This post was originally written Summer 2015.
Each year of my life bring unique circumstances. My oldest son is 19, and we’ve been officially homeschooling since the fall of 2001. In that time, we’ve lived in 9 houses in 6 states, and now we have seven children, all in school except for my oldest, who is taking courses online. My husband has had a variety of jobs, some out of the home and some working from home, and now we own our own business. I’ve had some serious health issues, plus several of our children have had periods of sickness or special needs.
I’m sure your life is just as crazy. The point is that life changes. No season is the same as another. Just as we get used to one season, our heavenly Father lovingly brings new circumstances into our lives, for His purpose and glory. We have to be flexible, to adapt, and to trust Him.
I make a homeschool schedule each summer, but I know it’s time to make a new plan when the frustration levels rise or when we just don’t seem to be getting anything done. Just recently, I spent a few days planning, so I thought I’d walk you through the process I use. (At the end, I’ll share some links to how some other homeschooling moms do it, too, in case your personality is more like yours than mine.)
List All Tasks
The first thing I do is make a master list of every single thing we do in a day (and even in a week). This step takes a few days, but I try not to rush it, because if I make a schedule but leave something off, the whole thing won’t work.
Honestly, it feels good to list all the things we do. I get them off my chest, and I also realize that we’re getting a lot more done than it felt like.
I take a piece of notebook paper, and I just start listing things: showers, times for Bible study, meals, errands, regular meetings, every subject of school, times for crafts and baking, every single chore I wish we were doing, and so on. I usually make the first list while snuggling on the couch in the evening, but then I stick it on the refrigerator door for a few more days, where I can keep adding things as God brings them to my mind.
Set Up a Planning Form
Next I set up a schedule planning form on my computer. Many years ago, I did this step on paper, but I just got tired of erasing. 🙂 Now I do all my planning on the computer so that I can copy and paste, cut and drag, and adjust until everything is just right.
Schedule Common Tasks (Meals, Together School)
I really try to keep our meal times consistent, so this is where I start plugging all our tasks into a scheduled time. Other common tasks are rather unchanging and non-negotiable (chores, bedtime, and activities outside the home), so these all go onto my spreadsheet here.
I strongly believe in doing as much of our school together as possible, so these subjects can also go onto the schedule now. For our family this year, these subjects include Hebrew, music, history, science, and grammar, as well as our family Torah reading after breakfast each morning.
Plan Individual Tasks
Next I plug in individual tasks and subjects. Some things are just plugged in where I prefer them. For instance, I like to have quiet time alone in the morning before waking up the family, so I make sure that I schedule this in. I know that I like doing phonics and math with my younger children while the older children are cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast. I also need to have time to work online, and my teenagers also work online, so I need to be sure we rotate our computer use so that each of us has the time we need.
I want my younger children to learn to play nicely with each other, but I also want them to have time to play alone each day. I want my older children to take turns doing things with their younger siblings, and I also want to schedule time for them to learn new skills. I want to be sure each child is helping run the house, so I schedule chores in the kitchen as well as cleaning chores. The burden of a family is much easier to bear when all of us are lending a hand, from the youngest to the oldest. (Mom does not need to do it all herself!)
Allow for Breathing Room
This little tip is the hardest thing for me to learn. I tend to fill up my day in 15-minute slots, and then I wonder why I’m so stressed out! As I get older, I’m learning to be a little wiser. We might not have as many things on our list, but we are less tired so we enjoy each other more and generally do seem to be just as productive as ever.
Sometimes I forget what’s really important. I feel as if I need to entertain my children all day long, or that they need dozens of hands-on projects (that I planned, shopped for, prepped, and cleaned up from) in order to learn, or that I must enroll them in every activity and class outside the home that I see others doing.
As an adult, sometimes I have other responsibilities than just being a mother. However, the Shema gives me hope:
“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” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
Being a busy mother is okay, as long as I keep my children with me and teach them as I am going. Just as praise is to always be on my tongue (Psalm 34:1), as I am to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and I am to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), I can also learn to teach my children as I go. This really takes a lot of stress off!
In addition, I must be very careful not to compare myself to others.
“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
I have included my schedule here, and I’ve listed links to other mom’s schedules, too — but please don’t be unwise and use this to compare yourself to me or to anyone else. It only leads to misery and discontent. What’s worse, you’ll make your family miserable, too — and they won’t even know why they can’t please you!
You should try to be a good steward of the time you have, but never forget that the providence of God placed you (and your children) exactly where He wanted you. Rather than coveting, rejoice and give thanks as you schedule your days.
Other Helpful Links
I thought you might enjoy the following posts and resources, to give you lots of ideas:
- Homeschool Daily Schedule — One mom shares how she makes a schedule in Microsoft Excel for her children, and she shares some of the natural consequences she applies if her children don’t do their work diligently.
- 10 Steps to Help You Create a Schedule — This small download has a variety of helpful tips on scheduling a homeschooling day.
- Creating a Schedule for a stay-at-home mom
- Schedule Forms from Managers of Their Home (MOTH), plus ScheduleBreeze (computer software)
- Creating a Daily Schedule or Routine
- Creating a Homeschool Schedule
- How to Schedule a Homeschool Day
Don’t forget… Homeschooling Torah members have free access to Anne’s book, The Organized Homeschool.