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Why We Have a Strict Homeschooling Schedule

I want to start this post by saying that the topic of ‘scheduling’ is hotly debated in the homeschooling world.  Some of us want to model our home education after a public school.  Others loathe that method and run far away.  I want to share why we have a strict homeschooling schedule in this season of our lives.


Please, please know that you have to homeschool for a bit and find your own groove.  Each child is different.  Each year is also unique.  Times will change and so will your schedule.  I want to share my journey so far with those of you who struggle with the same things my family does.

First off, let me tell you a little about my family.  My husband works from home.  His office is out in the garage, but never the less, he’s home most days of the week.  We have a TV and all the channels that Direct TV can give us.  We enjoy TV.  We own iPads, Leap Pads, and there are plenty of technological distractions in our home.  I homeschool 4 boys ages 7, 5, 3, and 1.  I’m due with a baby girl in October.  We are also part of many co-ops and groups, and that schedule keeps us running as well.

homeschooling schedules

I think we’re pretty average.  I think I’m a pretty average mom.  I am easily distracted.  Be it housework, texting, Facebook, my own blog, or TV, I have the natural inclination to do what I want first.  My boys are also average boys.  If they could wake up, wear underwear all day, and play Minecraft until their eyeballs fell out of their heads, they would.  They would most likely eat cereal all day long, and no toilet would ever be flushed in my home.

There you have it.  Our beautifully (imperfect) family.

I’m a former public school teacher.  I taught kindergarten most of that time. (Read my story about why I homeschool here.)  I am used to a pretty routine environment when it comes to education because of my background.  I’ve seen some children thrive on it, and others struggle with it.

When we began homeschooling, I never ever leaned toward unschooling.  I still do not.  However, I wanted our journey to be relaxed and to incorporate learning into every facet of life.  Then, reality hit.  Morning sickness, lots of babies, whining children, laundry, dishes, and all the distractions of life made it difficult to get even the basics done on a daily basis.  I think a less Type-A person could handle the hodge-podge type days we had, but I could not.  I felt discouraged on our journey.  I felt like I was failing my kids.

The big shift came last year when my second son started homeschooling formally with us.  He loves routine and thrives on a schedule.  My first son is the total opposite.  However, our oldest is easily distracted, like me.  So, my husband urged me to post a strict schedule of our day.  I did, and while it never goes perfectly, we felt like we were moving somewhere positive everyday.

We start between 7:30 and 8:30 am depending on the day.  I have breaks, snacks, and most subjects posted on a wall that we follow.  I do not have a time constraint per subject.  If math takes 30 minutes one day and an hour on another it’s just a fact of learning.  We might spend 5 minutes on science or an entire day.  I still feel like I’m meeting goals.

The past two years we’ve finished our day by 11am.  However, with a 2nd grader, 1st grader, and pre-schooler this year, I know our day will last a bit longer.

The housework waits until school is finished.  Ideally, I have everything cleaned and prepared the night before.  During pregnancy, that’s a big fat joke.  We homeschool first, do chores second.

I still believe in incorporating learning throughout our day.  Despite a strict schedule, our homeschool operates nothing like a public school classroom and is perfect for our family.  We take lots of field trips and do hands on activities daily.

A strict homeschooling schedule is not for everyone.   I hope you know that children will learn in almost all environments.  I think the goal is to choose the best environment for the entire family and to be confident in your decision.

What’s your schedule like? Do you thrive on having a routine, a strict schedule, or a take-it-as-it-comes kind of day? 

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  1. As a homeshooling family where both parents work outside the home and who have their kids involved in all the sports teams they were in durimg their time in traditional school, adherence to a struct schedule allow us to get most everything done. We have a longish school day, use a block schedule and workbox system to keep us all in line and without a schedule I wouldn’t be able to finish our school year in 170 to 200 days alloted. Since both my husband and I administer school using a cleary spelled out boxed curriculum the schedule allow him and I to teach interchangeably.

  2. My name is Jamie and I am homeschooling a 5 year old boy and preschooling his 3 year old sister. I also have a 1 year old. I never thought of schooling first before housework. So I might consider that as an option on days where we will be out and about. I live in a pretty hot climate during the summer so I try to school during the time we can’t play outside, which is during the day. I have noticed that my 3 year old girl is very active and awake in the morning so schooling her earlier than my son might be another option. My son is a slow starter and doubt he would like for me to start first thing. Ha ha. We start about 10:30 am (after all my house/yard work is done or a work-in-progress) and go until it’s lunchtime. They play, I make lunch and then after lunch we go back until 1:30/2:00 p.m. and then they play again. I put he young ones down for naps at 2:30 p.m. and spend another 1/2 hour to hour with my son working on specific things with no interruption. We try to finish before Dad gets home at 3:30 p.m. However, my kids are used to having Dad away during the day. My husband is considering a job that will have him home for at least 21 days at a time and gone for 21 days. I know my schedule works when he is NOT home, but I am unsure how to work our schooling when he is home for such a long stretch. Any suggestions? My husband can distract the kids a bit when he is home and I am schooling.

    1. Your husband needs to respect school time, when he’s home. He can be an active teacher, there’s no reason why it’s only you teaching. While you’re doing house work, why can’t he be working with your daughter (although 3 is in my opinion too young to be doing formal education, they learn far more through play). This allows him to see what actually goes into homeschooling, lets the kids see that Dad cares about what they’re learning, and makes it truly a family affair.

  3. It’s great that you’ve figured out a schedule that works for your family. We also started out with a pretty strict schedule. As my boys get older, however, our schedule has become a bit more nebulous. For that past several years, I’d have a list of items I’d like them to complete each day and they were free to tackle their subjects in whatever order they would like. This works for us because the older they get, the more subjects they are able to tackle independently.

    This year, we’re going to try something new. Now that one boy is starting high school and one is starting middle school, they have decided they’d like me to give them a list of items they need to accomplish each week and let them decide what they do each day. We’ll see how that goes – but we’re all excited to give it a try. 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing this article! I sometimes feel like I am stifling my kids opportunities for “life” learning but I know that if we don’t follow a fairly rigorous 3-day a week schedule my kids will spend their free time glued to the TV or their tablets! We have modified our schedule this year to include time cushions in between subjects, so many times I find myself getting frustrated because my son hasn’t started something on time and usually it was due to a missing book or a slow computer that won’t connect to the internet. Now there is a grace period to allow for these time wasters. I’ve already seen a change in the atmosphere of our home since making this small change.

  5. I love you for sharing that you have TV and Minecraft. Thank you so much for being authentic and honest. I think, based on so many similarities between your life and mine, I am going to try to firm up our schedule a bit based on your success.
    Again, thank you!

  6. Thank you for posting this. We homeschooled for two years, then went to a little classical school where I taught my kids and others for two years and we are now back to homeschooling. I’ve learned that I need both a fairly strict schedule-of-priorities AND a place devoted to school only. I am the sort of person who needs no encouragement to take it easy or let things slide. The only way I can manage a classical education for our kids is with built-in discipline.

  7. I have homeschooled my five children for over 20 years. Though I hate to admit it, but we are all somewhat lazy and interested in doing baser things than we should be. Play video games, watch movies and shooting the breeze would all be high on my kids list of things to do if we were not develop the habits of self discipline with a good schedule. Sure my kids might naturally like to spend time watching ants or building a motor with dad, but who wants to clean up the kitchen, practice piano, memorize a poem? Anything difficult and of less interest very easily gets squeezed out of our day unless we schedule it. In fact our rule of thumb is “hard things first”. You are wise to make a schedule. Believe me, as your boys get older, days will only get fuller!

  8. Mine are 10 and 13. My oldest is great at working independently, and likes to crank out as much of her independent work as possible before doing group stuff, and my youngest is the opposite. He really needs to be directed, or he is distracted. So our schedule has adapted over the years to approximately: 8-9: exercise, breakfast, chores. 9: I work with youngest on “together” subjects like spelling and math lesson, and review what needs to get done that day, while oldest is cranking through independent work. 10: I work with oldest on math and literature, her only “together” lessons at this point, and youngest is doing math exercises and other independent subjects. At 11, we do any group reading/activities, though those are fewer the older they get. At that point I am usually starting to correct stuff done earlier. We do lunch at 12. By then, anything they have left is done independently on their own schedule. I have tried a stricter schedule, but days and lessons are so variable and unpredictable; I find this to be a good compromise for us. Also, the older they get, the more they do on their own, and the more I want them to practice managing their own time. We have all-day co-op Mondays. Most afternoons we are out and active, or doing a special project. I work two afternoons a week, when they do longer assignments like essays, co-op homework, etc.

  9. I prefer schedules as well, but of late I let the kids create their own work schedules – with guidance of course. I find that they tend to take more ownership of their work this way.

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