How To Schedule An Effective Homeschooling Day (Part 2 of 3)

If you haven’t read part 1 of this series, you should go do that. In part 2, I intend to talk about exactly how to go about scheduling a homeschooling day that works. I have also written a looser way of writing a basic curriculum in another post. If you’re interested in creating your own curriculum, you should go read about it here.

The key to a good plan is not to plan too far ahead.

Yes, I said it. You know those beginning of the year curriculum plans you have to submit along with your intent to homeschool? (At least that’s what we do in California – laws in various states differ. Check yours!) I don’t do so well with those. I mean, I do write them and we usually get everything on there done, but as a daily and weekly task reminder, those plans are a bit… well… let’s just say they can be overwhelming.

A wise homeschooling mom once told me not to consider daily progress but monthly progress.

But wait a minute – didn’t I just say not to plan too far ahead?

Yes, yes I did. You see one thing I have realized about scheduling anything is that it’s a lot like budgeting. You have to consider the overall scheme (what we want to learn) and then you have to consider what is coming in (how much time and ability we have) and how we intend to spend that resource. (What curriculum/workbook, etc. to use, if at all.)

Just like a budget works with both an overall scheme as well as daily accounting, homeschool scheduling works when you have an overall structure with weekly or monthly chunks of goals. And just like a money budget needs an emergency fund, a homeschooling plan must have some wiggle room.

How do we achieve this? Five ways.

  1. We plan a good overview of what we’re going to learn for the year
  2. We break it up into how many days we plan on working…
  3. …with wiggle room for vacations, birthdays and do nothing days
  4. We prioritize what’s important and how many days a week we need to dedicate to it
  5. We say no – a lot.

So, essentially our homeschool planning follows this basic trajectory – overall, general idea based on abilities and interests —> broken into 2 halves —> broken into monthly chunks —> broken into weekly and daily goals —>written down. That last part is important and incidentally is the part that gives us the wiggle room we need.

In part 3 of this series, I’ll go into more detail, pull all these ideas together and talk about one of my favorite things – stationery!!! 

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Rhymes and Songs for Disciplining

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I tend to be more of an unschooler with classical tendencies (or a homeschooler with unschooling tendencies, depending on how you see it.) I have written before of how it took us a long time to get to where my daughter began to enjoy read aloud time. We spent most of our early preschool days on doing craft activities and some math because she seemed to like that. My son did not mind being read to but they have both had a desire to be taught to read for themselves. 

My youngest is nothing like that. He is my first child that loves being read to. Seriously, people, what a joy it is when a child wants to be read to and will sit while you read and at the end of the book, say, “Again! Read again. One more time.” Oh, my heart. (And my voice, but that’s another matter. Haha!)

To get back to the point I’m trying to make though… I’ve discovered that it doesn’t hurt to wait. Now my daughter – yes, that same one who wanted nothing to do with being read to – has not only read every fairy tale, easy reader and short chapter book I can get her for herself, but insists on me reading to her as well. She loves good audio books. We’ve read countless read alouds. And we memorize. What do we memorize, you ask? Poetry, songs, history timelines, hymns, church creeds, you name it.

Putting what I know now about my children together, I recently hit upon a way to get my children involved in disciplining themselves. It went something like this: I got tired of repeating the same instructions which they seemed to forget, so I thought they should spend some time repeating them, not me.

Repetition, I thought. Repetition… aha! That’s what we did every single day when we memorized. That was the answer!

So  I made some rhymes that I’m posting here. Feel free to use them with your own children. People, these work! When the kids start acting up now at the grocery store or before bed, I ask them to sing the song I taught them. And they do so. And in saying it, they repeat my instructions without me having to say them. This is like some serious magic. 

Here are the two rhymes I’ve made so far. (And I know there are more coming. Because, well, kids.)

The Grocery Store Song

(Sung to the tune of Jingle Bells)

When we are in the store
We walk and do not run.

We will not climb or fight,
We’ll play when we are done.

We will stay with the cart,
We will help find things,

We will not block the aisles,
We’ll act like human beings.

Time For Bed

(Sung to the tune of Hot Cross Buns)

Time for bed, time for bed,

Half past seven, almost eight, time for bed!

Time for bed, time for bed,

Brush my teeth, change my clothes, time for bed!

Time for bed, time for bed,

Get some books, what’s in my head, time for bed!

Time for bed, time for bed,

One last pee and a prayer, time for bed!

So there you have it. I love that these little rhymes work like a checklist, give the children something to memorize and develop habits without me having to nag them. It makes the day that much smoother.

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Location in Time Management

Before I became a mom, I sold real estate for a short while – make that a very short while. Selling, I soon discovered, was not my forte. Well, not unless you count making a “customer” (read: kid) sit in the corner and say Take it or leave it, which is all I do now and, well, it works surprisingly well.

Anyway, to get back to the point, the biggest thing I learned in real estate was that the oft-repeated adage of location, location, location is true.

You are better off buying a decrepit house in a great neighborhood than you are buying a beautiful model home in a not so nice area. As you can tell, I clearly did not obey that rule when buying our house. See, I told you I wasn’t very good at selling real estate.

I did however learn that the rule about location, location, location is a perfect one when it comes not just real estate but also time management and also space management which ultimately leads to better time management. Let me explain.

First, space.

If you haven’t had a toddler in your home for a while, you will notice that every glass jar, indeed every object in your home is sitting at exactly the wrong spot the moment said toddler walks in the door. I know this because years ago my parents rearranged our entire home when my nephew visited. I did the same as soon as my husband and I had children. Everything became too fragile or a weapon. So it moved and occupied the higher realms of real estate aka shelves. As the children grew older however I began to then realize that certain things could then be moved lower to save me time.

I learned from my friend, Melanie Tiner, mother of three, that their snacks could be placed in a strategic location at their height so that they could get to them and I didn’t have to do the dispensing each time. Dishes could be placed on a lower location, so that the children could set the table. Cereal could be within the arm’s reach of the oldest child so she could feed the rest breakfast. Simple changes in the kitchen helped save me time and get the children involved in basic tasks.

Second, the more direct aspect of location: time. I have found that placing a specific task in a different location of my day causes it to be done more efficiently, thereby saving me time in the overall day. Exercise, for instance, works best when it’s sandwiched between a shower and my morning coffee before the kids are up. I know, it doesn’t sound efficient, but that is where its perfect location lies.

Also, I recently learned from another friend, Jen Opie, mother of four, that prepping dinner right after eating lunch and before washing the dishes from said lunch, saves an immense amount of time in preparing dinner. My energy levels tend to be lower in the evening and usually I want to relax with the rest of the family, so what gets done efficiently and quickly during the twelve o’ clock hour can take at least another half hour in the five o’ clock hour. Location strikes again.

If you’re struggling with a specific task in your day, try and change the time or space location and see if there’s a perfect fit. Chances are there is something you are not seeing just yet.

Location, location, location works for more than just real estate.

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