For New Homeschoolers: Scheduling Your Year

Hi friends. I don’t know if this will turn into an official series for you, but I wanted to do another round of advice to those of you who might be wandering into homeschooling for the first time. This time, let’s talk about what you should consider with schedules and your school’s calendar.

Check your legal obligations

First, you need to know what your state requires of your school. Here in North Carolina, the law states that we ought to run nine months, on a regular schedule, and attempt to achieve the same educational goals as our district. That means for my school, we generally run from mid-August to the end of May, with breaks sprinkled in all the way.

You can find laws concerning homeschooling in your state on the HSLDA website.

Schedule regular rests

Since we do not want to wear out ourselves or the children, the wise homeschooling parent schedules regular rests. Rests are not only opportunities to stop doing lessons. They are also chances to change the routine and do something different, whether they “feel” needed or not.

You can read more about what some people call “Sabbath Schooling” right here. This habit follows the general pattern of six weeks on, one week off. The week off provides a chance to catch up on household tasks, schedule appointments, and do fun things. It also provides you, the teacher, with some professional development and teacher workday time. You can take time with what’s working, what’s not, and get to that webinar that’s been on your to-do list. Tweak your schedule, order some different books, or do whatever you need to fix things.

Our other regular rest time comes in the form of weekly scheduling. I tend to load up the middle of the week with assignments more than I do the other days. I want Monday to start gently, not frantically, and Fridays I try to leave very light. In a non-COVID world, we frequently use Fridays as a day to pack up books and do school at a coffee shop, in what we call “city schooling.” If you have little ones, I do not recommend this form of city schooling, but you could easily instruct within a four-day week with all elementary students. Save Fridays (or another day) for park days, field trips, and (safely) meeting up with friends. This is a new reality for everyone. Support and time to breathe is key.

Consider a slow ramp-up

I would advise you not to hit the ground running with all your subjects at once. Remember that first week of traditional school? It’s a great deal of learning new routines, rules, habits, and the like. It’s no different at home. Pick a few things for the first week or two, gradually adding as you go. Use the extra time to familiarize everyone with the general flow of the day, the resources you’re using, and household upkeep. We almost always have some sort of tech failure early in the school year, and I’m grateful when it occurs during a partial week so we have grace to catch up.

Lots of things “count”

Often I wish every homeschool parent had a little time in the public and private school systems. There are many reasons for this, but one is — it would eliminate a lot of conversations about “does this count?” When I taught first grade and fourth grade, my students had assemblies, library trips, concerts, movie afternoons, field days, field trips….and the list goes on indefinitely. If you go to the zoo next week, and your kids don’t even fill out a worksheet or anything, it counts. Do you have a garden outside or would you like to plant one? It counts. We had a couple of family vacations to places like Boston and NYC. Did I count those as school days? You betcha.

It won’t take as long

This can be another panicky place for new homeschoolers. Generally, instructional time simply doesn’t take as long, because your student-to-teacher ratio is so low. With younger students, you might easily finish your day’s tasks by lunch. If this makes you uncomfortable, think about how much of a classroom teacher’s day is made up of crowd control. Some things just take longer because there are more kids to consider. You won’t have this reality in your school.

Of course, there will also be days when four math problems take one hour and you wonder what you’re doing with your life. We all have those. Close the book and try tomorrow.

Everyone wants to quit in November and February

Lastly, there are just months that are hard. If you know that they’re coming, you won’t feel quite so upset by them when they arrive. I will direct you to this kind article that I return to again and again. I have found it to be true that a lot of homeschoolers think they’ve made a huge mistake in the months of November and February. Please press on, and remember that many classroom teachers shake their heads at the end of the day and feel like they’re not getting through sometimes. It’s not you. Teaching is difficult, especially when it is grey outside. Keep going.

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