Managing Multiple Kids with a Time Table

Charlotte Mason homeschooling mom Jeanette Pascua has found success using her strict 10-minute increment schedule to manage the activities of her four children, ages five to 12. She builds in buffers like snack time and restroom breaks and adjusts the schedule if they start late to ensure each lesson receives its allotted time.

Time blocking is an effective time management strategy to help adults and children alike break the day into specific blocks of time and learn time management skills. On her blog, Jeanette shares her tips and advice for parents with multiple children.

Key takeaways on using a timetable to manage your homeschool

  • Time blocking is an effective time management strategy that can be used by adults and children alike.
  • A structured school day is essential for creating trust between parent and child.
  • Timers and knowledge of other children’s activity can help the child know what to do in the allotted time.
  • Trial and error is important in perfecting the timetable to fit the family’s needs.

Homeschool timetable links and resources

Listen to the Podcast:

Transcript of Episode

Pam: Jeanette Pascua is a Charlotte Mason homeschooling mom of four whose kids range from five to 12 years old. When she’s not homeschooling her kids she’s helping over at the Your Morning Basket podcast. You can also find her encouraging moms to discern and live God’s will fully at her blog and podcast Permission to Pursue. Jeanette, welcome to the show.

Jeanette: Thank you for having me. 

Pam: Is this the first time you’ve been on 10 Minutes to A Better Homeschool? 

Jeanette: Yes. This show? Yep. 

Pam: Okay, awesome. Okay. So Jeanette has worked for me for a number of years and just about every year we get to see each other at the homeschool convention. And one of the things that she told me last year that really just kind of blew my socks off was that she manages homeschooling four kids at once by following a very strict timetable. And I was so surprised. Jeanette, first of all, you don’t strike me as a strict timetable kind of person. I mean, you’re definitely very competent and efficient in the work you do for the podcast, but you also just seem very chill and laid back and then you’re like, my life was crazy until I started doing this. So tell me exactly what a timetable is and why you decided to use it.

Jeanette: Yes, of course. So a timetable is basically a kind of strict schedule. The way that I do it is I have it in 10 minute increments from the time our school day starts until the time our school day should theoretically end. I have columns for my children and they each have specific things they’re supposed to be doing at every given moment of our homeschool day.

And it’s all laid out. I learned it from the Charlotte Mason philosophy and it’s basically this idea that for every minute there should be basically a specific thing you should be doing at every given moment. So it was something that I decided to use because my homeschool days were very chaotic, as you mentioned, before I started using a timetable.

At the time I only had two kids and I think I had a toddler or something, but I had only two that were actually in school. And I was, I wasn’t able to get through things. I was getting interrupted constantly by the kid that wasn’t working with me at the time or I was not sure what I should be doing next.

I was trying to go off of a grid of a list of things that I should be doing but I didn’t know what to do on any given day. And I just felt like it was complete chaos and I wasn’t getting through all the things that I should be getting through in a week. So I decided to try this timetable thing out that all the Charlotte Mason homeschoolers were talking about and see if that would make a difference. And it did. 

Pam: It worked for you? 

Jeanette: It works. It still continues to work years later. 

Pam: Okay. So I could totally see the timetable working if, and you’re just, you’re gonna have to convince me because I’m like, I mean we start at nine and then we kind of do the next thing and we have pretty much a similar order that we go in, especially when the kids were little. Right. But, and I could definitely see the beauty of like, okay, I’m going to do a 10 minute math lesson with this six year old and while I’m doing this 10 minute math lesson, the eight year old is supposed to be over here playing geography games for 10 minutes. 

Jeanette: Right. 

Pam: And that would work if my kids would just do exactly what I told them to do. Or like if I always had something for the other kid to do that I knew was going to take exactly this amount of time. Because if I said, well, this kid’s gonna do this worksheet, it might take ’em five minutes or it might take ’em 40 minutes. So how do you make that work? What, what do you do when you get off that timetable?

Jeanette: Yeah, so there’s a couple questions in there because when you think about it, you know what happens if you get off the timetable is a little different than what do you do to keep the kid busy for that time that they’re supposed to be working? But what we do when we get off, because our timetable starts at 8, but if I’m being honest, we don’t start half of our school days until 9. And that’s just cuz we just, we just have rough mornings some days. But what I still do is we just follow the flow of the day, kind of like you were talking about a, a basic flow of our day and we just adjust as we go.

And I also have, have been doing it long enough that I know what buffers to build in. You know, snack time is built into the schedule longer than I know it actually takes, or a lesson that’s supposed to take 15 minutes, I block off 20 because I know that there’s gonna be, there’s gonna be chaos when you have kids, especially a bunch of them and a and a, a kindergartner in my case that’s gonna sometimes throw things off or need things or kids are gonna have to go to the bathroom at the exact wrong time on the timetable. Nobody has to use the restroom or get a snack at the right time on the timetable. So we just adjust as we go. 

So that’s basically what we do. If we’re starting later than we normally would, I would just somewhat ignore the times that are on the timetable. Right. And focus on the time amount of, the amount of time that a lesson is expected to take, you know, 15 or 20 minutes. So, and I focus on the time block, if that makes sense. And then we just adjust from there. 

Pam: Okay. So a couple more questions. So do you find, if you get to the end of the time block and you’re not done with the lesson, do you shut the book and you’re just done anyway 

Jeanette: Most of the time? Yes. 

Pam: Yeah. Yes. 

Jeanette: It’s a, it’s a little bit of a discipline to do that because it’s my desire to be, to just try to finish it. But I also know that if I’ve promised my kids this lesson will only take 10 minutes or 20 minutes, I don’t wanna try my luck at getting another five minutes out of them because I just may not get it and then it could ruin the rest of our school day. So,

Pam: You know, I think I am beginning to think that right there is the key to good smooth running school days. It’s saying, you know what, we are going to work on this subject for this amount of time, let’s say math for 10 minutes for your six year old or for 35 or 45 minutes for your sixth grader. And then at the end of the time, even if the lesson isn’t over, just shut the book and be done with it. You’re going to get further in the long run doing that then you would by pushing through and making people cry. And I’m wondering if that’s kind of the key to this timetable thing is that trust that you build with your kids by closing the book and saying, okay, you’ve given me your best work for the past 15 minutes and now we’re done and we’re moving on to the next thing.

Jeanette: That’s exactly the philosophy that I have when I go into using a timetable. And that’s something that I learned from Charlotte Mason’s work is just this idea that a given lesson is, is given a certain amount of time and they only have that amount of time to work on that thing. So they most of the time give me their best effort in that time.

Sometimes they don’t and sure I could drag it out, but if they’re already struggling to stay focused for that 10 minutes or 15 minutes to begin with, then trying to force them another five to actually finish the lesson is gonna be counterproductive at that point. 

Pam: Right, right. And I think that’s the key thing right there. It’s, it’s counterproductive.

Okay. So are you using a physical timer and do your kids know what the allotted time is and how much time they have to work and when that time is over? 

Jeanette: Yes, they do. So my kids, we do have timers, but a lot of times I just use my watch or a timer for myself because they know what I’m doing with another kid and what they should be doing during that same amount of time, if that makes sense. So they do have timers though, but a lot of times they don’t use them, they just use me as their timer in a way. But basically, yeah, they also have timetables visible to everybody during the school day at any given time they can come look at it. 

And I also print them all their own that has all of what they should be doing Monday through Thursday, because we school four days a week. So they can look at the timetable and they see, oh, you’re doing math and reading with the second grader so I should be doing X, Y, or Z right now. 

They can look if they’re not even sure what time we’re on because maybe we’re off the actual time, the specific time, they see what I’m doing and they can look across and see what they should be doing. 

Pam: Right. Okay. So how long did it take to make one that kind of fit your family and how much do you have to adjust each and every year? 

Jeanette: Yeah, so I, I don’t think it takes that long learning the idea of making it was quite simple, but it does take a little bit of time in the summer. I take, I probably give myself a couple of days, two or two days or so to really build it out every summer. And then I adjust during the year each term as necessary or as I see things need to be adjusted, maybe a kid needs more time with a certain book. So I build in two sessions for that book or maybe we’re getting through a certain lesson way faster every time than normal. So I adjust, but it doesn’t, it doesn’t take too much time when I, when you know the flow of how to do it. So I don’t think it’s very hard. 

Pam: Okay. So just kind of trial and error and lots and, and lots and lots of practice with that.

So how much longer do you see using this with your kids? Cuz you have some who are reaching those kind of tween ages. Correct me if I’m wrong, I think we’re getting up into the teen years. So are, do you see this as something that kind of goes away as they become more independent or do you think it’s still something that would be valuable to them? 

Jeanette: Yeah, I think that already I can see the tool is helping my sixth grader learn her own time management. And so I think I will still always schedule her time, but she is already starting to learn that she can have a little bit of freedom with the timetable. If she sees that two subjects are both slotted for 30 minutes on the timetable and she wants to do a different one first she does it or sometimes she’ll just notice that there’s a little bit of a change or she’s behind in one book but she gets ahead in another.

So she’ll, she’ll even sometimes swap days on the timetable. So I think if nothing else I will make it for her and let her do with it as she sees fit as she gets older and is accomplishing the work that she needs to. It’s kind of one of those things that I feel most likely will be something if she can handle it, she can have the freedom to do it, but if she’s struggling to get her work done, then she’s just gonna have to follow the timetable as I’ve written it. 

Pam: Right, right. And you know, adults use this very same philosophy, it’s called time blocking if you look in the time management world. And I, when I do time block I get a ton of stuff done and so you’re teaching her a skill that she could use one day in her life just for the rest of her life. So yeah,

Jeanette: Exactly. And I think that’s something that when I was thinking about how I use the timetable, it is a timetable still because we have it all laid out by 10 minute increments. But ultimately I feel like it’s a lot of time blocking, like you said, because I have an hour set aside for morning time and you know, I have an hour set aside for certain subjects that kind of just always fit in that like the math with the older kids, that’s kind of a block of time that I set aside. So, so yeah, they, she’s learning that skill and, and I’m kind of using it in that sense too.

Pam: Yeah. Okay. So one last clarification question before we go. You said 10 minute blocks, but that doesn’t mean your sixth grader is only doing math for 10 minutes. 

Jeanette: Correct. Her block of math is much bigger. She has a 30 minute block, but it’s, but it’s still broken up in 10 minutes on the schedule. Cuz my other daughter who’s only in second grade might have three things to do in that 30 minutes, broken up into 10 minute segments. Or maybe she’s doing something for 20 minutes and 10 minutes. But, and my other son who’s also, he’s in fourth grade, he also does math at the same time, so I kind of tackle math with the bigger kids at the same time, but it’s in this 30 minute block. So yeah, she doesn’t have a 10 minute time block, but I might give her three of those time blocks and as she gets older maybe she’ll get 40, you know, things like that. 

Pam: Okay. And then the second grader gets done with her school day faster than the sixth grader? 

Jeanette: Yes. Yes. And thinking back on that time blocking concept, I have her first, her whole hour of school is first and the bigger kids are doing things in that hour that they can do independently. 

Pam: Ah, I love it. Love it. Okay. So much good stuff here and yeah, just so many things. Jeanette, do you talk about this on your blog at all?

Jeanette: Yes, I do have a post at permissiontopursue.com/timetable and I’ll lay out how to make a timetable, how it works, some pictures of what they look like the way that I do it. Hopefully that’ll be helpful. 

Pam: I love it. So if you are struggling to get through your school day and to manage multiple kids all at once, just give it a shot this time blocking might be exactly the thing you need. So go and check out that blog post and we’ll be sure to link to it in the show notes as well. Well Jeanette, thanks so much for coming on. 

Jeanette: Of course. Anytime.

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  • Sarah Linfors says:

    I love this concept. I think my biggest question is when “magic is happening” and they’re really engrossed in something how often do you follow that vs. say let’s be disciplined and stop?

    • Jeanette here! This is a great question and I’d say first off, you know your child and your homeschool best, and what might work in one moment might not work in another. If it’s a one-time thing, I may just let us follow that excitement. But I wouldn’t allow it to be a regular thing because I personally believe that sticking to the timetable is a valuable lesson to be learned and it truly helps keep order in my homeschool and allows us to get to more each day. But, I have had this happen before where a child really wanted to invest time in a drawn narration they were working on and I allowed a little bit more time, because I always build buffers into my timetable, but then I asked him to work on it later in a block of time I have set aside specifically for catching up, keeping notebooks and other similar activities. Also, if I notice that one particular subject is continuously leading to a desire to stay a little longer, I may consider adjusting the timetable to accommodate.

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