The biggest and most often asked question among homeschoolers is, “How do I get everything done in our homeschool that I need to get done?” The answer is you don’t. And that’s okay.
Let me explain. “Everything” can include not just keeping up with all of the chores and the basic subjects, but also all the fun and creative activities we see other homeschoolers doing and we want all of that too.
But what we don’t see are the parts that other homeschoolers are not doing so they can have time for those fun and creative activities they share. They may not be doing as much science in order to complete those hands-on history projects. Or, they may be conducting those really cool science experiments, but just reading historical stories or watching movies to learn about historical events.
The idea is we all focus on our own personal priorities and preferences and we can’t do it all either. But, we can decide what our priorities and family preferences are and work on those.
Having graduated two who are now in college, I can see all that worrying I did about covering all subject areas and all aspects of each subject area was unnecessary.
Unlike language arts and math skills, most science and history concepts are repeated throughout the elementary and middle school years so they do not have to take as much of our time during the week.
The following are steps I have followed to establish a routine to help us accomplish our priorities during the homeschool year: (you may find them helpful)
Step 1: Write down your priorities in a list. Don’t worry about the order just yet. Just brainstorm what you want to have done around the house by the end of each week. Write down what skills, concepts, or subject areas you want to cover in your homeschool week.
Step 2: Number each item according to its importance as to what you want done by the end of the week.
For example, my list might look like this:
2 math skills
5 grocery shopping
8 play groups (social activity)
Step 3: Fill in your generic calendar
From here, looking at my priorities, I look at my calendar (undated) labeled Monday through Sunday and I decide when and how often I want to complete each task.
I rank language arts and math skills as a high priority because they build on one another from year to year, not repeat like science and history.
Next, grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry need a designated place in our routine. History and science require some time as well as some kind of social activity. Depending on what is going on during our school year, music, art, and PE will find a way into our schedule.
If it is a busy season of medical or family priorities or club or sport activities, extras like music and art can either be brought into a lesson sporadically through the year or concentrated on during a slower school year.
Step 4: Set up a routine.
I use the word routine, not schedule, because I don’t stress the exact time to start and end something. I emphasize the order of my day and as I go along, I get a feel for how much time I need and want to allow for each item of my day.
An important aspect of establishing our routine for the first year we homeschooled and the start of each homeschool year after that is an easing into our routine over a “warming up” phase. I work on one thing to add to my routine each week. So, maybe before our school year starts, I ease into immediately putting a load of laundry into the washer as soon as I step out of bed in the morning before doing anything else. The next week, I add another part of my routine into my day after I put the laundry in. The following week, I add another to each of the week, until I have added our total day’s routine into our week.
Enjoy the flexibility of homeschooling to do this and establish a rhythm for you and your family. Homeschooling is a lifestyle, and when seasons occur where we have to devote more time to other things that come up that are not “school”, we have the flexibility to concentrate on those things. We have had a number of seasons where I was lucky to have my guys cover just basics, if at all, and I was afraid of the repercussions. I lived in a state that required standardized test scores each year and dreaded the results. I was amazed that they had gone up. Learning had taken place even while I was attending family health issues and other things not “school”.
As a former classroom teacher, I can assure you a lot of school time is taken up with logistics and classroom behavior and school policies. The number of hours of instruction and any one on one instruction (if at all) is minimal per day. One on one instruction, even for 15 minutes including some practice time, in homeschooling is the equivalent of a 45 minute class period in the classroom. It’s more concentrated and customized for your student so, therefore, more effective.
Here is an example of a routine for littles as you start homeschooling:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
laundry laundry laundry laundry
Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
Reading Reading Reading Reading Science Exp
laundry laundry Math laundry History Project Day
Math Math Math OR Science or
(read with younger one with one eye on each child) History Fieldtrip Day
Fold laundry and do spelling OR (Coop Day)
lunch and play outside or go to park with picnic
Quiet and naptime
Trip to the library one day per week or grocery shopping right after nap.
(Fit in music or art instead of outside play time or after naptime or include with our History project on Fridays)
Cooking is done while they play by themselves (or if I need to have them watch a video- dad traveled a lot)
Bath and Books (30-60 minutes of reading together) and Bed.
****My day –
As soon as I crawled out of bed, I threw in one load of laundry and then started breakfast. After breakfast, I worked on reading skills with my older one, while my younger had bins he could choose from or an activity table I had set up in the corner to work on early development skills. He may have cut playdoh with play scissors or play knife and pretend to cook with it. Or, he may have chosen a bin with blocks or a sorting activity or experiment with toy musical instruments.
I would then move the laundry into the dryer and move onto math concepts with older one and have him practice problems while I read a simple book to my younger guy. Of course, I had one eye ball on the book and the other on the math. I might give them a few minutes to play with one another while I waited for the laundry to finish drying and I cleaned up the kitchen or made lunch. Once the laundry was dry, I folded it while I recited spelling words for my older to spell aloud or spell and write down. The younger one would be my delivery man to place folded items on the correct beds or in the appropriate rooms. Otherwise, he might be playing with the pots and pans in my lower cupboard with wooden spoons.
For an example of the kind of schedule we followed as the boys got older with more in depth skills to cover and juggling mulitple learners, see Organizing your Homeschool Schedule during the Elementary and Middle School Years for a schedule for elementary and middle school. The main idea with juggling multiple learners was to focus on language arts and math skills individually while the others worked on something they could themselves while I rotated around the table to each one. Writing spelling words, copywork, handwriting practice, math practice after skills instruction, or an independent writing or reading assignment would all be good independent work while I worked one on one with another child. I was still at the table to answer a question if the need arose. Then for science and history, we studied that as a family with read alouds, projects, and experiments.
When we were done with basics for the day, it was time to have lunch and go outside and play or walk around the neighborhood. If we didn’t have plans later in the day, we would pack up the lunch in a picnic and go to the park. Once home from this, it was quiet or naptime. Our quiet time was one where it required everyone on their beds with books or listening to books on tape or cd or books with a tape. The timer would go off after one hour to let everyone know it was okay to leave their beds.
The afternoons were then spent going to the library, running errands and grocery shopping, playing outside, or working on any kind of seasonal craft projects.
Fridays were days we dedicated to science or history through either field trip days or science and history projects. As they got older, if we joined a coop, that day usually included science and/or history.
Music or art would be fit in periodically on a Monday through Thursday if we didn’t go outside or go to a park. Or, we would fit it into our history study or project. For ideas in teaching art or music, look at some of these curriculum options.
PE was part of our outside time, park play, or a sport season they participated in. Sometimes if we were cooped up due to bad weather or someone was sick, it was time for the Wiggles (anyone remember them?) or Tai Bo Kickboxing for Kids or other fitness video.
We always included at least 30-60 minutes of reading time together on the couch after baths and before bed. These books would be a combination of ones we all chose. They usually included books they had found at the library with science, history, or seasonal topics, as well as topics that caught their interest. Just the amount of read aloud time every night over the years greatly built up their vocabulary and language skills.
Easing into a habit and routine and following a relaxed routine with no specific time schedule allowed us to enjoy our homeschooling lifestyle. As the boys got older and we added more subjects to the schedule (as described in the post link mentioned above) and more activities and sports, we substituted the play and park times with other subject areas and personal activities. By the time, they were in high school, they were pretty much independent learners with the exception of some one on one math or writing help.
The early and elementary years allowed us to enjoy our time spent learning and enjoying our time together before the more hectic and demanding schedules began with middle and high school.
No one can do it all all at once. You can do it all sometimes spread out over time and that works! Enjoy your time together!
If you have any tips or routines you have found effective in “getting things done” please share them in the comments below! I would love to hear what has worked for you!
I will be adding another post soon about where to go to figure out what skills and concepts should be covered by the end of the year.