a while. Constantly adjusting how you lay out your week can be confusing to your kids, and they need to know what to expect. So pick something and try it for at least a few weeks before changing it around again.
  3. Adjust as kids get older. Younger kids may need shorter amounts of time spent on one subject at a time. Older students can handle much longer periods of learning.
  4. Involve your kids. As your kids get older, involve them in how to organize the week's schedule. By giving them some responsibility to decide what will get done when, they are now more committed to getting through all of the assignments, and it will teach them great time management skills for when they are in college or are adults.
  5. Take into consideration your materials. If you are watching documentaries or doing elaborate science experiments with your kids, you'll likely need longer time periods to accomplish those. Since each week is likely to have some variation in material length, your schedule structure will likely deviate slightly anyway.
  6. Make time for breaks. For both you and the kids, you'll need breaks to catch your mental breath before diving into the next time. Perhaps plan exercise in the middle of the day to mix up the types of learning a bit.

Every homeschooling family is different, but my two biggest pieces of advice are #1 and #4: Be flexible, and involve your kids. Hope you find a schedule that works for you!

Kimberly Patrie, Writer, Entrepreneur, Homeschool Mom

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Way back when I first started homeschooling, the best advice I ever received from a veteran homeschool mom was be flexible, and don’t feel like you have to cover every subject every day.

When my kids were small, (grade school age), we only “did school” four days out of the week. I reserved every Wednesday for a field trip. We studied on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Of those days, we would only study any subject on two of those days.

For example, we would do language arts and history on Monday and Thursday, and math and science on Tuesday and Friday. We usually spent about 3 hours a day accomplishing this. (Yep; 12 hours/week on academics.)

Because your kids are receiving such individualised attention (instead of vying for your attention with 29 other kids!) they will likely have no problem “keeping up” with your expectations of their learning. If you feel they are not learning quickly enough, you have the flexibility to spend a little more time on that particular subject if you choose to.

Another benefit of the every-other-day method is they will not get so worn out on their studies. Leaving more time for free play is super important for them to maintain their creative, fun-loving ways.

Lisa Tanner, Homeschooling for 8 years

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The best part of homeschooling is that your day can be structured or scheduled in a way that works best for your family. There isn't one right or wrong answer.

Here are some thoughts to guide you through the process:

-The Law in Your Location

You'll want to be sure and check for any time requirements that your state mandates. For instance, where I live in Washington, I am required to provide instruction for my children for 180 days a year, but there isn't an hourly requirement each day.

If you have an hourly requirement, that'll be essential knowledge for making a schedule.

-Your Student(s)

Some students take a long time in reading, but fly through math. Scheduling equal lengths of time for those subjects would mean this child would progress through his math curriculum faster than his reading. In this case, it may make more sense to schedule more time for reading than math, to keep on the same pace throughout the year.

If you have more than one learner at home, the age/ability level of each will also be important. How much hands-on time will you need with each learner? What will the other students be working on while you work with the others?

-Your teaching preference

Do you prefer to teach individual units, or do you enjoy diving into unit studies? If you teach based on units, dividing the day into subjects doesn't make sense.

-Your Curriculum

You can get a sense of how much time to schedule for each subject based on how long it takes your student to progress through one lesson.

-Your Enrichment Vision

Besides the curriculum, what learning activities does your child engage in? How much time will each of those take?

Your Weekly Plan

Do you teach every subject every day? Do you alternate science and history? Do you rotate art, music, computers, and PE each once a week? Do you school 5 days a week, or only 4? What outside commitments do you need to plan around?

Answering these questions will hopefully act as a springboard to developing your schedule, and determining how much time to give each subject. They don't all need to be the same.

Remember there are only so many hours in the day. I've found it essential to schedule a buffer into each block on my schedule. I know if I don't, the baby's going to need changed during math, the cow might get out during science, or I'll get a phone call during history, and by the end of the day, we haven't actually gotten anything accomplished for school. I'd much rather schedule extra time into each subject, and know that if nothing goes wrong, we'll end up with extra free time.

Once you draft a schedule, I'd recommend giving it two weeks before making major changes. The first two days on a new schedule are always the hardest for my family, so if I am constantly changing it, it's hard to see how it actually works.

Also, remember that your schedule can change as your family does. What works for one semester may not work anymore the next.

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