This year for school I decided to tackle all those itty-bitty things that slip through the cracks when we get busy, the first things that drop off the schedule when you have a “bare minimum” school day. Experience has taught me that every day is quickly becomes a bare minimum day and we end up missing out on all the fun things that we really want to do for school. I needed a way to schedule all those little things rather than just hoping we get around to them when we had enough time – already that idea was a bit of an inspiration. But my kids found these blank pages in our Instructor’s Guides and they were all for filling them in. Who am I to argue with kids who want to be organized?
Turns out it was a bit of a process, but we made it. And now we have a schedule, that isn’t just overly optimistic and locked in my imagination, and it is working!!! I thought I would blog about how our schedule came into being, because it wasn’t just filling in a blank sheet. It was a process that required quite a bit of refining and then some more, and is still getting adapted and tweaked as we travel through the school year. But I have to say at almost halfway through the school year we are still doing things with enthusiasm, things we would normally have dropped by now because they were not scheduled.
So here are our se7en schedule tips:
- Know Your Goal For the Year: My first lesson was that you cannot write a schedule if you don’t have a goal for your school… I really find that I need to know what to emphasize. My goal for this year is twofold: Firstly I want to show my kids that school doesn’t have to take all day and that they can get it done in the morning, whatever grade they are in. An hour on any subject everyday is actually enough. It has been a challenge, it is so easy to drag along all day rather than just finish and put school away. The other goal for the year is to discover all the art materials in our home and use them… I want my kids to be familiar with the materials so that they can go and explore on their own without someone to help them with the basics… it has been great fun and we have all learnt heaps together.
- An “Essentials Only” Kind of Day: I want my kids to know that there are some habits of daily life that one just does on a daily basis: create a little, write a little, read a little, think a little, explore a little, eat a little and get outdoors for the rest of it. I used to make sure all our “School-Essentials” happened by lunch-time so that we could do the fun things in the afternoon, it turns out we aren’t the best at anything in the afternoon. Even the things we really want to do, like art and science experiments just never happen in the afternoon. My kids and I need the afternoon to read and basically do our own thing. So I scheduled in the things that appear to be non-essential next. And I say “Appear to be non-essential” because I actually think it is just as important to do art and spend time out doors as it is to do math.
- A List of What We Want to do for School: Many of us home-schoolers have great intentions and ideas of hours spent in the great outdoors doing nature study and art appreciation and classical music daily and scientific discovery. So I made a list of the things we really wanted to do for school: Art was top of the list, and then so was art and more art… but science experiments popped in there, and more listening to music and more games and cooking. There were in fact quite a lot of ideas brought to the table.
- A Master List: I started by filling our schedule sheets in with a list for me… and I know if things are scheduled we are more likely to do them. So I made a really simple list and this happens every school day, I used to start with math… you know start with the worst and move on… but to be honest math isn’t the worst, the worst part for all of us is just getting to the table!!! So we do Bible Study during breakfast and then everyone does a quick scatter but we are all drawn back to the table with art… It works every day!!!
- The Stuff That Doesn’t Get Done: Then we had a look at the things that we always start doing eagerly in the first week of school and then they fade away. Well there is a VERY striking reason why things fade away… they are not scheduled everyday. So they are not part of our daily rhythm and we just don’t remember to do things once or twice a week. This year I popped all those once a week items onto the schedule, a different one on each day… and because they are on the schedule we actually do them. For once we are still filling in our Geography song book on Week 17.
- All that Reading: Some of the read-alouds aren’t scheduled everyday. Things like Aesop Fables is scheduled every couple of days. Leading Little Ones to God and so on … they aren’t scheduled everyday and we often “forget” things that we don’t do every day. This year we have read all these books everyday, no skipping a day because it isn’t scheduled… just read on. The nice thing about it is that those books will finish a little earlier in the year, simply because they aren’t spread out throughout the year. Which means that our reading schedule will get lighter nearer the end of the year.
- To Each His Own: I soon realized that while I had a schedule I needed one for each of the kids… especially for the kid that says: “Done it…” and actually hasn’t, that one just wants to be finished first!!! The key here is nothing vague… there is no MATH written on the schedule, rather: textbook, workbook, word problems and so on. So details, every detail!!! I have been too vague in the past, the time has come for my students to know exactly what I expect from them. Surprisingly, it works, the schedule says what needs to be done and they pretty much do it.
- Flexibility is Key: When you are running a home you have interruptions, that’s life!!! I like to embrace visitors and ignore the telephone. I think it is important to have a policy towards interruptions, we have an unwritten law that schoolwork for the day will get done, things just don’t get carried over. But when guests arrive school gets abandoned for a time or packed away. If we have visitors then they generally need my attention and it is an excuse for my children to vanish from the school table, into thin air!!! Rather than make it an issue, especially since I am not available to help them… School just gets put away and since we don’t generally get visitors at the crack of dawn the earlier we get going with school the better.
And the Se7en + 1th thing:
You will notice that there are no times on our schedule. We just work until we done, and that is usually by lunchtime. When I add time to our schedule then all my scholars seem to spend more time watching the clock than doing their work!!!
That’s our working schedule for now!!! Just a snapshot… remember things are always changing and adapting…