Homeschool organization is one of my favorite topics. Not because I’m good at it; quite the contrary! I love to learn how to organize better, because I have such a need for organizational solutions. I love to share things that have helped me, and as a result, I have probably written a dozen blogs over the years about the practical aspects of homeschooling.
How can one person write so much and so often about the same topic? Simply put, needs change each and every year; therefore, solutions change as well. New Kindergartners file in. Seniors file out. Elementary children transform into high schoolers seemingly overnight. Different children have different needs, different gifts, different schedules. As much as I would like to have one system, curriculum, or schedule that I could use forever, I just can’t. Curriculum choices are re-evaluated annually, and so are chore charts, schedules, and systems.
I can not guarantee that the ideas I am currently using will work for your family; I can’t even say for certain whether they will work for my own family next year. But I would like to share just a few of my favorite tips on how we – currently – are logistically working through our homeschool days.
A Flexible Schedule or Routine
The key word there is “flexible.”
Homeschooling naturally provides many unplanned surprises throughout the day, especially with little children underfoot, and even more so with a larger family. A baby might want to nurse at an unusual hour. A preschooler might not make it to the potty. Someone’s typing CD or headset might not be working properly. Someone might suddenly get sick and throw up. Someone might not understand their new math concept. Someone might be weepy and just needs to talk.
Simpy put, we never know what each day is going to entail. I don’t want to view those issues as interruptions that get in the way of the “important” work. Caring for those inevitable, unexpected needs is important work!
Expecting these interruptions, I strive to build flexibility into my daily routine, and deliberately allow extra time for those moments.
How exactly does that work?
We have set times for rising, breakfast, school starting, and lunch. We have a general school routine that directs what school subjects are done each day. However, we do not schedule specific times for each subject. Instead, I block out particular periods of time for “school,” and allow significantly more time than I think I’ll need.
Instead of specific times, we have a general order of how our school day will go. For example, I may schedule Family School in the morning, and One-on-One Subjects in the afternoon. I may assume that I will only spend two hours max on Family School, but I will block off three hours for it. I can then welcome most interruptions, because I have an extra hour built into the schedule to allow for it. If there are no interruptions (which hardly ever happens!) then I can either begin one-on-one school early, read some stories to the little ones, or go do something else. There is always something to do!
As an imperfect example, here is our attempt at a schedule that balances structure and flexibility: Schedule
Everyone completes their morning chores before breakfast. This is a brand new concept for us. I made the switch because I found that the house was consistently destroyed before breakfast. While one of the kids or I were cooking, little kids would run off and create messes anywhere and everywhere, which made it harder to clean up after breakfast.
I admit that I wondered if the kids would do well if they didn’t eat first thing in the morning. However, most morning chores take between ten and twenty minutes to complete, so they are not exactly faint with hunger by the time breakfast is served. In fact, the chores simply give children something productive to do while I cook. They also have motivation to do those, since procrastinating with their chores will delay their breakfast!
When breakfast is over, we have only to clean up the kitchen. The house is clean, since no one had time to mess it up, and the chores are already done. This is a great way to start the day!
Each of my children has a clipboard that they use for school. Attached to the clipboard are two things:
- A Notes Page
The Notes Page contains general rules and instructions about the school year, along with each child’s library card number and password, so that they can order library books on their own at any time. For example, see this generic page: Homeschool Notes.
- A Grid-Style Checklist
The checklists reminds the children of exactly what they need to do each day. For example: my 5th grader’s current checklist.
Tip: If you love the look of decorative clipboards, but hate the price, you can decorate basic, wooden clipboards yourself! Click here to see how we transformed our old, messy ones into the prettiest clipboards I’ve seen!
I could probably go on all day, but I did promise to limit myself to my few favorite ideas. If you want more, check out the “Logistics” section of my Homeschooling Page!