Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s working for us, answering the most common questions we get from today’s first-generation homeschooling moms.
What’s Working: Time Blocking Our Homeschool Day
Yesterday we covered the topic of hour-by-hour scheduling vs. planning your daily routine. The followup questions we get most often when asked about homeschool scheduling revolve around time blocking: How early do you start your homeschool day? How long do you spend on each subject? How long does your homeschool day last, and how to you make time for co-ops or enrichment activities?
While my time blocks may not look like yours, I hope that giving you a peek into our days — as varied as they might be — will provide a few tips, new ideas, insight and encouragement as you shape the flow of your own homeschool day.
How early do we start our homeschool day? Well, even though our family has owned local donut shops for more than 14 years (which means a very early start to our business day), I am still not a morning person. The children and I usually get up somewhere between 7:30-8:30 a.m., get dressed and eat breakfast, and try to start school at about 9:00 a.m. Sometimes it’s closer to 10:00 a.m.
I used to try to stick to a strict schedule, but invariably things come up that throw off this type of schedule. So it just works better for us to have a routine and be flexible. For instance, my husband usually gets home from our donut shop between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. He likes to spend time with our two boys, ages 9 and 3, before he takes his nap, which means our school work gets pushed back for a little bit.
How long do we spend on any subject? My son Joel works by subject in periods that are about 30 minutes long, and then he takes a short break. We read together, followed up by individual work for about 30 minutes, and then we break for lunch. After lunch, we try to sit back down for a lesson in history and/or science (Apologia Astronomy). This might take another 15 to 30 minutes.
How you organize your time blocks and what you do during those time blocks will vary based on your children. If they are wide awake and focused early on, you might want to tackle more challenging work during those hours. They may be able to focus for longer periods of time on certain types of work, so you want to take that into account as well. Lastly, make sure your time blocks allow for independent time, group time, and other activities or projects, so the day doesn’t become too monotonous and you can keep energy and productivity high.
We also meet with two of my nieces once a week for some “co-op” schooling time. During this time, we’ll be doing History Unit Studies that I personally planned for this year, which will include group work, individual work, field trips and more. (Here’s how I planned our 1800s America unit studies for this year.) The plan is that the mornings will be spent doing their independent work, and then we will do more fun “together” work in the afternoon. This day will have its own flow because of the variety of activities we will do.
How long do we homeschool each day? Time spent on traditional school work fluctuates. On a good school day, I’d estimate that it’s a few hours of focused work time, with breaks and a variety of activities. He’s a young elementary age student, so those few hours accomplish all we need to cover. As your children get older, that will increase, of course.
But I also believe learning happens all the time. Joel has learned math while golfing with his dad, and his understanding of measurement and distance is way beyond his years. He also understands weather conditions better than most children his age.
One of the great things about being a homeschool parent is looking for those teachable moments in life, whether it is during official “school” hours or any other time. And when your child has a passion for learning, you can wrap his education around that passion— and his chances of both learning and remembering what is learned will increase dramatically.
Do you use the concept of time blocking to plan your homeschool day? What works best for you? What challenges are you having with your homeschool scheduling? Share your tips, comments and questions below.