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Homeschool Scheduling

Let's walk step by step through the process of developing a schedule that works for your homeschool.

Step #1 - Plan Your Annual Goals

Homeschool planning is like planning a vaction: you need to know where you are going. Yes, plans can be flexible, but start with the goals in mind.

That includes choosing your homeschool curriculum. Until you have your educational objectives and goals as well as curriculum chosen, it is simply too soon to plan your schedule.

Scheduling Step #2 - Divide the School Year

Here are the most common ways to sub divide the year for planning:
  • 4 quarters - 9 weeks each
  • 6 units - 6 weeks each
  • 9 months - 4 weeks each
The first option (4 nine-week quarters) is standard with most school districts. It is easier for them to submit grading 4 times a year rather than more frequently. That does not mean you have to use the same system.

Many find that they naturally plan their schedule by calendar month. Use monthly planning if it works best for you.

Some find that four weeks comes and goes quickly and that six units, six weeks at a time works best. I tend to agree with this in terms of the natural length of most units.

Think about how many short courses are actually six weeks in length rather than four weeks. Bible studies, weekly sports camps, childbirth classes are just a few that find six sessions more workable than four. It might work for you too.

There are no right and wrong's here. But you will need to find a system that is logical for you.

Homeschool Scheduling Step #3 - Year Round School vs September through June?

boy and llama We are so used to the typical schedule, we may be missing other great ways of learning.

For years I taught using the following schedule.
  • June to June school year
  • 6 sessions per year - each two months long.
  • Three weeks on, one week off rotation. If a child finished the three weeks of work early, yureka! They earned a longer break. Dawdlers who didn't get everything completed in the three weeks LOST their one week break. (So did I for that matter.)
There were three advantages to this system
  • Since we didn't have to have a review period after a summer break, we covered more territory in a year. Within three years it equates to an additional year of study with no additional work.
  • Summers were still summers. I was easier on them academically. Old habits are hard to break.
  • You can go to the great tourist attractions when everyone else is in school.
The system worked for us for years, until my oldest kids became teenagers and REALLY wanted their summers off.

The great thing about homeschool scheduling: it changes to meet your needs in the different seasons of life.

Step #4 - Break down your content goals

Once you have determined what content you will cover for the year, and chosen the time divisions (quarters/six weeks/months etc.), it is time for this next step of homeschool scheduling.

Make a master schedule of what content/units you will study for each section.

Pre-packaged curriculums have daily or weekly schedules. In this case, you merely have to decide which dates/weeks/units will be covered by which period on your calendar.

Homeschool Scheduling Step #5 - Consider Supplements

I don't care how great your program is, if you have purchased a pre-packaged curriculum it can always be made better. If we could get all the authors of homeschool unit study packages together, they would be vigorously nodding their heads in agreement with this.

While they have taken lots of time to find excellent materials that fit a theme based curriculum, they designed it for a general audience. There will be books, internet programs, ideas beyond imagination for any child. Finding what is best for that child is part of the joy of homeschooling. Make room in your homeschool scheduling for those techniques and materials that you find that will be most effective for your students.

And if you use a text-book based curriculum, this is even more important. Look for supplemental materials that teach to the heart, and add pleasure to your students' journey.

Some of these supplements you may already have. You have found them and want to use them. We'll talk about how to incorporate them into your schedule.

Keep your eyes open for others as you continue teaching. Let's leave some room in the homeschool planner for these yet-to-be-found activities in your schedule as well.

Scheduling Step #6 - Plan the minor courses or "life courses"

In addition to the major subjects, take some time to think through the other academic areas. These include:
  • physical education
  • health education
  • cooking and family arts
  • art and drawing
  • music
  • computer science
  • driver's education
Consider these possibilities:
  • Do you want to do one (or two) of these each day?
  • Are any of these areas being taken care of as extra-curricular subjects in your family schedule? (music lessons, sports teams, etc.)
  • Do you want to have one day a week where you do just the minor subjects and none of the major?
  • What about having PE every day for one six weeks segment, and cooking every day for another six weeks, etc. (Using whatever segmentation of time you have chosen.)
Consider what resources for creative subjects you would like to use.

Step #7 - Early Learning - How Much Time?

For the preschool to kindergarten crowd, learning has to be broken into smaller bits. Homeschoolers have the advantage not only of one-on-one education, but of breaking learning activities up into one large or multiple small units per day.

At first, plan each learning task to last two to three minutes per year of life, per task. That would be four to six minutes for an average two year old; and eight to twelve minutes for an average four year old.

Some very active youngsters have even shorter attention spans and may only achieve one minute per year. You will actually make further academic progress by anticipating shorter sessions for each task for these students.

And of course, there are the studious youngsters who seem born to sit down and concentrate hours at a time on a subject. I'm not encouraging you to shorten their tasks, unless their attention span calls for it. But two to three minutes per year of life does give a starting point of what to expect.

With variety and hands-on activities, you will be able to do a series of tasks moving from one to another without a break. For instance, you may be able to work with letter flashcards, then pull out a puzzle, then practice counting teddy bear counters, then snuggle on the couch to read a book. With variety of activities, you can schedule three to five tasks in a row without a break. Again, with the naturally more studious students, you may get longer tasks in a longer series. But lower your expectations if your find your son or daughter's attention span requires it.

Tip #8 - The Three R's In Early Elementary

Remember the three R's: reading, writing, and 'rithmetic

As a general guideline: consider spending 1/3 of the time on math, 1/3 on language arts, and 1/3 on other subjects in these initial grades.

Another guideline with a different spread: 50% on the three R's - and 50% on all others.

Continue to use the same kinds of hands-on activities as supplements for the 3 R's through the early elementary years. Yes, we are moving into workbooks, but the hands-on, multi-color manipulatives expand their comprehension far more than workbook pages.

You may use reading about science and reading about history as a way of covering two subjects at once. That is fine. But remember the need for movement and variety is still strong in this age group. It either needs to be in the curriculum you have chosen, or you need to add it to your homeschool scheduling plan.

Tip #9 - Language Arts in 4th Grade and Above

Reading and writing continue to be a core part of the schedule. If your student is reading at grade level the following guidelines may be helpful:
  • 4 - 6th Grade: 90 to 120 minutes per day for Language Arts
  • 7 - 8th Grade: 60 to 90 minutes
  • 9th - 12th Grade: 60 minutes
If your student is below reading level, you will want to spend extra time on reading and language arts to catch them up. Other subjects fall in importance if students don't have the reading and writing skills necessary to communicate.

It is possible to choose reading materials in other subjects (science and social studies) at your student's reading level so both subjects are covered. There are companies that specialize in reading materials that are upper age level interest level, but lower reading level for remedial education. This could be a supplement to what you are already doing.

Balanced literacy is an approach to reading that spends additional time for students' needing remediation. One of the critiques against it is that it spends SO much time in reading that good readers may be held back from other subjects. However, for students who are struggling, the investment of time may be worth it.

Tip #10- Amount of Time For All Other Subjects

Whew! After covering:
  • preschool and early education
  • the 3 R's in early education
  • reading and writing for 4th grade and above
we are ready to look at all other subjects.

Just to make sure it is understood, I'll go ahead and repeat it again. These are guidelines, and not rules.

But, here's another guideline to assist in your homeschool scheduling:

5 minutes per grade level per subject per day

Here's an example: 5th Grade Science

5 minutes X 5 (5th grade) X 5 (days in a week) = 125 minutes a week (or 25 minutes a day)
You have choices:
  • 25 minutes a day, 5 days a week
  • two 60 minute science sessions
  • one 2 1/2 hour science session
  • other ideas?
The most common schedule is to do five - 25 minute session. But consider if you want a different schedule.

Let's consider another example: 8th Grade History

5 minutes X 8 (8th grade) X 5 (days in a week) = 200 minutes per week (or 40 minutes per day)

Again, consider how you want to break up your sessions, or if you want to stay with the traditional 5 sessions per week.

With this formula, you would end up with 60 minutes a day per course for 12th grade. Since classes in a typical high school and college are often 50 minutes, this formula does work as an average guideline.

Tip #11 - Develop a Weekly Schedule

Now you should have the following:
  • A list of the main course componenets
  • Supplements to major courses
  • Minor or life courses
You also have:
  • the year broken into segments (nine weeks, six weeks, etc.)
  • a plan for what is to be accomplished in each segment
  • ideas on how to divide your week
Now it is a matter of developing your weekly template of your homeschool planner.

If it is easier, you might want to put all the subjects/supplements on index cards. That way you can move them around as you develop your plan.

Once you develop the one week template for your homeschool scheduling, it becomes easy to plan each week of lessons.

Tip #12 - Share With Others

We learn from the experts - each other! Share any tips you have found that have made your scheduling easier for your family.

If you have a short tip, share it here on our facebook comments. Longer tips can be shared at organization for homeschool.


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