This year each one of my 5 kids has lessons of some sort or another: 9th grade, 7th grade, 4th grade, 2nd grade, and Pre-K.
That’s a lot of stuff happening on the average school day! So time and schedules have to be coordinated and thought through for everyone to have what they need (including my attention – the most limiting factor of all) and enough time to do it all.
I’ve shared our homeschool plans previously, but now that we’re several weeks into our full term, I’ve made the tweaks and adjustments required to keep us on a fairly even keel and I can start to answer the questions popping into my inbox a few times a week: How do you make it all fit? How are you mostly done by lunch??
We are mostly done by lunch, though sometimes my high schooler will work until 1 or 2. Every so often, another child will still be doing work at 2 or even later, but that only happens if they did not do what they were supposed to do in the morning – and often because I did not realize it until halfway through the afternoon.
One thing to note is that the fact that this workflow works for us is the fruit of the last 3 years’ effort. We have gradually (and intentionally) built up to this point. The groundwork for my high school student’s work habits and ability to stay on task now began in 7th grade, which was a rocky year for him (and me). I practiced drawing lines in the sand and he tried getting around them. Two years later, he’s got it mostly out of his system and we’ve both won the consistency battle after being forced by each other to stick to the stated requirements. Now that I’ve got another seventh grader, I know the ropes and know training is the emphasis that will bear fruit, so it’s easier to hold the line – and, more importantly, to see the humor in the situation – that it was the first time around.
Humor helps oh so much with day-to-day sanity.
However, the single biggest factor in whether or not this schedule works is if I’m working it.
To be honest, I started this draft a week ago, and I was still in a “start strong” mode. The fourth week of any term often hits hard, and this time was no exception. I am tired, one child has a cold, I tried adding in perhaps too much (or too early) exercise with perhaps too much diet restriction and it’s a lot harder this week. But it’s nothing that a combination attitude-evaluation and workflow-evaluation with a few strategic changes can’t improve. It’s easier to iterate and make improvements to fit current needs when those needs are felt strongly, right? With a cleansing cry and a change or two in the wings, we’ll go into week 5 ready to finish strong and barrel through so we can crash into break week and I can finally clear the piles out of my bedroom.
Another thing to note about our school plan is our style.
How do you want your home and homeschool to feel? How do you want to spend the time you have? It’s ok to make intentional decisions in different directions than you see online. For myself, I chose each and every thing we’re doing and the way we’re doing it. I’m not trying to fit into someone else’s plan – I’m no good at that and I am good at making a plan (I’m not as good at keeping the plan as making it). I prefer education concentrated. Like OJ in the can that has to be diluted before you can actually drink it, I prefer our school hours to be brief (a small can instead of a large pitcher), but all of it entirely necessary and meaningful. We pack a lot in, but the “water” to our concentrate comes in the free afternoons, break weeks, and complete summer and Christmas time off. We can do that when we spend our time on the things that matter – and only the things that truly matter – every school morning.
I don’t use our school time for anything superfluous. Both what we do and how we do it are custom-arranged to get the biggest bang for the smallest buck. That’s not going to work in everyone’s situation or with everyone’s style. Know yourself, know your kids, know your needs, and plan accordingly.
Here’s how I’ve done that for us:
7-8am: breakfast, chores, etc.
Some kids are up at 6:30, but generally breakfast begins and everyone is down and eating between 7-7:15. If anyone is still in bed at 7:15, yes, I will go roust her out (right now, it’s usually the 4yo, and the bed is wet and has to be dealt with). Because we all start together with Morning Time, we all have to get a start on the day right away, so no sleepy heads allowed on school days. That’s not the way it was when everyone was under 10, but that’s the way it has to be now to make it work.
By 8am, with everyone pitching in, we’ve eaten breakfast and it’s all cleaned up, the laundry is going, and our house is presentable – which is important because at least 3 days a week and sometimes more, people come to our house for part of our school day.
If chores aren’t done by 8, I can choose from my typical array of consequences:
- extra lunch time job assigned
- no computer time today
- no friend play today
There might be exceptions, but if we have too many exceptions, not finishing becomes the rule and we have to tighten back up again. Because it’s clear that the things they are doing contribute to the running of the household, that without their help, the house would be a disaster and people are coming, they are more motivated than when they saw it as the work Mom was exacting from them.
With their help, as a team, we can start the day cleared and ready for action.
8am: Morning Time
We start school promptly (this year, so far, after 3 years of attempting to start promptly!) at 8. One secret has been a timer that turns on our “call to Morning Time” song (Andrew Peterson’s “Little Boy Heart Alive”).
This year our memory-and-singing-focused Morning Time takes about half an hour so we can start our day with truth but not feel crunched or tempted to leave it off because we have people showing up at our house at 9:30 three mornings a week.
8:45-9:30: Morning Math Scramble
When I’m on a roll, I have math on the clipboards the night before. But, that only happens about 30% of the time so far this year – on what turns out to be “average” days I pull out people’s math pages and load the clipboards (the 9yo & 7yo also have copywork pages) right after morning time. I encourage everyone to start with math so that I can help get them started if needed, but sometimes I send one to do xtramath or another to piano if that works better for the flow that day.
The 4th grader and 2nd grader do have an independent work checklist, but I still count myself as the responsible party in making sure it’s done. If they ask what to do next, I tell them to look at the checklist. But, if the morning is crazy (and it often is) I reserve the right to tell them which thing to do next to smooth the logistics.
Usually my oldest will start his math, then come up and make tea – he might even go take a walk first. Sometimes I have to send someone on a walk, run, or bike ride to work through their math angst and come back at it fresh with me.
During this time, I’m generally rolling with the punches, stage directing, but also fitting in 15 minutes on the couch with my 4yo 3 times a week to read, work on catechism and foundational memory (like Psalm 1), and do phonics. She has math and handwriting pages, but only just for fun because she wants them. I don’t work with her on those. If she can’t do it by herself, she doesn’t need to do it at all.
9:30-noon: Lesson Block
This is when the main work of the day happens. Each day is a little different.
Monday is for Monday One-on-One Meetings with each student and a Latin lesson with my middles.
Tuesdays and Thursdays is for Elementary Lessons with the 11-7yo crowd. Knox (7yo) walks the 4yo down to my friend Kirsti’s house while her 11yo & 9yo come here. The 11-9yo have half an hour of writing instruction and practice to begin with. When Knox returns, he’s supposed to finish his math or do his xtramath, but he’s unreliable. As long as he’s not disturbing us, I let him be. At 10, Knox and Kirsti’s 7yo and another friend’s 7yo join us and we jump into history, science, geography, Bible, art study, and Shakespeare. We’re done around 11:20-11:30, and the kids run out and frolic and play and we make our day down to join the younger set, visit a bit, and walk back home for lunch.
Wednesdays I do not do couch lessons because I’m scrambling between helping kids with math and getting ready to roll for the high school and middle school classes meeting at my house, starting at 9:30. At 9:30 the high school kids show up and my younger three go down to Kirsti’s for book club and then recess together. We start with literature discussion and move on to diagramming and writing at 10, which is when a few extra 11 & 12yos show up and start watching the video lessons for Art of Argument & Grammar of Poetry in the basement. Then we all gather together and do Plutarch, art study, and Shakespeare (the same art & Shakespeare the younger kids are doing). Then the older kids are done and dismissed and the middle schoolers and I go over the lessons, share poetry, and talk fallacies. We’re done at 11:45 and my younger kids return for lunch.
Fridays we meet friends for a nature walk and journalling twice a month from 10-1ish – we eat lunch together. My high schooler stays home in order to complete his work. On stay-home Fridays we enjoy a more leisurely pace of working through the checklists. At some point on Fridays, depending on what else is going on, I have a “discussion date” with my 7th grader and my 9th grader (separately). On good days, my 12yo and I go out around 6:15am to a donut shop a mile away. He gets a donut and I get coffee and we share our commonplace selections and talk about his history and literature readings. We also touch base about how his week went and such. Usually my 9th grader and I grab our books at lunch time and sit in my room with the door closed and discuss his history readings from the week for 15 minutes or so.
Homeschool Morning Schedule Charts
Here’s the visual, general “time budget” layouts for the average days around here:
Each child has a day to be in charge of lunch. On his day, he pulls it out and puts it away. This has been a huge sanity saver for me, because lunch as always been my nemesis. So I just sit around and supervise the lunch madness, quelling squabbles, checking that school has been done, checking my email.
On class days – Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays – I try to sneak off about 12:30 and take a 20 minute power nap. I drape a black shirt (I have a lot of those) over my eyes and ignore the chaos. I haven’t really taken naps like this since college, but it’s been a huge help in stamina! I hate to admit it, but it’s better than an afternoon cup of coffee. When I take this intentional time away to actually turn off, I can come back out reengaged. If I don’t, I end up taking passive-aggressive time outs – zoning out on Instagram or Amazon or staring at a book but not reading any words. Better to just actually turn off so I can return. I have a phone alarm to remind me to go take a nap and a Fitbit silent alarm to wake me up. I’ve taken this nap 50% off the time, but I’ll be increasing that percentage because I can see it really does make a difference.
Somewhere in those jam-packed mornings it’s technically possible to also do a grammar lesson with my 12yo and hear two logic narrations from my high schooler (the only oral narrations outside of Elementary Lessons I have). We try to time it so he can walk with me on a Tuesday or Thursday while I’m getting Geneva and explain his logic lesson. Grammar has typically happened during or after lunch, though.
Thursdays four kids have piano lessons and I sit in on them all. So they pack up books to read (or listen to) and paper for drawing, and I load up way too many books for myself also, and we spend two hours at piano. If math or copywork wasn’t done and I catch it (big if), that comes along, too. Otherwise, we do it when we come home, too late in the afternoon, and the child subjected to afternoon school cries and cries over having no time.
Most days someone – or everyone – will ask to play with friends, and that’s when we do a quick look over the checklists. I might ask to see actual work if I have reason to suspect cut corners. But, generally, they stick with their work so they can play with friends, and that provides the best motivation I’ve ever seen. Once schoolwork is done, stuff put away, and bedrooms tidied, they can play – outside, if the weather is nice.
Sure, maybe I got more done by lunch than most, but I don’t keep going into the afternoon. I easily zone out and I have a hard time pulling it together enough to start laundry folding and afternoon chores around 4. I’m trying alarms, but I’m fairly likely to turn it off and not get up. I’ve given up trying to use the afternoon to write; instead I do mindless administrative tasks, get steps and chat on voxer, schedule stuff, declutter a random drawer, or generally limp through the afternoon.
No one is napping, but often neighborhood kids are around to play. Because I have older kids (plus a husband who works from home), I can run errands in the afternoon by myself or taking only one or two children with me. I can join my husband in the closed-off office space and have some quiet space and let the kids do their thing while I do mine.
Audio books are a staple – if there aren’t friends to play with, you will usually find a child with a building or drawing activity and headphones, listening to an audiobook.
Also, my husband corrects math in the evenings and goes over misunderstood concepts with the older two. That has been a huge help to the flow of our days and to my own mental and emotional capacity.
Doing all the things – or not.
Yes – we get a lot done in our mornings – but we don’t do a lot of reading aloud, we don’t do science experiments, we don’t do artistic activities, we don’t linger over lessons. We could be doing more commonplacing, more nature journalling, better handwriting, math activities to help with comprehension, read alouds of all sorts, poetry tea times, timelines – the list of possible Good Things is endless, really.
But I started with a time budget, fit in our priorities, and have chosen mostly free afternoons over fitting in All The Things.
It helps. We’re motivated to do our work because it’s a fixed and known amount in a fixed and known amount of time. There are consequences for not getting it done (my house is cleaner when work is shirked, so I don’t mind so much). There are good reasons to get work done – personally desired benefits, not simply being done, but interesting personal projects or friend play that they want to do. So I rarely feel like a cattle prod (anymore), and that’s huge – I’m guessing it will last until the next round of preteen/teen hormones hits. So I’ll just enjoy it while it lasts.
Other Homeschool Weekly Schedules
- Our homeschool average week, 2015 edition
- Mystie’s day-in-the-life feature at Simple Homeschool
- Brandy Vencel’s 2017 edition
- Virginia Lee’s 2017 edition (night owl version)
- Celeste Cruz’s 2016 average day chart
If you have a day or week in the life post, feel free to share it in the comments! The more examples we have, I believe the less we’ll feel we need to fit into one particular mold. We should each feel and enjoy the freedom to set up our days in the best way for our family’s current needs. Some years are harder than others – stick with it and the hard years become the manure that grows stronger plants in a future season.
Follow me on Instagram, because I often share a “day in the life” Instagram Story. Next week it’ll be a “day in the life of a homeschool mom” probably on Tuesday, focusing more on my own actions than on the lessons and work happening.