Has your homeschool schedule gotten out of control? Maybe you started with a workable plan, but as the year went on and you added in things here and there, it’s feeling a bit three-ring-circus-y? Here are a few tips. Use any or all of these and adapt as needed for your family.
Whole-Group Discussion as Much as Possible
Five students doing five different worksheets on five different topics within one subject is enough to cause any mother to have a nervous breakdown, especially when each worksheet needs to be checked, corrected and checked again. As much as possible, cover the material you’d like to cover all together as a family. Gather everyone together, read aloud (or watch a video) and talk about what you heard. (You can read more about how we’ve done a digital morning time together in the past.)
Yes, you can even do math whole-group in many cases! Right now we are learning about measurement. Everyone from the eleven-year-old down to the three-year-old gathers at the dining room table to draw or paint while I read aloud a book about measurement or we do some hands-on exploration together. The older kids grasp more, the little ones grasp more than they would have if they hadn’t been included. The older kids can handle more challenging questions. The younger kids can answer simpler ones. We can do simple problems and calculations on our slates, checked on the fly and erased. But what about differentiated practice?
Automate the Practice
Especially when children are elementary age, you want as much of the new learning as possible to be done with mama, out loud and even hands-on. But when it comes to checking simple practice, let the computer handle that part. Use Xtra Math or Khan Academy for math practice. Have your children write paragraphs and stories on the computer and then have Grammarly check their spelling, mechanics, and grammar. That way, you can use your time with them to focus on the fun stuff – the ideas and words they are using! Check out Sheppard Software for learning practice across disciplines or use Quia or Sporcle to create your own automated review of any subject!
If you haven’t already read Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie, I highly recommend you stop everything else you are doing (including crying over your schedule) and read.it.right.now. It is full of such gentle wisdom and common sense about the homeschool perspective. One of the great scheduling tips Sarah recommends is looping, which you can read more about here on her blog. The basic idea is that rather than assigning non-daily subjects to a day of the week, you simply have a list you “loop” through each time you have a chance. When you have another opportunity for your loop subjects, you pick up where you left off, regardless of the day of the week.
“Pin” a Few Things, Let the Rest Flow
Because I have children who range in age from toddler to middle schooler, I want to keep the schedule somewhat flexible. But if we are going to do some bits of the day together, then we need to have some type of schedule or routine so that we can all manage to be in the same place at the same time. We’ve found it helpful to pin down a few points in the day and then allow the children to fill in their other responsibilities around these. For example (times are approximate and vary with notice):
- 9:00am – Bible time (takes about 30 min)
- 11:30 am- Lunch
- 1:00pm – Table School (takes about 45-60 min)
- 3:00pm – Snack and clean-up
Before, between and around these times, my older children can choose when to eat breakfast, do their (minimal) daily chores and complete their independent work. One child wakes up early and has all her independent work done and breakfast eaten before Bible time. Another child sleeps up until Bible time and has breakfast afterward, completing chores before lunch and independent work after table school.
Rather than trying to plan and keep many subjects going at one time, it has really helped us (me!) to instead do a concentrated focus on one subject at a time. During our Table School time, we work a little bit on our Brave Writer Arrow Guide (language study based on our current read-aloud) and then we focus on the one subject we are exploring together. The funny thing is, though, that there is always overlap and “spillage” into other subjects. For example, we are now studying measurement. That topic already includes plenty of math and science. But we’ve also hit on history and Latin and even a little theology as well! Next, we’ll take a look at the election process using the Elections Online Unit Study from Techie Homeschool Mom. Have you ever thought about taking a deep dive into one subject and saving the others for later?