Scheduling is one of the most challenging tasks when you first begin homeschooling. Of course, it’s still one of the most challenging tasks as a veteran homeschooler.
I’m not sure if this is true of every family, but our homeschool schedule has changed every single year, at least slightly. Every year, our family dynamics require changes to our daily routine. However, one thing stands out to me every year...the importance of strategic scheduling.
Strategic scheduling is purposefully planning out the day to maximize your child’s energy and natural rhythms.
This is so very important. Your schedule needs to work with you, naturally guiding your family through a predictable progression of the day. Many times, we schedule according to arbitrary ideas, but I want to encourage you to try strategic scheduling. Here’s how.
1. Drop an Anchor at the Beginning, Middle, and End of Your Day
You need anchors in your day to help your children find a predictable flow or routine, and the beginning of the day is a good time to drop an anchor.
Beginning the day with your whole family gathering together sets the tone for a positive first interaction. My favorite tip for this time block is to do a few Couch Subjects™ here. We have changed a lot of things, but our morning time routine has never changed. We always start the day with our Bible time. Over the years, I’ve sprinkled in poetry and Read-Alouds, but the first half hour of our day is spent together in Bible study. So, the first key to strategic scheduling is to drop an anchor first thing in the morning with togetherness.
You’ll probably want to drop another anchor right after lunch. We like to clean our dishes and then go right into our second set of Couch Subjects™, Science and History. This brings us all together again, and it gives me the chance to check in with my kids on their progress.
I’ve always considered dinnertime another anchor in the day. For us, this is simply a decompressing time. There are no expectations except that we get together around the table talking, laughing, and releasing our stress from the day.
2. Schedule Tougher Subjects When Your Child Is Fresh
You probably know better than anyone when your child seems to be fresh. Generally speaking, young children tend to be fresh in the morning and that freshness gradually drops off throughout the day, with a slight surge right after lunch. So, when my kids were younger, we would always finish up our morning time and go right into Math.
Now my kids are older. Half of my kids are officially teenagers, and half are approaching quickly. Teenagers seem to be fresh later in the day, so we’ve adjusted their schedule to reflect that. My teens like to begin their day doing their independent reading. They prefer easing into the tough subjects, and I’ve learned to lean into that slow morning. So, when you begin mapping out your schedule, try to consider your child’s natural rhythms, and keep in mind that these natural rhythms will change through the years.
3. Combine Dreaded Tasks With Snack Time
When your child finds a particular task daunting, such as Language Arts, Handwriting, or Spelling, pair it with snack time. First of all, it will help draw your child to the task, knowing that it’s connected with a positive part of the day. Secondly, it will give them a reason to stop every so often to grab another cracker. And of course, keeping your child’s mind busy with chewing can help them to focus on the task at hand.
4. Place Fun Subjects at the End of the Day
You might consider saving your Science experiments and hands-on crafts for the last part of the day. Usually, my children are tired toward the end of the day. They are done with their hardest tasks, and they are ready to let their minds take a break. Of course, we know that experiments are not a mind break, but to our kids, they are! Doing something fun at the end of the day can be a great motivator to keep the kids moving through the day.
You might also consider other motivating activities to allow at the end of the school day, such as video games or playtime with neighborhood friends. These activities may give your children something to look forward to at the end of the day, and those are the best kinds of days….the ones where you can look back to see what you’ve accomplished and look forward to a fun activity.
5. You Don’t Work for the Schedule; The Schedule Works for You
My last tip for strategic scheduling: Don’t get too caught up on your schedule. Think of your schedule as a routine or a flow to your day. If your child isn’t finished by 10:05, give him a few more minutes. You’ll probably find yourself with extra time later in the day. This is the give and take of life. Life isn’t always perfectly scheduled. Sometimes, things just don’t fit into time boxes so nicely, and we have to adjust.
When we do this, we are teaching our children that we don’t work for the schedule. The schedule works for us.
When we schedule our day according to our kids’ natural rhythms and preferences, we will find that our days will go so much better. The kids will feel comforted that they know what’s coming next, and you will find that your days go by much more smoothly. What are your scheduling secrets? How do you schedule your day to bring out the best in your family?