Finding the time to homeschool

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Selling our house, building a business, and homeschooling….. yeah it’s a lot.  People ask all the time “How do you have the time to homeschool?” And the answer has been formulated through years of trial and error.  (If you work full time and want information on how to manage that read this article first and then follow up with How do you work and homeschool.)

First of all the most important part of finding the time to homeschool is that you have a “flexible routine”.  I like that term more than simply saying a “schedule” because let’s be real who with kids can ever adhere to a schedule?  A flexible routine is a general set of guidelines and norms which we follow. 

First define the “normal day”….

When I create the kids school plan for the year I always create a rough list for each day of the week.  I presume the year will be about 30 weeks and divide the number of lessons for each subject out to see how many times we need to do each subject per week to get it done.  I always round it so we finish early rather than late and the kids love the end of the year when they start finishing subjects.  I make a simple chart for each day with just the subjects I want them to cover as well as any extracurricular activities for that day.  Here is a copy of LS’s for this year:

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
MathMathMathMathMath
LiteratureTheologyHistoryScienceTheology
PhysEdCivicsPhys EdFrenchPhys Ed
MusicArtMusicArtMusic
8th Grade Daily Routine

This year the girls have fairly simple plans because I am sticking to the basics to allow ample time for driving and excursions on our trip as well as time to homeschool, but the idea is the same.  Yours will probably also have extra activities like co-ops, online and in person classes and you can add in the times for these since they won’t change.  I also usually have a library time in the routine.  But however yours looks it is just a simple list to be sure they attend to each subject adequately throughout the year and don’t just focus on the subjects they love. 

For working moms……

It’s not easy. I actually wrote this post specifically geared towards working moms and homeschooling. I usually wake up super early and get started on my work– 5am if I can. Then by the time the kids get up at 8 I already have three hours done. Now that the kids are older I spend the first part of the morning going over work with them and they are independent enough that after that they work on their own. When they were little I totally focused on them until lunch. Then, in the afternoon, we had “quiet reading time” where they had to stay on their bed and “read”, color, or listen to music/books on tape with headphones. This replaced naptime and was anywhere from an hour to two hours depending on their ages. I would get a lot done then too and the rest would fit in after dinner when my husband would handle bedtime. This worked for me because my job was flexible enough. You really just have to find what works for you. If your kids are early birds then get them going right away and put them to bed early. If your kids are high energy hire a “mom’s” helper to run around with them in the yard in the afternoon. Just be sure you are realistic and get help if you need it. My post on homeschooling younger children might be helpful.

Then I make room for the add ins……

Add ins are things that always seem to pop up:  dental appointments, haircuts, vet appointments etc.  There are two ways of doing this and I have used both. 

The first is the “killer day” method.  Pick one day a month where you schedule everything and then run around like a maniac and get it all over with.  Depending on your family you might need two days a month, but mark them on your calendar and everything you need to get some random thing set up you put it on one of those days.  This works well if your kids can handle a full day like this and if all your doctors/dentists/haircutters etc. are situated close enough that it works logistically.  If you have little kids it’s the perfect day to get a sitter so you only have to take the kids that need to be at each appointment.  This is my preferred method. 

The second method is the “half day method”.  This works well for those who just can’t handle a full day of running around.  Pick one day a week where the kids have a lighter load.  Using the LS schedule above I would pick Friday.  Most Fridays she would just have a normal day, but when I need to schedule something I would put it on that day and we would skip everything but math. 

One thing to always consider whichever method you choose is that some doctors only take appointments on certain days of the week.  Figure this out ahead of time if you can otherwise adjust your errand day as needed. 

Housework…

For as long as I can remember Saturday has been “Big Clean the House Day”.  It sounds more dramatic than it is but I just make a master list of everything from dusting to changing sheets and mopping floors and we all—every single one of us from babies on up—work together at the same time to get through the list.  Even toddlers can wipe baseboards. Perfection is not the goal.  Kids need time to learn but if they have the routine and the guidance from an early age along with the example of working alongside of you they will get pretty close to perfection in their cleaning skills.  Start them young.  Make them feel valued and included and you will not regret it. 

Daily chores like unloading the dishes and laundry are divided up too.  Every kid gets a laundry day and time (morning or afternoon) and then are responsible to do it with you until they are 8 and then they need to do it on their own.   Depending on how many kids are in your family also assign each their own regular day to be your helper or just go through a rotation from oldest to youngest (knowing full well the youngest are probably going to be less of a “help” than the oldest).  The helper is responsible for anything that you need them to do—dishes, trash, recycling, weeding, meal prep etc.  I usually let the helper skip one school subject on their day as long as they rotate through and don’t skip the same subject each time it’s their helper day. 

Fun and Field Trips….

It’s easy to get swept up into the grind of everyday, but just as you set aside time for academics you must set aside time for daily play, monthly field trips and ideally at least one or more longer travelschooling trip during the year.  We have the general routine of getting up at roughly the same time every day.  (Somedays it’s later than others and that is ok) We do our work and then in the afternoon the kids have free time. 

Boredom is just as important as academics so don’t feel like you have to entertain your kids.  Also don’t let screen time interfere with boredom.  I would hold off on any screens as long as possible and then once you have introduced them limit it, depending on the temperament of your child.  I am usually fine with screen games that they play together because there is a social aspect.  My kids loved Wii Mario Cart and Just Dance for a long time and would do it together and laugh.  Playing solo games on a phone though is a whole different story.  Weather also makes a difference too.  In the cold of winter or on rainy days let them have more screen time.  On beautiful days declare it a screen free day.  If it seems like they are doing too much just limit it.  I used to say, “No Wii until after three”.

You not only need to schedule time to homeschool, but you also need to schedule time for yourself, your spouse and your marriage.  Put it all on the calendar.  It’s probably the most important thing because if you and your spouse go down the whole ship is sinking.  Give yourself time to go out with friends or just take a long hot bath.  Don’t forget your spouse needs time for friends and self-care too.  Sit down together and set days and times when one will watch the kids for the other not because there is some urgent specific need, but just so you each have time to decompress.  You also need to put your marriage first.  Find help you can trust and use it.  This doesn’t mean you need to take exotic vacations alone together (although if you can afford this, by all means call Christopher Travel and I will set it up for you!)  Some of our favorite dates were going to the grocery store together lol.  Or another great one is a breakfast date at IKEA.  Good cheap fun together. 

A few key things to remember….

  1. Learn to say no. Finding time to homeschool is often about learning to say no to things that suck up your time.  This is something that is really hard for me personally.  I need to pause and really think before saying yes.  “Is this the best thing for my family right now?”  They are your priority. 
  2. Don’t answer your phone.  Ever.  If it’s important they will leave a message and you can call them back.  If it’s not important and someone just wants to chat you can call them during your free time– not during the time to homeschool.  And if someone is asking for something it will give you time to think so you don’t automatically agree to something for which you really don’t have the time. 
  3. Life is long and constantly changing.  Every stage has it’s pluses and minuses.  Focus on the pluses and know that in due course it will all change.   Babies sleep through the night eventually.  Kids learn to read and write and do their school work independently. They will learn to cook and drive and become independent.  Don’t get bogged down by a particular aspect of a particular year because it will all change.  Focus on the positives. 
  4. You can do this.  Homeschooling works. 

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About Mary

Mary Stephens is a long time homeschooling mother of four: two still at home, one in seminary and one graduated from college. Mary holds a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and a Masters in Teaching from the American University. Passionate about both travel and education she offers homeschooling tips and tricks as well as free travelschooling units on her website penciltreks.com. Mary also owns Christopher Travel, a luxury travel company specializing in exquisite vacations around the globe.

11 Comments

  1. Live Learn Better on July 21, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    That’s the question I keep asking myself everyday. Thank for these great home schooling tips.We all need them

  2. audrey on July 21, 2020 at 2:19 pm

    These are such great and practical tips on how to really homeschool.

  3. Amy on July 21, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    I’m so thankful that during this pandemic my child is not old enough to need schooling! I tip my hat to moms who do it all!

  4. Rosslyn on July 21, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    Good luck. Such great tips here. I am a teacher and think you are doing a great job. All the beat for the way forward!

  5. Rosslyn on July 21, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    Good luck. Such great tips here. I am a teacher and think you are doing a great job. All the best for the way forward!

  6. Inspiration is a woman on July 21, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    Very useful tips! It gave me a lot of help!

  7. Sandra Tanner on July 21, 2020 at 5:52 pm

    Love love these ideas. They will be very useful in a month. Thanks for sharing!

    • Mary on August 2, 2020 at 9:11 am

      I’m so happy you find them useful. Please let me know if you have any questions once your start. I have my fancy homeschool consulting service for people who want everything planned for them, but I am always happy to answer questions from anyone at anytime related to homeschooling. Just send me an email.

  8. Jennifer Bradley on July 24, 2020 at 12:28 am

    I make a very similar homeschool weekly schedule for my kids too! We also do chores on the weekend too!

  9. Erin on July 29, 2020 at 9:09 am

    You are a planner! Such a key to doing a lot!

    • Mary on August 2, 2020 at 9:07 am

      It doesn’t always work out perfectly and BOY do we have some days we get very little done, but have some sort of idea of what every day should cover really helps keep the kids moving forward.

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