Taking Back Your Homeschooling Day

Taking Back Your Homeschooling Day

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Scheduling our homeschool day:

This is something we get questions about, so we thought we’d share for the many who wondered how we take back and manage our day, especially as working and homeschooling parents.

How do we homeschool with six children while running a business where we work over 100 – 150 hours per week, and also have hubby working more than full time hours outside of the home (and yes, we home-make our bread and butter and are very enthusiastic about our house staying clean, as well)? We know a lot of moms (and dads) want to know how it works and frequently ask us for tips. We were surprised because we aren’t perfect and don’t have it down by any means, but for those who are interested how it works for us personally… here is our basic schedule and tips to a happy homeschooling life (especially if you are a working parent).

We hope it helps someone! Remember: we are flawed, we mess up, and no two families are the same…. so read this with that in mind!

OUR TIPS FOR A HEALTHY AND HAPPY HOMESCHOOLING DAY

Disclaimer: Drink Coffee.  Lots of Coffee   🙂

TIP 1: SCHOOLING YEAR-ROUND

We school year-round. Why? We think about it this way: There are ~175 school days/year depending on state/country. There are ~104 weekend days per year. Altogether, that’s ~280 days needed. If there are 365 days/year that means there are 85 days left over that we can just toss out the window, as needed. Doing the math, that means there are ~7 days every month we can “toss” or choose not to do school if we want (on top of weekends!). Every single month! Want to go on a week-long vacation or take off for a holiday? DO IT! Want to take a break because you’re sick or have more work than usual or just want to sleep in? Go for it. Want to call it quits on a day because you just really don’t feel like it? That’s okay, too! Had an unexpected visitor, co-op, sports, a play date, or music lessons? No problem! Every week, you get 1-2 days to “call it quits” ON TOP of your weekend days. And, if you have a great month one month (let’s say you took no extra days off), you essentially get “carryover credit” and can take up to 14 days off the next. Really, it’s miraculous. Schooling year round is the only way we could make it work. EXTRA BONUS: Allow each of the kids to have 1 “call it quits” credit per quarter. This way, when they’re having an especially rough day, they “call it quits” and you are able to pick it up again the next day without causing undue stress. It helps them tremendously to know they have this available to them. We don’t suggest doing this until you’ve been modeling it yourself as a parent for a while, so they are not tempted to use it immediately.

 

TIP 2: TIME BLOCKS

We do 4- or 4.5-hour block schedules. This means, we tell ourselves we want to accomplish XYZ sometime within “Block # ____.” Using this instead of a “time schedule,” means it is not vital to stay to an EXACT timeline. Why is this helpful? This helps our type-A personalities to not feel stressed out and like everything is running behind if we didn’t start coffee or school at exactly the right second, or if we had something unexpected come up. It keeps things “routine” without ever feeling “stressed.” This has been a GAME CHANGER. [We will share our block schedule below]

 

“…that means there are 85 days left over that we can just toss out the window…”

 

TIP 3: MODIFIED OLD ENGLISH EATING SCHEDULE

We use our own modified old English eating schedule. I created it a couple of years ago on a whim after a long discussion with my husband. When we first wake up, we eat a healthy “snack” (yogurt, shake, etc) and coffee (kids do herbal tea). We do our breakfast later— around 10:30/11:00-ish (usually this is a huge breakfast of meat, eggs, porridge, casseroles, veggies, biscuits, pastries, etc). We don’t do “lunch.” Instead, we do another snack around 3:00 (a veggie platter, meat tray, fruits, homemade treats, etc). Then, we have our evening meal around 6:00. Why do it this way? Well, for starters this removes one big meal per day that Mom no longer has to make and clean up after (while not lessening the amount of food we eat). Let’s face it: making breakfast when you first wake up can be a stress-creator, a messy-house maker, and a bad-diet setup (for us, anyway). I hated making breakfast and seeing the mess remain as we transitioned right into school. Or, I’d clean the mess and school would be delayed so then I’d get stressed because of time. I also hated doing the “two breakfasts” thing and the re-heating coffee 5x thing (does any other mom understand that? Lol). We also realized we were eating less healthy doing it the “normal way” because I was trying to rush through breakfast more quickly (so the breakfast choices were lacking). This new food routine helped our health and our time schedule and our house staying clean, so this is why we do it this way. Everyone (even the kids) loves it. It has really been such an incredible shift in the entire dynamic of our day. We eat healthier, we keep the house cleaner, we have stress-free mornings, and it’s just been phenomenal. [Exact schedule below]

TIP 4: DON’T DO SCHOOLING ALL IN ONE STRETCH

We split up our school. We never (NEVER!) do all school subjects in one stretch of the day, as it leads to burn out. Meaning, in one time block we will cover science/history/geography. In a different block we will do math. In a final block, we will do language arts and Bible. Why? This gives us time to work and time to breathe. It helps our children not to complain. It helps us not to complain. It also embraces (in our opinion) a more “Charlotte Mason” approach while still accomplishing everything needed. [We will share our schedule below]

TIP 5: CHANGE UP YOUR SATURDAY!

We don’t school every single day (GASP!). We school on Monday and Tuesday. We take our Wednesday completely off (Wednesday is “Saturday” for us). We return to school Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. We leave Sunday completely off as our Sabbath day. Why do we do it this way? Because our kids (and we, ourselves) need the break from schooling mid-week. We tried it out one time and noticed SUCH a shift in behavior during school time that we stuck with it. For us, it worked better than a 5-day school week OR a 4-day school week. This setup puts things into very manageable 2- or 3-day stretches with breaks in between. It also helped us to use less of our “call it quits” days. This is also especially helpful for our own work schedule and needing to get extra things done for the business.

TIP 6: CLEANING – A MUST FOR MOM

We have a cleaning block and expect the house to stay clean (Mommy is OCD haha). The kids are okay with this because they get an entire “block” in which to complete their cleaning, so it gives them “independence” and “freedom.” If they don’t complete it successfully during their time block, they miss out on the next block (which means missing out on fun time). This teaches responsibility and time management. If they do their cleaning successfully during their allotted block, the house stays clean (which makes Mom a very happy Mom lol). They have also learned that if they pick up after themselves throughout the day, this task becomes easier and takes up even less of their “time block” which equals more “free time.” Really, the block schedules are incredible. [See example below]

TIP 7: EVERY SUBJECT DOES NOT NEED TO BE COVERED EVERY DAY

We don’t get caught up in the concept that every single school subject has to be taught every single day. That’s a public school philosophy and not one that any of our greatest scientific minds in the past lived by. For us, it’s better to do 2 hours of science one day and 2 hours of history the next than it is to try to squeeze in an hour of each on both days. Or, it’s better to do 40 hours of science in one month and then 40 hours of history the next (instead of 20 of each in every month). Now sometimes that gets swapped around and we do mix it up, but we go with what is working for us. A child doesn’t need to cover every single school topic every single school day, in our opinion. We believe they need an overall amount of science or history during the year (or lifetime), but it’s up to us as parents how we want to split that up. Math and language arts, however, are completed every school day.  This helps moms to feel like less of a failure when you eliminate that “check the box” mentality, and it helps our children to thrive!  Keep in mind, you’re not just the teacher… you’re the principal, as well! You have the right and opportunity to adjust YOUR child’s schooling!

 

“You’re not just the teacher… you’re the principal, as well!”

 

TIP 8: DAD IS INVOLVED!

Dad leads the main unit study (we use our own units for this part); I do the Core Connections, any other study we might be utilizing like math. This allows him to be involved (exactly as we planned for our units to include “Dad”), and it also allows for him to step away and go to work outside the home or for the business. It helps ease my day tremendously while allowing for incredible family bonding with “Dad.”   This is the whole reason we made Campfire only 30 minutes because he can still do it even with a beyond-full work schedule.   JACKPOT!

 

“…DAD CAN STILL DO IT EVEN WITH A BEYOND-FULL WORK SCHEDULE”

 

Tip 9: MAKE THE MOST

We make the most of our Wednesdays (AKA our “Saturdays”). It’s vital. Sometimes we work all day while the kids play before church; sometimes we spend the day running errands (this is when we often schedule appointments); sometimes we just hang out. We also use our “call it quits” days as necessary.

Tip 10: STOP WHEN THE BLOCK ENDS

When the time block for schooling is completed, we stop school. It doesn’t matter if we are half way through a lesson or even made it through two lessons. Learning is learning. To squeeze in more for the sake of “finishing the lesson” is to create a mental environment for the children that is not healthy.  They will inevitably DUMP the information a year from now.  What an awful thing that would be! When we didn’t do it this way, I would be stressed out and rushing the kids through everything. It was a “check off the box” setup which wasn’t ideal for ANY of us. I wasn’t enjoying schooling; they weren’t enjoying schooling; nobody was happy about learning (which leads to frustration and memory dump). Switching this has made such a great difference for us, and their learning has been SO much more successful.

Tip 11: TAKE IT WITH YOU

We school while traveling. A lot. In the car, on a plane, in the states or overseas. We take it with us. We make the most of our moments. This is incredibly easy with unit studies.

Tip 12: CURVE BALLS

We often get thrown curve balls. Kids get sick, schedules get changed, traveling makes things chaotic, we have to job shadow people, hubby has to work outside of the home, running a business gives us tremendous obstacles, and did we mention SIX kids? HAHA! We go with it and stick to our “blocks” as best as we can. If it’s not perfect, we choose not to stress it (this has taken some active practice for our personality types). It is especially helpful that we school year-round, so we get our “call it quits” days. We still complete all ~180 school days sometime within the 365 days of the year.

TIP 13: SPLITTING UP KIDS

We split apart the older kids and the younger kids a couple days per week. This allows us one-on-one time with the younger children who might feel left out during our “family” schooling on regular days. IE: Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday we do it all together (unit study + math/language arts/Bible). Monday/Friday, we leave off the unit study for the older ones. Instead, they get extra reading time (what we call “library time” at home) so we can spend that time with the younger ones and teach them how to read/write/etc. Why do we do this? We live by the approach that it doesn’t matter if it takes us 1 week, 1 month, or 5 months to get through a unit study together as a family. As long as learning is happening and progression is being made (and required standards are being met), then we can hang out on one unit topic for as long as we’d like, and simply expand it however we’d prefer (crafts, extensions, extra reading, videos, whatever!). Also, when the younger ones don’t get specific and designated attention at least 2 days per week, they are more rambunctious during family school time. Plus, they need the extra focus for “letters” or “numbers” or “learning to write.” This setup gets our older children extra reading or free time on those two days, and it also allows our littles to get the attention they need [We will share schedule below]. Finally, it still allows the entire family to come together for “family school” on the other days. It’s the best of all worlds.

TIP 14: MAKING BREAD AND BUTTER

We use the “FREE” spots in our time blocks to throw together some bread, make some butter, bake something, etc.  If we feel like it, we go for it.  If we don’t, we don’t.  This keeps a steady supply of freshly-baked goods without stress.  The kids also help and do it themselves for fun since we’ve done this for so long.  

TIP 15: “WIND DOWN” TIME IS ESSENTIAL

See Block D.  If we skip this, it throws everything off.

TIP 16: WE WORK WHILE WE DO EVERYTHING.  AND I MEAN, EVERYTHING.

We are always working on the business.  Always.  While cooking our morning meal, we are writing.  While brushing our teeth, we are answering customer service. On all of our “free days” “weekend days” or “call it quits” days, we don’t take the luxury of calling it quits.  Instead, we turn it into an all-out 18-hour work day where we are job shadowing, doing graphics, answering customer service, writing the units, etc.  While we shower or make dinner, we are dictating to the other person what to type on the computer.  While we are spending time with kids, we are working.  We function like a relay race and hand off work so that work never stops.  Never.  Really, the only time we don’t “work” is during the two hours allotted for unit studies with the kids and the 1-2 hours allotted for Bible.  Aside from that, our work is with us and we are multi-tasking.

 

 

HOW OUR SCHEDULE LOOKS: (read the tips above first or this won’t make sense)

BLOCK A: 6:00AM – 10:30AM

The following tasks can be completed at any point during this time block (doesn’t matter if it comes first or last, in between, or mixed and matched):

*Bible: 60 minutes
*Coffee and morning snack: 15 minutes
*Campfire Curriculums with Dad when he’s home: 30 minutes

Kids wake up whenever they wake up during this time block, and we go with it.  Usually we get some alone time with the Word before they get up, make their beds, and get ready for the day.  If they wake up early, we get started on this earlier and do Bible afterward or they do their Bible reading with us, etc…. That’s the beauty of a “block schedule.”

*Any other science/history (Core Connections, etc) with Mom: 90 minutes

On Mondays/Fridays, this time is spent in “library” time for older kids while younger kids get 1-on-1 lessons in a separate area.  Tuesdays/Thursdays/Saturdays are completed like normal.

*Free time/laundry/yard and animal stuff/unexpected events/sports/other: 75 minutes

 

BLOCK B: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

The following tasks can be completed at any point during this time block (doesn’t matter if it comes first or last, in between, or mixed and matched):

*Morning Meal prep, eating, and cleaning up: 90 minutes (HUGE “breakfast” meal)

*Chores/Cleaning: 45 minutes for each person in the family (to be completed at each person’s discretion)

*Math with Mom: 60 minutes (some of this time overlaps with time while I cook)

*Free time/laundry/yard and animal stuff/unexpected events/sports/other: 90 minutes


*Afternoon tea & snack & poetry: 15 minutes

Any time during this block that is left over after cleaning/math/eating, the kids get to use however they’d like (usually outdoors or with friends).  If they finish their cleaning in less than 45 minutes, they get extra free time.  The littles “help” clean or play in their play room with Mom or Dad or siblings.

BLOCK C: 3:00PM – 7:00PM

The following tasks can be completed at any point during this time block (doesn’t matter if it comes first or last, in between, or mixed and matched):

*Evening Meal prep, eating, and cleaning up and dessert: 90 minutes


*Work out: 45 minutes


*Baths and showers and getting ready for bed or the next day: 60 minutes (variable)


*Nighttime Reading OR music lessons: 45 minutes

If kids finished their cleaning in the prior block, they get complete FREE TIME this entire block, until it’s time for bedtime routine or eating

Each child gets music lessons (from Mom or Dad) 1 day of the week.  They can practice on their own schedule during free time throughout the week, as desired.

We often adjust this block, as necessary, for any extracurriculars, or “call it quits” days

BLOCK D: 7:00PM – 11:00PM

The following tasks can be completed at any point during this time block (doesn’t matter if it comes first or last, in between, or mixed and matched):

*FOR PARENTS: Work, Personal Hobby, Reading, Bible, Relaxation, Date nights, Other


*FOR KIDS: They go to their rooms by the beginning of the block.  This is “quiet time.”  Language Arts/writing/spelling assignment is completed for 60 minutes; extra reading (history book, Bible, or educational fiction) for 30-60 minutes or until they fall asleep

This is their “wind down time” where things get quiet and they are better able to focus on things like reading and writing.  The littles play with a quiet puzzle or toy.  “Lights Out” happens as they naturally fall asleep 1 – 2.5 hours after they initiate this process.  I look over their language arts work and give feedback/directions/changes the following day during any “gaps” of “free time”.

BLOCK E: 11:00PM – 6:00AM

*More work or sleep

 

HOW IT ALL BOILS DOWN:

TOTAL SCHOOL (BIBLE/HISTORY/SCIENCE/MATH/LANGUAGE ARTS/ETC) ACCOMPLISHED DURING THE DAY:
  • ~5.5-6 hours (which only feels like 2 hours because of how we do it)
TOTAL CLEANING HOURS ACCOMPLISHED DURING THE DAY:
  • 5 children capable of cleaning x 45 minutes = ~225 minutes
  • 1 – 2 adults capable of cleaning x 45 minutes = ~70 minutes (depends on if both parents are home)
  • All total = ~5 total combined hours of cleaning each day
TOTAL BIBLE TIME DURING THE DAY (PRAYER TIME SHOULD BE CONSTANT AND EXTRA FAITH TALKS ALSO INSIDE OF OUR CAMPFIRE LESSONS):
  • ~ 2 hours for adults
  • ~ 30 minutes – 2 hours for children
TOTAL “ME” TIME (IF WE WEREN’T RUNNING A BUSINESS):
  • ~ 4 hours for adults (from Block D), which we now allot to extra business work
  • ~ 6 hours for kids (throughout the day), usually outdoors or activity-based, with their friends, etc.
TOTAL MUSIC/SPORTS DURING THE DAY:
  • ~45 minutes/child

Don’t forget this is how a schedule works for us on our “regular” days, but we have plenty of “call it quits” days and “weekend days” as well!

Is this helpful to you?  Great!  Is it not?  No worries!  That’s the beauty of homeschooling!  What works for one might not work for another, but we all share as a community of support!  Each of us can adjust tips and tricks we try or hear over the years.  Do whatever fits YOUR family and YOUR life. Have any suggestions of your own to help out fellow homeschoolers?  Leave them below!

Happy homeschooling!

 

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