Like many of you, I got an unexpected surprise last week. Due to the national emergency, my kids school shut down for the next month – at least.
As a parent who has always talked about trying to home school, I was never positive exactly how it would work. Although I taught 2nd and 3rd grade for years before starting a family, those were other people’s children. Teaching your own kids is completely different.
And, as a side note, this isn’t truly home schooling. The school is providing us with basic guidance. The school isn’t set up with online distance learning, so there aren’t online classes or structured learning opportunities. I am by no means a home schooling parent. I am just using the skills from my days of teaching to help make the transition process easier.
To get started on trying to home school my kids, I needed to create a home school schedule that fit my kids’ learning needs as well as kept them creative.
The task felt daunting.
But as I started to rework our daily schedule – fit in school times, play time and my work time – things started to come together. And I learned pretty quickly the things that worked and didn’t when creating a home school schedule for your kids.
Most importantly, I’ve seen a lot of home school schedules that are very rigid and strict. Although I love to follow routine, we really aren’t that rigid as a family. (Yes, we are late to school more times than we should be.)
So, instead I created a home school schedule that worked for my family. Here are some tips for creating your own.
Start with a Daily Routine
As mentioned above, I love routine. It’s important to know where I need to be and when. Earlier this year I adopted the time block scheduling technique for working on my business and it’s been majorly successful.
Kids are no different. Most children thrive on routine. Your day will go more smoothly if they know what they should be doing and when.
Giving them a daily to do list will help them stay on track. If they don’t know what comes next in their day, I find they resort to a lot of running around the house and screaming.
So, write down all of the things they need to do for the day. This could be a simple to do list on a notepad page or dry erase board.
For each part of the day, write down the tasks that your child needs to do. Then, they can check them off as they complete them.
Don’t want to print a new schedule each week? Slip your schedule into a clear page protector. Your child can check off the task with a dry erase marker. At the end of the day, they can erase the marker marks and start over.
Keep It Flexible
So, although creating and following a routine are really important for your kids at home learning, being flexible is just as important. I’ve learned over the years that rigidity just isn’t my thing. No matter how hard I try.
If the kids veer off of their daily school schedule, decide they want to read all day or you take an extra long afternoon hike because the weather is gorgeous, it’s okay.
According to Simone Kerr, learning from home should be less structured and more authentic. So keep your daily schedule flexible. Think of the school schedule more as a guide than a requirement. Although it’s nice the days we get through every task, it certainly isn’t mandatory.
And if you find that your child isn’t able (or has the desire to) complete every task on the list, that’s okay. Include fewer tasks or tell them to choose a certain number of tasks to complete.
My littlest has trouble focusing for long periods of time. He gets excited when he’s completed four of his school tasks. So, I have him choose four tasks from the list.
Not Every Child is the Same
This is one of the most important lessons that I learned when teaching. Not every child is the same. This means that every child learns differently and at various speeds.
When you are teaching your kids at home, make sure that each child has a separate daily schedule. The tasks for your five year old shouldn’t be the same as your nine year old. Each child will be learning different things and that learning will be approached in various ways.
Create a customized daily school schedule that meets your child’s learning needs for each day. That way you know he is getting the skills and information he needs in the classroom.
Don’t Follow the Traditional School Schedule
I know, I know. This is probably going against your initial thoughts of transferring the traditional school environment to home. And possibly also going against what your school has told you.
The thing is that a traditional school schedule is very different than a home school schedule. One reason is that things take a lot longer to complete in the classroom. They just do.
There are a lot more kids. A lot more activities to set up. And more transition time is needed between activities.
At home, when working independently, kids can complete work pretty quickly. Don’t expect it to take your child the same amount of time as it would in a traditional classroom.
When creating a school schedule, focus more on the task than assigning a specific amount of time to the task. For example, I will assign my little one 6 math problems to work on instead of requiring 20 minutes of math.
The only subject this is different with is reading. I do assign at least 30 minutes of reading a day.
Give your Child Some Control
No one likes their day completely planned out for them and this includes kids. When creating a daily schedule, work with your child to choose the tasks that they are interested in doing.
I usually let my littles pick one or two of their school work activities from a list of options. They also get to select how they want to practice their spelling and respond to their reading.
For our evening routine, we work together to plan activities that we all enjoy. Some weeks we do family read aloud. Others we might play outside, go for a walk or do some art. The kids also get to choose the books to read at story time, their pajamas and quiet activity before bed.
Before you create your daily schedule, discuss with your child some of the things that he likes to work on at school. By working together with your child to create a daily schedule that motivates him, it will be a lot easier to learn at home.
Plan Plenty of Outdoor Time
One of my complaints about traditional schooling is how little time the kids get to play outdoors. Spending time in nature is as much more authentic learning experience than completing another worksheet. If not more.
Schedule lots of outdoor time in your school schedule. Or keep it as an option for unscheduled times. Plan walks, do a nature scavenger hunt or create art with nature. The fresh air, free time to explore and enjoy nature will become one of your kids favorite parts of the day.
Make Time for Specials
Although reading, writing and math are important subjects to learn each day, kids love their specials classes. Find time during the week to have an art lesson (if you aren’t sure how to start teaching art (or any other subject) at home, check out the lessons on OutSchool.(affiliate)).
Every other day, we have family P.E. time. We have introduced the kids to lots of different sports using sports equipment that we’d forgotten about in the garage. We also go on family bike rides, walks and have kickball games.
Specials are a great way to break up the monotony of the day and offer kids a change of pace. This is important when they are home more often.
Have a Reward at the End of the Week
Kids work hard and school isn’t always fun. There can be a lot of tedious assignments to get done or things that your child might not be motivated to complete.
Take a note from the teacher’s playbook – offer a motivational reward at the end of the week. Some ideas include your child can earn extra screen time, watch a favorite movie, make a special treat or even get to choose a highly coveted prize.
When I taught, I would keep a prize box in the classroom. If you completed all of your assignments at the end of the week, you would get to choose a prize. Our goal was to always have the largest number of students picking prizes. It helped the kids motivate each other to stay on track with their learning.
Use Online Resources to your Advantage
One of the benefits of living in the 21st century are all of the online resources we have at our fingertips. It’s amazing how many virtual tours, field trips and videos we can experience without leaving our homes.
Use all of these amazing resources to your advantage. Include them in your school schedule and let your kids go exploring. Kids can learn so much these days without leaving their living rooms.
Start your Day Right
Just because your child isn’t going to a school building each day, doesn’t mean that the morning should be started on the wrong foot. We start each day with getting dressed. Some kids can learn in their pajamas. Mine aren’t those kids. Just like I can’t work in mine.
My kids need to feel like they are starting their day. And clothes help transition them from bedtime to daytime.
It’s also important that your children eat a nutritious breakfast. Even if they are learning at home, a healthy breakfast will give them energy to start their day.
After breakfast, I give them a chance to warm up their brains with some creative play or reading time. This independent free time is important to motivating them when the school day begins.
Establish Snack Times
Most elementary school kids have a designated snack time at school. Home schooling should be no different. Just because the kitchen is “right there”, doesn’t mean that kids should be helping themselves to snacks all day.
Establish designated snack times in your school schedule. This a great chance to take a break and do something else for awhile.
If your kids like to eat snacks at different times, you can set up a snack basket in the pantry or on your kitchen counter. Then, they can help themselves when they are ready for a break.
Take Brain Breaks
When I was teaching, we experimented with adding in brain breaks every 20 minutes to give my students a rest from their traditional learning. These were usually opportunities for the kids to talk together, do a short activity (like building with popsicle sticks) or move around the classroom.
After the brain break, my students would come back to their desks ready to learn again.
Learning at home is no different. Everybody needs breaks. Whether it’s taking a quick walk to the other end of the house or making an animal with Playdough, brain breaks give our brains a chance to change gears. This is important to getting more learning done.
Reserve Weekends for Fun Time
One of things I discovered quickly about schooling at home is that my days can start to feel like the movie Groundhog Day. You know, when each day is a repetition of the last with little variation if I’m not careful.
To create more structure to our week, I reserve weekends for fun family time only. This is when we have our family sleepovers, movie nights, late morning wake ups, pizza dinners and board game tournaments. And, my number one rule is that there is no work to be done. This includes school work and parent work.
By keeping the traditional week/weekend time division, I now look forward to the weekends again. In the beginning, time was used a bit chaotically. I found the overlap of scheduling confusing when trying to get into a work or play mindset. For example, it was hard for the kids to jump into school mode after waking up late from a sleepover night on a weekday.
Once I structured our time to resemble our normal weekday/weekend schedule, weekends became a pleasure and a lot more fun.
Ditch the Schedule Occasionally
A friend of mine shared the other day almost in a whisper (via text message, so I couldn’t quite tell) – “I didn’t home school yesterday”. She explained that the kids couldn’t seem to sit still and they weren’t getting any learning done. So, she moved on to something else.
My reply – “That’s okay”. She didn’t need to feel ashamed about it.
The truth is that learning at home isn’t something that only happens in a workbook at a table. Building with blocks, creating with Playdough, playing tag outside, exploring in nature, going for a walk with your family, having a board game Olympics. All of these things are ways that kids learn.
So if you’re having a difficult day and no one seems to want to get the tasks on their school schedule done, feel free to ditch the schedule.
Instead, go outside. Play a game. Do something else. And, most importantly, remember that it’s okay. Your child (and their education) will be fine.
If you find yourself unexpectedly home schooling or choosing to home school, one of the most important things to do is establish a home school schedule early on. Having an expected routine that your kids follow will bring some order to your days.
But remember to be flexible. Learning from home should be fun and memorable. Make lots of time to do the things that your family truly enjoys.
Have more questions about setting up your own home school schedule? Comment below and I will try to answer your questions.
And if you are looking for a fun home school schedule template to use with your kids, check out our new school schedule designs in our shop here.