Setting up a homeschool schedule, especially for the first time, requires some thought: there are a number of requirements to take into account, and more detailed and long-term planning about who will be where and when than you may be used to doing – at least in the context of your home. Making the adjustment to having your home on a schedule will be easier, though, if you take the time and thought to do this planning in advance, while also allowing yourself the flexibility to change your homeschool schedule if it doesn’t turn out to work as you’d anticipated.
Where to Begin?
The first place to begin is with any requirements that your state’s education department might have for determining attendance and completion of a grade of schooling. Check for requirements in days and hours. For example, New York State requires a homeschool to operate the equivalent of 180 days and 900 hours a year for students in grades 1-6, with 990 hours being required per years for students in grades 7-12. You can see that requirements such as these are important to know about as they are going to give a broad shape to your homeschooling.
Your Homeschool Curriculum
How you want to work 180 days (or 900-1000 hours) of schooling into a 365-day year still leaves a good deal up to you. But part of the shaping of this time is likely to come from the required homeschool curriculum. Some subjects may benefit from being treated bit by bit, in frequent, short bursts. Others work best in long time blocks. And alternating between different modes of engagement – reading, paper-and-pencil work, hands-on activities, movement, and interactive computer work, to name a few – will help keep boredom away.
Frequency is another variable to consider. Not every subject needs to be taught every day, but it might be valuable on certain days to let a single subject take over the entire homeschool schedule (for a field trip, a major project, or some other activity that requires a lot of time. The point is that you don’t have to think in hour blocks of time, unless doing so seems to you to be the best choice.
Your Family Schedule
Now is a good time to look at your family’s schedule and identify any plans or habits that will work to further shape your choices. This is the time to consider other family member’s work, school, and activity schedules, as well as important appointments such as those for medical procedures and physical therapy and family rituals involving such matters as prayer, housecleaning, socializing, vacationing, and meals.
Nine hundred divided by 180 is 5, meaning you could schedule 180 5-hour days. But before you do that, consider other possibilities. How about 225 4-hour days? Alternating long and short days? More three-day weekends and fewer week-long vacations? Or a month away with ten days of it spent on schooling and the rest on vacationing?
Also consider schooling times. Do you have an early riser? Schooling from 7 a.m. to noon leaves a great deal of day free for other things. Alternatively, you could leave morning’s free and have school from noon to 5 p.m. Or consider 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Homeschool schedule adaptations such as these can accommodate a child who does best when sleeping in or who needs a longish break around lunchtime to be able to focus after lunch.
You can also schedule around your toddler’s naptime, and the time you need to make and/or receive business calls for your part-time work. Music lessons, educational broadcasts on radio or television that you intend to work into your homeschool curriculum, and parks and recreation programs that you will use in conjunction with other physical education all can become part of your overarching plan.
Another consideration to take into account is the schedules of your child’s friends. Planning can help you avoid having homeschooling come between them through a homeschool schedule that maximizes their time together outside of school. If you have multiple children, plan how you will be able to provide each of them with one-on-one time for instruction or assistance. For this purpose, you might wish to have your children on slightly different schedules. Or you can work it out spontaneously, as need arises.
Of course, an advantage of homeschool is that you can adapt and change if and when you find it would be helpful. But if you’re not really sure on how to get started, you might wish to search on the Internet for schedules that have worked for other homeschooling families.