In this episode of the Your Morning Basket podcast, host Pam Barnhill discusses the importance of creating a flexible homeschool schedule that aligns with your family’s values and goals. Pam shares practical tips and tools for overcoming the challenges of feeling overwhelmed by all the subjects, avoiding falling behind and building margin into your homeschool schedule.
Pam encourages listeners to embrace rabbit trails and unexpected learning opportunities, as well as to build in margin to allow for emergencies or unexpected events. She also introduces the concept of a minimum viable day and loop scheduling to maintain structure and balance in your homeschool routine.
Links and resources from today’s show:
- Following Rabbit Trails with your Kids podcast
- Using Loop Schedules in your Homeschool
- Put Your Homeschool Year on Autopilot
- Guest Hollow Homeschool Curriculum
Pam: Are you ready for homeschooling to feel joyful again? Do you wanna build closer relationships, remove some of the stress around planning and enjoy learning with your children? Welcome to Your Morning Basket. I’m Pam Barnhill, a homeschool mom just like you, and I’m going to show you the magic and fulfillment that Morning basket or Morning Time can bring to your homeschool. Grab your coffee or tea and let’s get started.
Hey there, it’s Pam and welcome to episode 136 of the Your Morning Basket podcast. Today we’re gonna be talking about homeschool scheduling. And yeah, this is a little bit of a different topic for the Your Morning Basket podcast, but an important one as we have more and more people come into homeschooling or maybe you’ve been around homeschooling for a while and you’ve never quite gotten a schedule that you feel comfortable with.
And I wanna talk about how we can find freedom in scheduling, which is not something that people usually think about when they think about a schedule. Freedom is the opposite of what they think of when they think of scheduling, but there really is freedom to be found in creating your own homeschool schedule. And we’re also gonna talk about how Morning Time can fit into this process.
So let's kind of back up a little bit and talk about why scheduling is more about freedom and less about keeping you down or keeping you tied up. Because I think when people think about the word schedule, they think about, oh, this is going to be very rigid and I'm going to have myself put in a box and we're not gonna be able to have any flexibility.
And that's really not the case. And people often say, oh, I don't like the word schedule, I like the word routine. That's fine. It doesn't really matter what you call it. It's all on this kind of continuum of the same thing. Some people like to attach times to things, some people don't. But we're really kind of doing the same thing here, which is giving some kind of structure to our day, whether that is a structure that we hold really loosely or a structure that we hold a little bit tighter. And it's gonna be different for differing personalities and it's really okay. But the importance of a homeschool schedule is you wanna get one that balances this structure and this flexibility. And the key is to find the balance that works right for your family.
So we know there needs to be something somewhere, some kind of structure, whether it's a very loose structure or a tighter structure, but we wanna find the balance that's right for our family.
Why does there need to be a structure? Well, for one thing, your kids crave structure of some kind. Actually sometimes our kids crave way more structure than what we crave. I have one child who is particularly like this, where there is actually a craving there for some kind of structure and his day goes better if I have some kind of structure in place.
Now, often I do have a structure for my day that's in my head and he doesn't know it, and that can be part of the problem too. And then I have other kids who would tell you they didn't want structure at all, but I've seen what their day looks like when they have no structure. So they're not really craving structure, but their days are just kind of this blob of nothingness that never fully happened. And believe it or not, you would think, oh, that's great for them. It's great for them that they have this day that's completely lacking in structure. It's only mom who's frustrated by the fact that they've gotten to the end of the day and gotten nothing done.
That's not true. My oldest actually does not desire structure, doesn't think she wants structure, but she gets very frustrated by the fact that she gets to the end of her day and she hasn't gotten the things done that she wants to. And she's like, why is this happening? And she doesn't realize that it's her lack of desire for structure that is kind of causing this problem.
So this is kind of why a schedule is important for the kids because you have some who really desire structure and know that they need it to function. And then you have others who, whether they desire it or not, need at least a little bit of structure. How does it help you as the mom? Well, the thing that having a little bit of a homeschool schedule will do for you as a mom is help you to reduce decision fatigue.
This is exactly what we are about here at Your Morning Basket, and that is making things as easy as possible for you as a homeschooler because you have so many things going on and so without any kind of structure, even a loose schedule, then what happens is you are constantly having to make decisions about what you're going to be doing next in the day.
Whereas if you have some kind of structure in place, some kind of schedule in place, even one that you're not holding tightly, what you've done is you've pre-prepared and you've reduced some of the need to make decisions constantly. And when you reduce decision fatigue in your homeschool, you free up more space to have fun, enjoy yourself, do interesting things with your kids, get more learning done, and that is what we're after.
So those are some of the reasons why making a homeschool schedule is important. Now, how do you create a schedule that works for your family? Well, you really do need to take into consideration your family's rhythm. And I've said this often before, especially about Morning Time. If you guys are not morning people, don't schedule your Morning Time or any of your homeschooling early. The only thing that dictates how early you start your school day is really when you need to get done so that you can get out the door to activities in the afternoon or get dinner made or something like that. But if your family is slower in the morning and kind of your energy skews to the afternoon, there is no reason in the world why you have to start early, set up your family's schedule to go with your family's natural rhythm.
Okay, so now that we have determined why we need a schedule, and we've talked about the fact that it definitely needs to mesh with our family's rhythm, here are some of the challenges that we might face when it comes to creating a flexible homeschool schedule.
And the very first thing is this feeling of overwhelm that we have by just the number of subjects that need to be covered for each child. So if you have three kids and you're thinking, oh goodness, if they were going to school, they would each be doing six subjects a day and that's 18 subjects, how in the world am I going to get all of that done? That feeling of overwhelm is very, very real.
So some of the strategies that can come into play is, first of all, realizing that you don't have to do every subject every day. This is a a very common homeschooling hack. And honestly, it happens in public school as well.
I used to teach sixth grade language arts and you know, sixth grade language arts includes a number of different subjects like spelling, literature, writing, grammar vocabulary. We did not try to do every single one of those things every single day. There were some days that we worked on writing, some days that we worked on literature. I mean, really we would do like a six week unit in literature and then we would switch and do a six week unit in writing. And we didn't try to do grammar every day, and we also didn't try to do spelling every day.
And so even in the public school system, you're not doing every subject every day. And so one of the things that you can do is you sit down and start thinking about your schedule is we don't have to do all the subjects every day.
Now the next thing, and this is where Morning Time really comes into play, is if you have three kids and six subjects really start considering how can I combine kids for some of these subjects? And you've heard me talk about this before, the difference between skill-based subjects and content area subjects. And I'm gonna go over it really quick for somebody who might be new and listening, but skill-based subjects are things that for the most part, your children are going to do by themselves. These are things like math and learning to read and composition. These are things that are kind of systematic and the skills build one on the other.
Content area subjects are subjects like science and history. And despite the fact that homeschool curriculum companies like to tell us otherwise, you really don't have to learn a specific science or a specific history in a specific year. So children could be combined for those subjects and everybody, whether they're a third grader, a fifth grader, or a seventh grader, can all be learning the same history together or all learn the same science together. And this is where Morning Time comes into play. You're going to combine those kids for those particular content area subjects and really, really simplify your homeschool schedule.
So that is definitely one of the ways that you can overcome this challenge of being overwhelmed at the number of subjects that you have to follow.
Now the next issue that kind of comes up when we think about creating a homeschool schedule is how can I be sure that I'm not behind? How can I be sure that I'm not falling behind in my homeschool schedule? And this is the probably the number one reason why a lot of parents don't want to make a homeschool schedule. Cuz if they feel like if I don't schedule out what I'm going to do for my homeschool year, then I can never be behind. And I get stressed by being behind.
But what they don't realize is that in the end, they're just causing themselves more stressed because they haven't created a plan for this school year than what happens is they're constantly having to make these decisions every single day. So what we really recommend you do, and we have an entire course on homeschool planning,
it's called the Put Your Homeschool Year on Autopilot course. And what we recommend you do in that course is that you create a schedule to follow, but you don't put dates on it. You create a schedule to follow, but you don't put dates on it.
So you can say, these are the lessons we're gonna do, this is what we're going to do, this is what a lesson even looks like, this is what we're going to do for each lesson. But you don't put dates on it, you don't say, and by September 23rd, we're going to be doing this lesson right here. So what this does is it reduces the decision fatigue factor because you do have the plan in place. You are prepared so that when the next opportunity arises to open up your book and do a history lesson and Morning Time with your kids, you know exactly what it is you're doing, but you haven't boxed yourself in by saying, we are gonna be doing this lesson on September 23rd. So it's kind of the best of both worlds because you do have the plan in place, but you haven't tied yourself to doing it by a certain date.
Now, some of you maybe a little more, what's a friendly way to say this uptight than that? And you're like, yeah, yeah, but how do I know I'm not gonna get to May? And I've only done like 10 things from this list. And so if you're worried about the fact and hey, I get it, this is me too, it's like, okay, I've made this wonderful list of lessons, but I really do need to get them done and hold myself accountable to that.
So if that is something you're worried about, then you can put some checks and balances in place. And so what you would do in that case is kind of divvy up your lessons. And let's say that when you had all of your lessons planned out for science and maybe you ended up with 90 different lessons that you were going to do, then you could kind of divide it up and divide that number, you know, by maybe four terms. And yes, 90 doesn't divide well by four. And so you could say every term we're going to do about 22 lessons in science. And I'm gonna check in at the end of the term to see how far we've gotten, how close we are to the number that we wanted to reach.
And so you might even put some dates on your calendar and say, you know what the, the first term ends at the end of October, the second one, the end of December, the next one, the end of March, and then the final one at the end of May. Now I will tell you I am an over planner. I always plan way too many lessons than what I have time for. And so usually about by the end of the December term, I take a good look at what I've planned and I chuck about 15 or 20 of the lessons and my kids still learn a lot of stuff. So always be flexible with whatever plan you've laid out for yourself and and hold this stuff kind of loosely.
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Okay, so we've talked about overcoming some of the challenges, the feeling of overwhelm of all the things you've got to do and how Morning Time can really help you do that. And then also the fear of falling behind. Now let's talk about as you're making your schedule, it is so important that you prioritize your own values and your own goals to create this plan that is going to meet your unique needs instead of feeling pressured to replicate either a traditional school schedule, something laid out for you by a homeschool curriculum provider or something that the homeschoolers down the street are doing.
So remember, homeschooling is about you doing what feels right for your family. You know your children better than anyone else. And so if you feel like your children need more time with a subject, whether they need more time with a math lesson, they need to practice these writing skills a little bit more. They need an extra book to read to kind of hone up the fluency. They need to take time off from the lessons all together and just focus for a little while on learning math facts or reading readers that are just a little bit easier for them and build their confidence.
You are in charge of your homeschool schedule and that is so important for you to know because you know your kids best and you really know what you value as a family and you know what your goals are. And so let me just give you an example. Literature based learning is something that I value for my kids because I feel like it's a great way for us to just enjoy each other and to make connections with each other and spend some good quality time together, but also learn in a way that is interesting to my children. And it takes a little bit longer for us to do this. So we've been studying modern history this year, and what I have found is that the books are fabulous and engaging for my kids, but they do take a little bit longer to get through.
We can't study World War II in two weeks, like you might be able to in a textbook. It actually has probably taken us closer to two months to study World War II. But you know what, I'm willing to take a little bit longer in this schedule to do that because that is a way of learning that I value for my children. And the lesson that they're learning from this is not only what happened in World War II, but they're also learning, Hey, there is great stuff to be found in interesting books, and I can do that long after I turn 18 and leave my family's homeschool.
So that's a particular value that I have that I want my kids to learn. Good things come from good books and I can read those good books forever and ever. Amen. And so if it takes us a little bit longer to learn about World War II , that is okay because that aligns with my family's value. But if I were doing a textbook style and the textbook, the the curriculum provider had laid out this schedule for me and I was trying to meet that schedule at no cost, then I'm going to be going against what I value. So always make sure that you keep your own values in mind as you set up your homeschool plan and your homeschool schedule.
You are not required to replicate any kind of traditional school schedule and you're not required to to do something exactly as laid out by a homeschool curriculum provider.
And just to give you kind of another example, in doing my literature based homeschool plan, I actually purchase a really great curriculum. It's from the company Guest Hollow, and they have wonderful science and history curriculums full of fabulous books that you can read with your kids about these various topics.
And guess what? I do not get to nearly all of the books in that curriculum. I, I just don't, there's not time for us to do it. And so I don't feel guilty about the fact that we don't get to all the book. I pick out the ones that I feel are most important and look best for my kids, and I do just those books. So even a curriculum that aligns with my values, I still adjust and adapt to meet the needs of my family.
Okay, so the next thing I wanna talk about is something we've kind of touched on already, and that is building margin into your homeschool schedule to allow for unexpected events or even to pursue opportunities for learning that might come up spontaneously. This is always such a hard thing because as we're dealing with children, especially elementary school children, they are just delightful in this way as you might be learning about a topic and they just want to stay there. They just want to stay there and keep learning about that particular topic. And so let's lean into this, let's embrace this because if the goal of education is to help our children become lifelong learners, which in the end is what makes them productive members of society because they are willing to keep learning all the time, then it is important for us to seize on this opportunity that they have for wanting to learn and embrace it and lean into it, even if that means putting aside our own schedule.
So remember when we were talking about that list of lessons to do and maybe being here by the end of this quarter and in this other space by the end of the next quarter, yeah, sometimes you have to let that go. And so how can you do that and still feel good about the learning that's going on? It's two totally different things to let go of trying to keep up with the milestones like where you are at a certain point of year because you've been inconsistent with your homeschooling and trying to keep up with that list because you've been learning other things. And so I would say embrace these rabbit trails.
Actually we have another podcast all about rabbit trails that I can point you to, but embrace these rabbit trails and lean into them because this is teaching our kids that they're fascinating things out there to learn and that we want to spend time doing it. It's also teaching our kids that their interests are worthy. And so at this point, what you can do is start journaling. So if you find yourself going off of your prepared homeschool schedule and learning other things, sit down and actually start journaling once a day, once a week, every couple of days, whatever feels good to you about the things you are learning.
And take those journaling pages and slide them into your homeschool plan. And so when you're tempted to say, oh my goodness, we've only gotten through half of these lessons this year, what you know is that, hey, look at all of this other learning that we've been doing. We've also learned all of these other things that were interesting to my kids.
And this is where the idea of skill subjects versus content area subjects comes back into play. Because normally these extra learning activities, these rabbit trails come in, these content area subjects. And so once again, there is really no set pattern that has to be followed when learning about these content area subjects. So if you spend two months going off on a rabbit trail on what it was like to live on the prairie in the 1800s and you never get to the Great Depression, it is really not a huge deal.
So just document the learning that you're doing in the rabbit trails, pop that into your homeschool plan and then when you look back you can see, yeah, we learned a lot, we got a lot of stuff done. So pursuing those opportunities is so important. But also sometimes unexpected events are gonna come up and this can happen on a daily basis where you are getting your day ready and all of a sudden an emergency arises and you just don't get to homeschooling that day or you have to do a shorter day of homeschooling.
So when it happens on this daily level like this, there are a couple of things you can do. One tool that we have you can use is something called a Minimum Viable Day. So just in order to ease your mind and make sure that you maintain some kind of structure, go ahead and identify two or three subjects that you could do that help you feel good about getting a light school day done.
And do those subjects, even on days that go off the rails, it's like, oh, we've had a crazy morning. Everything has been nuts. You know, we had to deal with a washing machine that broke and the repairman came and we got absolutely no school done because it was loud. Raise your hand if you've ever had the piano tuner show up during your homeschool time.
I mean, like no homeschooling is getting done when the piano tuner is there. So those are the kinds of days where you can say, you know what? In the afternoon right after lunch, we're gonna do these couple of subjects and I can still feel good. We've still done some homeschooling today. And maybe what you do is your Morning Time. I find that just doing Morning Time is perfect for days like this.
So Minimum Viable Day, whether that be your Morning Time or maybe it's your math workbook. And then the second tool is a loop schedule. And so if you're finding that you are not getting certain subjects done that you're always getting history done and you're never getting science done or something like that, you can create a loop schedule for your homeschool. So I've talked about this in a lot of different resources.
So instead of going over this again here, I'm just gonna link a video for you or a podcast that you can listen to. But really a loop schedule allows you to get to all subjects equally in your homeschool. So you're not saying we're doing these subjects on these days, but instead we have this much time to do school. And you just work your way down your list of subjects and then when you're done with your list, loop your way, loop yourself back up to the top again. So I will link for you about a loop schedule so you can find out more about that. But that is one of the ways that you can build a little bit of margin into your school day.
The other thing is sometimes you need to build margin into your school day over a long period of time. So maybe you're really doing great with every day of your homeschooling, but then something happens. Maybe you know you have an elderly parent who needs some care, somebody gets really sick, you have a death in the family, and you have to, you know, go on an extended trip. Or sometimes even a natural disaster happens, maybe like a hurricane or a wildfire.
We've actually had that in our community over the past few years where families have been affected by those kinds of things. And if you have set up your homeschool schedule, your annual schedule in such a way that you can just close the books when you need to and then later on open the books up and pick up where you left off, that just makes a world of difference.
So that goes back to this idea that I was talking about of creating this flexible plan but not putting dates on it. And so then you don't feel stressed out if you have to close the books for a week or two and then later on open them back up and pick up where you left off. This also speaks again to what I was talking about earlier, which is why we do want to have some kind of schedule. Because believe me, if you have been displaced due to a hurricane and maybe it's a month later and you're trying to get your kids back on track and get them back into a daily rhythm when so much of their world has just been changed, having that plan in place and being able to pick up where you left off, you're not having to make a plan. You're not having to figure out what it is you're going to do.
If you're trying to plan your homeschool every Sunday and something big happens to throw you off, you're really trying to do two things. You're trying to come up with the energy and the effort and the mental stamina that it takes to make a plan. And you're also trying to come up with the energy, effort and mental stamina that it takes to homeschool. So if you've got the plan in place, you've only got to come up with all of that stuff for one big hard task, which is the homeschooling.
We have had a number of different families tell us that having gone through our Put Your Homeschool Year on Autopilot program and created a plan like this and had it in place meant that they were able to pick up so much faster and provide some much needed stability for their kids after some of these big emergencies.
So it just goes back to the idea of creating a schedule or a plan for your homeschool and, and being ready to go. And Morning Time definitely is another way that you can do this. You know, Morning Time is just as simple as having a basket or a bag of books and activities that you do every single day. And just think about the beautiful routine and stability that would add for children who have been through a big upheaval of any kind by just being able to pull out that basket and sit down and do those familiar things again.
We have covered so many different scheduling resources for you, and I hope that you can see how Morning Time can be part of creating a flexible schedule in your homeschool, whether that be a schedule for your entire year or a schedule that you use in the day-to-day. It is definitely a way to create some stability and routine into your homeschool day, but in a way that is delightful and builds relationships with your children.
So do come on over to the website and check out the resources that we've mentioned, the one about rabbit trails and loop scheduling, and also check out our put Your Homeschool year on Autopilot course because in there I break out for you how to do all of the different schedules and routines and things that I was talking about today to really reduce decision fatigue in your homeschool.
This is our final episode for this season of the Your Morning Basket Podcast. We will be back in August for our next season, and we can't wait to see you then. Until then, have a wonderful summer.
Thanks so much for listening to Your Morning Basket. If you are ready to spend less time planning and more time engaged in learning with your children, join Your Morning Basket Plus a monthly membership with everything you need to start a Morning Time practice in your homeschool. To join, head on over to ymbplus.com and I'll see you there.
Key Ideas about Finding Freedom
- Don’t feel overwhelmed by trying to cover all subjects daily in your homeschool schedule.
- Consider combining kids for certain subjects, especially content area subjects like science and history.
- Create a schedule to follow without putting specific dates on it to reduce decision fatigue and allow for flexibility.
- Prioritize your values and goals when creating your homeschool schedule instead of feeling pressure to replicate a traditional school schedule.
- Build margin into your homeschool schedule to allow for unexpected events or pursue spontaneous opportunities for learning.
- Use a minimum viable day and loop schedule to maintain structure and ease your mind on days that go off the rails.
- Creating stability and routine for your children is important, especially during times of upheaval or emergencies.
- Morning Time can be a helpful tool for creating a flexible and effective homeschool schedule.
- Embrace rabbit trails and document the learning in them to add to your homeschool plan.
- Always be flexible and adjust your schedule to meet the needs of your family.
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- Thank youby mrsbeliever from United States
I take my walks outside two times a day. I enjoy listening to all the knowledge you have on your podcast! I am a mom of 7 and have been homeschooling for 18 years! I’m not a novice but have loved all your advice and input! Thank you for everything you do! I love it!
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Pam continues to do an amazing job with this podcast. She is a wonderful host, never hurried, asks great questions and really lets her guest share his/her experience fully. The variety of experience & wisdom here is fruit for the homeschooling community at large. I’ve been listening from day one and this podcast continues to be a top favorite. Thank you Pam!
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I’ve listened to YMB and Pam off and on for years, and she literally changed my life 7 years ago when I was just starting to homeschool. I’m so thankful for her ministry and encouragement to homeschool moms of all ages! I highly recommend doing morning time!
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This podcast is amazing and has helped me so much as recovering perfectionist homeschooling mama! Pam gives so much great insight into so many aspects of life and focusing on homeschooling.
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This podcast has been so great. It’s so practical and encouraging without being overly preachy or narrow. It gives ideas in a take-what-fits kind of way. I have used many of the recommended resources and ideas mentioned and been inspired by many others. Even the episodes that I found less relevant to me specifically, often had tidbits that I could use. Pam’s podcasts, books, and resources have been a godsend to me in my beginning years of homeschooling, helping me discover my own way to teach my kids in a way that prioritizes what is most important to us.
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