I am one of those list-making/calendar-posting/digital-app-updating Type A mamas who thought I would have no trouble keeping it all together once we started homeschooling. After all, I’m a former editorial manager who steered multiple magazine sections like a tight ship, with an assignments timeline whiteboard up in my office leading the way and a project management spreadsheet keeping all my team members on track. Making sure three students stay on schedule with their homeschool curriculum should be a breeze, right?
However, no matter what fabulous system I tried or trendy scheduling app I downloaded to manage our homeschooling days those first two years, I never seemed to get out of the moment-by-moment mode of simply getting through the day — with only the most urgent needs accomplished. I felt like a failure when I wasn’t filling in my weekly planner with hour-by-hour school productivity. Why couldn’t I nail down a “perfect” homeschool schedule for our three daughters?
Then my sister-in-law Rosanna Ward wrote a post for NextGen Homeschool about the idea of keeping a daily routine instead of a schedule. I loved the idea of having a more fluid daily routine instead of mimicking a rigid school schedule, but was it practical? Would we still get our schoolwork done by the end of the year? And what would I do with my awesome homeschool planner?
Our family’s scheduling snags
My first scheduling challenge was the fact that we’re not early risers (myself included). The entire family is very alert and active in the evening: A group of “night owls,” as my mom used to call me when I spent many late nights as a tween reading a gripping novel or mystery with a flashlight. Apparently all three of my girls inherited my night-owl tendencies. However, I felt guilty if we couldn’t be up and running by the time most children (and many homeschoolers) are in school.
Then there were the curriculum changes we experienced those first few years. Initially, our daily routine was dictated by our curriculum’s lesson plan. However, once we moved to a unit study approach, we weren’t tied down to a subject-by-subject breakdown of the day. The challenge then became how to stay on track with what I wanted to accomplish each week while still being flexible to spend more time in some areas than others.
Did I mention the challenge of finding time to accomplish daily household tasks, which multiply when you have your entire family eating and working at home all day, around your homeschooling activities?
Forget the schedule… Now what?
I finally decided to give my sister-in-law’s daily routine approach a try — and soon we were back in a productive flow! Most of the daily homeschool routine revolves around my girls and what we need to accomplish together. My mornings are very consistent: Personal devotions and prayer, get ready/get coffee/etc., and get the girls up. After that, I work my personal to-dos into the nooks and crannies of the day around their school and household routine, such as finding an hour to take an energizing class at the gym and getting my freelance editorial work done. By creating that daily and weekly routine for us, I found that I could move from working with the girls to working on other responsibilities with more intention and focus than in the past.
Here’s an example of the daily routine for my 14-year-old:
- Wake up, pray and read personal devotions.
- Eat breakfast, get dressed.
- Start independent reading and assignments (science or math, grammar, writing).
- Meet with Mom for one-on-one time.
- Group lesson or activity
- Lunch and cleanup
- Independent assignments (science or math) and review with Mom.
- Afternoon pickup (clean your zone).
- Afternoon enrichment activity / project / library / free time.
This has been a huge step in the right direction for us. Overall, we’re moving through the day with purpose. Yet there’s enough flexibility for days when we have homeschool co-ops such as worship dance, book club, presentation days and PE. I’ve also purchased individual Student Daily Planners for my two middle schoolers to keep track of their assignments for the week and work them into the daily routine, giving them some flexibility to accomplish their independent work at their own pace.
But I still need a planner!
I make sure we stay on track with our academic goals for the school year by using two planners: The On The Go Well Planned Day Planner from HEDUA (to plan out all of my personal/work/family to do items) and the Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia. Because I use these planners very differently, they are not redundant. I use the Ultimate Homeschool Planner for lesson planning, strategizing with my girls individually, tracking school work progress, keeping tabs on field trips and reading lists, etc. I use the On The Go Well Planned Day Planner as my daily to-do journal: Keeping track of everything that I need to personally accomplish and keeping the family appointments and activities in clear view at all times.
I’m so thankful I decided to let go of what I thought was a “perfect” homeschool schedule. By having a daily routine instead of an hour-by-hour, or subject-by-subject schedule, we are still getting everything accomplished without feeling forced to switch gears when it’s not natural — or feeling stressed about checking off every single box on our to-do list “on schedule” with our initial plans.
What’s working for you in the scheduling/planning/preparation department? Do you have a schedule, a routine, a day planner, or a fabulous “app” that keeps you on track? Or are you ready to let go of that “perfect” homeschool schedule and find a flow that works for your family? Join us this month at NextGen Homeschool as we discuss Ten Things to Let Go of This Year, and join the conversation! Find the series here.