Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Making of a Homeschool Schedule

We're at it again - homeschool, and changing schedules! I've combed Pinterest over for homeschool schedules, just looking for some inspiration, good ideas and to see what other seasoned homeschoolers are doing. I've yet to find anything I thought would work for us, and so I continue to work and re-work a schedule of my own creation trying to find our magic formula. It may never happen as our needs are likely to change over time, but I think for now, and two weeks into our school year ;) I've finally settled on a keeper.

Last year for Kindergarten, I kept things really open and informal. I began the year with a very standard public school-like schedule where a designated amount of time was spent on each subject every day. I very quickly realized that wasn't working, and modified that to more of an alternating A-day/B-day schedule so we could spend a little more time on each subject and still be touching on them several times a week. That wasn't much better. It was too much planning, too challenging to keep a 5 year old working by the clock, and we were still spending WAY more time on school than I felt was necessary for a single 5-year old. Hello, reason #1 why we decided to homeschool!

Big Sister was unhappy, mama was unhappy, and at that point we did a total overhaul. We began using what is commonly known as an "unschool" approach. Big Sister picked what topics she wanted to learn about and we just dove in learning everything we could about it. It worked really well and we both loved it. What I discovered though was that we both needed just a little more structure than "no schedule at all." It was too easy to skip a day, shorten a lesson, get off-track, etc. While it was Kindergarten and I was perfectly fine with a relaxed schedule, I knew for first grade we would need to step things up a notch.

As the new school year approached, I sat down and excitedly hammered out a schedule. My goal was to have a fair amount of structure and to cover all subjects without spending an overwhelming amount of the day "working on school." After lots of thinking and working and re-working I had a very standard public school-like schedule with a designated amount of time spent on each subject every day. Ugh.

Fortunately, before we even began I realized it was too much to cram into one day. Unless we were going to work for a standard public school-length day of six hours (simply not possible for us, and still beyond what I think a first grader needs) we could barely spend 10-15 minutes on each subject. While that probably fits a first-grader's attention span for pencil and paper work, I didn't feel like it was enough to accomplish anything she would actually retain. We don't do much pencil and paper work. Our approach is a bit more non-traditional. It's not entirely "unschool," but I prefer projects and experiences that she's more likely to learn from and remember in the future. Short little 15-minute lessons just don't work with that approach.

What I've found works best for us is keeping the routine of a few daily must-dos, and then working more in-depth on one core subject area project or activity per day. I have a very imaginative girl, and she takes her time with everything. She asks a lot of questions and really takes in all aspects of what she's doing. I don't want to hurry her along and discourage her exploration and inquisitive nature. I chose homeschool for her so she could learn and explore at a pace that she enjoys. She's also choosing the topics we study, so they're all things she's very interested in and curious about. The whole idea of our approach is to dig deep into each topic and learn everything we can learn about it. Here's the most recent schedule I've worked out....

Truth told, it's still kind of a challenge to keep her on a timed schedule, and I have a hard time stopping her in the middle of something she's doing to move on to the next thing just to stay on schedule. In reality this could end up being more of a daily to-do list than an actual "schedule" we adhere to. As in- did we do our reading practice? Check. Did we work on the math project? Check. As for what time it is or how long that took us to complete, it's still my goal to get it all done between 9:30-12:30.

So for all the other homeschoolers like myself, combing Pinterest for a good sample schedule for their young learners, here is my sample. More importantly, here is my story of realizing that you should be doing whatever works best for you and your child. It's ok if it looks nothing like the public school schedule... even if the county reviewers suggest that it should. Spend your days teaching your child in the way they learn best. That's all. 

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