Sunday, March 13, 2016

Working and Homeschooling ~ Week 2 ~ Homeschool Schedules

I told you last week that we would talk about homeschool schedules this week. 
If you missed last week's post, you can hop back and read it here.

If you are going to be working and homeschooling, you are going to need at least two schedules, one for you, and one for the children. If you have students working on different levels, you may want a schedule for each of them.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of schedules, let's establish a few guidelines that should be understood throughout this whole series, so you won't wonder about them later:
1- Know and follow ALL of the laws and requirements in your state of residence for home education. (Every state is different, and you need to make sure you understand your state's laws before you begin!)
2- Never leave your young children unattended. Working and homeschooling is a delicate balance. It often requires you to work the opposite shift from your spouse (unless you're blessed with a Grandma who can watch the kids for you, and then you homeschool them when you get home from work.)
3- Your spouse needs to come before your children. If you're a Christian, the order is this: God - first, spouse - second, children - third, job - fourth or lower. If you do not carve out time to nurture your marriage, you won't have one. There is nothing worse as a working homeschool Mom than to be at odds with your husband. Trust me on this, you're going to need that support from your spouse daily!

Back to Homeschool schedules...

I mentioned last time that I am not a lesson planner. I tend to be more the "write down what we did" type rather than the plan ahead-type. Many homeschool planners work well for this, however, you do NOT need to purchase a planner to be able to work and homeschool. You DO however, need to keep an accurate calendar of events, work shifts, and deadlines. It can be in your phone, in a three ring binder, or in a spiral notebook. Just make sure you have a place to write it all down... even if you need to go back each weekend and sort it again.

During our girls' early years of home education, I worked in the daycare at a local gym. I had a wonderful boss who would let us bring our children to work with us. I had a set schedule of three days a week. They started out as part-time shifts (4 or 5 hours) and morphed into full days. Scheduling myself during these years was simple: always be at work on time, kids in tow, with a lunchbox full of food for break time. Scheduling the girls wasn't a whole lot harder. We did the majority of our book work on the days I didn't work. In the afternoons after work, or the mornings before, I would work with Emily, and eventually Arlene, on reading and math. We did a lot of frugal field trips with friends... and we went to the zoo a lot. Grandma & Grandpa always bought us a family membership, so we could go to the zoo for just the cost of gas.

Your children's elementary years may look different than your friends' children's lives. That's ok! I'll touch more on the comparison game ~ and why you shouldn't play it ~ next week! There are as many different ways to educate your children at home as there are homeschoolers. One thing you may need to set aside? Your hope of a picture perfect life. Working Moms are not the ones who get featured on magazine covers. They're not the ones who mop their kitchen floor everyday, and they're not usually the head of the local homeschool co-op. In fact, many working homeschool Mamas realize that keeping up with a co-op schedule might not be in the best interest of their sanity. Gather yourself a variety of friends for support ~ just know that your life will not look like their life!

When your children are Elementary aged is the best time to develop the habit of "Do what's next." This mantra helps keep your homeschool moving forward even when you're exhausted, even when your children are a tad whiny, or your husband is sick.

Do What's Next

This is not my brilliant idea, it is a concept I learned from reading about the life of Elisabeth Elliott. When faced with your whole world falling apart, do what's next. This concept frees you to trust God to work out tomorrow, you just need to stay focused on what comes next today.

When the girls were little, I started a practice of planning out a few things I wanted to work on each school year. During the summer, I would re-read Karen Andrea's A Charlotte Mason Companion, and then I would take a piece of paper and jot down notes of topics or character traits I felt we should work on for the following year. 

The list would be my starting point, and then I'd write something slightly more detailed about how to get there. For example, one year Emily's paper said: Science ~ nature notebook. Then I jotted down: zoo & butterflies. I had written down: Language Arts, then I wrote down spelling, penmanship, and parts of speech.

I wanted to be realistic. We were not going to get to everything every day. I typed up a sheet on the computer and listed each section from my note paper. Then I put the sheet in a protector. Whenever we were ready to "do school" we would do whatever was next in each section. As we finished something, we would cross it off with a dry-erase marker until everything was finished, then wipe off the sheet protector and start again. This saved me from thinking we needed to do every language arts topic each day, or thinking every day's science lesson needed to be something new.

As the girls hit Middle School age, I would type up their lists by each season: Fall, Winter, Spring. I would include how long they should work on each assignment ( for 20 minutes, one section, a chapter, etc.) It was up to them to make sure they got the assignments done and marked off. Many subjects they only did twice a week, but I included them all on the sheet. So M/W might be spelling, and T/Th might be penmanship. I was always available to help, and I did teach them math and writing, I just expected them to put forth more effort towards their own educations.

Was it a perfect system? No. Did it work most of the time & save me from writing out lesson plane every Sunday night ? Most definitely!

Working Moms need to help heir children learn to become independent learners. Each step you take towards them being more responsible for their learning is one less step you will have to do each week. The training takes time, but it is SO worth it!

If a program requires a lot of lesson prep, or a lot of worksheet grading, it might not be a good fit for your family. There are only 24 hours each day, and working Mamas need to fit sleep in there somewhere. There were years where I would sleep in two-three or four hours sections to get through the weekdays. Kurt called me his sleep-camel because I usually slept for 10 hours each weekend night. Combining subjects, like history reports with writing/penmanship or science with art via a nature notebook can help both you and your children. Our girls gave most of their reports orally, and took almost every test except math and spelling orally too. At times I think they didn't even know they were taking a test.

If you can teach your child the art of narration, it will save you both a lot of time. Narration can be done while you're making dinner or folding laundry. It doesn't have to be a separate time of the day.

As the girls got older, the schedules became more complicated. Part of that was because of me changing jobs, part of it was because they wanted to do activities, like homeschool gym class and 4-H. It wasn't always easy for me to work nights, sleep mornings, and home educate in the afternoons, but by God's grace we all survived.

Home education is a year-by-year, day-by-day process. 

It mirrors Moses' word to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6: 

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

This is a way of life, a calling to obedience, for your whole family. 

If I can give you one final word of advice to stick to with schedules: start simply. You can always add more to your schedule, and your children's schedules, but is often hard to pare then down once they become overwhelming. Do less activities outside the home, choose to eat simple meals, teach your children how to help with the housework. These are all tips that will help you survive, and eventually thrive, even if you are working and homeschooling!

One last, very, very important thought about your schedule:

You MUST plan in time for your husband. Without his help and support, you'll drown in the world of working and home education.You might have to go so far as to schedule in Daddy & Mommy alone time. If that's what it takes ~ You'd better do it! I understand your exhaustion, I understand your lack of sleep, I understand when you just don't want to do one more thing. I've been there, done that. What your husband won't understand is a lack of intimacy. He is not married to homeschooling, he is married to you! A healthy marriage starts and ends in bed. He needs it, you need it, God demands it. Do not forsake your spouse. Put the kids to bed early, and walk away from the papers that need graded, or the plans for tomorrow...walk into your husband's arms where you belong!

Go hug your children, and kiss your husband. 

Until next week...


  1. What an encouraging post, Carol. And not just working, homeschooling mamas. I get a lot out of your posts, too. - Lori

  2. Scheduling has been by far the hardest. My son is almost 13 and likes to sleep in the mornings. So he isn't even up before I am out the door. I leave his schedule and we touch base throughout the day. He works on independent things (reading, math) during the day, and we do language arts, history and science after I get home. Although currently we are using the SchoolHouseTeachers for video based history. Love it!