Ok, let me admit that I have a TYPE A side who survives and thrives in routine, in step by step processes, and always going by a plan. I love to know how things come about and what causes what. That’s probably why I earned a degree in Medicine. Being a nerd at heart, my closest friends joke me for having a book for every issue or concern in different seasons of life.
Homeschooling has challenged and changed all that. Imagine four children below eight years old, how can you even think of order, or of sticking to any plan ?
But, hey, it has been 14 years of homeschooling and from four, I am down to one student. The older kids are well adjusted and doing well in their regular schools. So we must have done something that prepared them to adjust ,cope and yes, even bloom. So .let me share a few tips on creating, maintaining, ditching your SCHEDULE (yes there are days, I ditch the plan!)
For many years, usually at the beginning of the school year, I tried to create daily, weekly schedules. Oh wow, I even downloaded or sometimes even purchased, “homeschool planners, multilevel planners, giant calendars, personal planners for each child.” I tried to write lessons (as joint (all kids) and individual ) and plans for the day with specific time allotment. I tried to spread out the lessons so as not to tire the children. But when I realized that I kept adjusting, making changes in the set schedule, I decided, it wasn’t worth it all and I somehow wanted a more relaxed, free flowing, flexible schedule (which I believe woks better with multilevel children) .
Looking back at these planners, none of them were ever maximized and filled up. I guess, instinctively, it didn’t match my own learning and teaching philosophy. How could I end a moment or shift to another lesson, when the children are so engrossed in something.? How could I not continue, pursue and extend the moment for maximum learning and enjoyment?
So, we somehow ended up with a “big picture” schedule such as this. Nothing too specific or rigid.
In my mind, this was our goal. But of course, it always gets mixed up,
It’s not easy to give hard and fast rules because each homeschooling family is unique. Many variables come into play in setting one’s schedule/pace of learning. So, let me just share my most favorite GO TO tips in being able to get things done and yes, learn and have fun.
Let’s use the word S-C-H-E-D-U L-E.
1. Set the time and material/lesson per day/per week. Depending on the season of our children’s levels or ages, we more or less, averaged 3-5 hours of schoolwork. The younger children in their preschool or primary years had more free play, had more freedom and flexibility. I would say they engaged and did their lessons for about 1-2 hours only. As the kids, went into levels 3-6, we somehow had a 930AM-230PM schedule. There are days when I would need to nap, or our lunch break would extend, so we end a bit later.
It’s important to consider the well being of the teacher and student/s. If I had a very stressful evening (let’s say one child was ill throughout the night), I adjust and do lighter lessons or watch videos instead. Also be wary of other family events for rest of the day, and make adjustments so as not to stress your homeschooling time or burn you out.
This is basically what we hope to cover for level 5 this school year. Our homeschool provider, Homeschool Global, (former TMA Homeschool), breaks its school year into 4 quarters. So I work with that.
At the beginning of a school year, I photocopy the table of contents of the major textbooks and skim through the lessons. I look for lessons that can go together. For example, a lesson on Galileo for History can be supported by lessons in Astronomy. For Grammar, synchronize your Filipino and Language lessons.
I also think of ideas for projects or connections to real life settings . When a child is older, you can try to elicit these ideas from them. So find connections across subjects. This saves a whole lot time, solidifies learning. Blended or seamless lessons that encompass several concepts and ideas from various subjects are the in thing now among progressive schools. This method of learning has been proven to be more effective than the usual one lecture per subject set up.
2. C ommunicate your plans to the kids. Show the the children, the plan for the day. Remind them that some adjustments may have to be made as you go along. Discuss with them the general plan for the week ( include the outsourced subjects or tutorials outside of the house, MAPE classes, planned field trips or even those days when you may have to leave and assign them some independent school work.)
3. H eavier subjects first? Being morning people, we prefer to do heavier subjects that require a whole lot of concentration and mental focus at the beginning of the day. I find our students more alert and more able to comprehend. You may opt to have it the other way around. What’s important is to maximize your lessons given your children’s and your level of concentration/mental and physical strength. After lunch, we try to do the livelier subjects that can wake us all up, a Science experiment, a video tutorial, games or project work that involves a whole lot of creating.
4. E ngage the older children in making their own schedules. For as long as they know what the goals for the day are, they can decide what lessons to tackle first. Depending on your family set up, you may decide do heavier subjects last. This provides the children with some empowerment in making own decision and helps them with time management. This becomes very helpful during project time where certain tasks are done in steps, week by week.
5. D itch it, if necessary . If a planned lesson or activity isn’t working, be flexible or open, to stop and reassess. There are many times when we had to ditch the planned lessons for several days. This usually happens during national events like the last Philippine Elections, the Mamasapano Tragedy, Ondoy Storm and Relief Efforts or when our family faces certain situations making it impossible to stick to lesson, oblivious to what our family was going through.
6. U nit Studies –
The www.homeschoolinthewoods.com describes the Unit Study as :
Unit Studies approach a theme topic from several angles, encouraging activity and love of learning as well as discipline and responsibility. Units work best when the main topic is studied in the areas of Bible, History, Science, Health, Physical Education and the Arts, but Language and Math can often be applied as well.
While www.thehomeschoolmom.com says :
Unit studies are a popular homeschooling method because they can be hands-on, literature-based, or even geared towards the Charlotte Mason method. Unit Studies typically encompass all of the scholastic subjects through the study of one topic (Weaver units or KONOS character units, for example), although they can be specific to a specific subject (like Evan-Moor science units or Teacher Created Materials units). Since it is easier to teach different ages the same topics with multi-level unit studies, they are popular among homeschoolers wanting to keep all of their children on similar topics at the same time.
Here are some examples of your own unit studies and projects done by multilevel Children:
For more information about Unit Studies, click here.
7. L imit redundant activities – Don’t be afraid to skip lessons that are “useless”, that have been taken up and already mastered, or that will be taken up in a future lesson in another subject. If for instance, your child is reading a chapter book on a person known for his compassion and love for the children then you find a similar material in his Reading Exercise textbook, you may opt to skip that part. I am using the Mathusee curriculum for Math. Each Lesson has about 3 practice sheets of the new lessons and another 4 practice sheets for the current lesson and past lessons combined. When the student scores high in several practice sheets, I usually limit these so we could proceed to the next lesson or use the time to apply what we have learned to real life situations.
8. E liminate distractions – For as long as family members know how to contact you via landline, shut the mobile phone off ( I need to learn this again and again). Open it only during homeschool breaks. Write down non-homeschool thoughts that you need to go back to later on during the day. Keep your homeschool room neat and organized, a messy room is a giant distraction and can become stressful, in the long run.
So there, Set, Communicate, Heavier first, Engage, Ditch it, Unit Studies, Limit, Eliminate !
Hope these tried and tested tips help with scheduling your daily homeschooling experiences!
Ephesians 6: 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,