There’s this false dichotomy that pops up in the homeschool world, “You shouldn’t have a schedule, you should have a routine.”
It sounds all well and good, a wonderful idea for folks who have an established routine or are not easily distracted.
Not so for many of us. Not so for me.
I need a schedule. I need specific hours set aside to do this homeschooling gig. I need specific helps to notice the clock and tell me to stop doing my thing and get ready for the main event.
When I say I need a schedule, I’m not saying I need a regimented, 15-minute increment defined schedule. I don’t need something that tells me to do math from 10-10:30 and Latin from 1-2. Our problem isn’t accomplishing the tasks that I have identified for the day.
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Our problem is getting started. Our problem is mission creep. Our problem is sloth or lethargy or inertia.
It is so easy to keep sitting reading my book and drinking my coffee until the eruption of an argument because the children were playing nicely but aren’t anymore.
It’s so easy to surf Facebook and have contact with grownups instead of children.
It’s so easy to write a blog post, visit with friends via Voxer, or myriad other not-school things that distract and fill time.
It’s rarely cleaning or laundry that keep me from my educational responsibilities. Shocking.
So, while I don’t need a minute-by-minute accounting of my day, I do need some big blocks of time that are set apart for homeschooling.
I need some start and stop times because while an object at rest tends to stay at rest, an object in motion tends to stay in motion and once I get going, I can keep going, you know?
My solution to this has been to set specific hours for our school day. Ours are 8:30-10:00 with a break until 10:30, then we go until 2:00 with lunch fit in at some point or another.
Having big blocks of set-apart time allows my kids to know that I’m serious about doing lessons, they have my full attention during that time and that I prioritize them. They see that I prioritize learning.
In order to keep me in gear, I utilize my biggest time waster to my advantage. I set alarms on my phone to keep the day moving as it ought.
My first alarm is at 8:20 am, this is a 10-minute warning that we need to wrap up whatever we’re doing and get our minds set toward school. At 8:30 am, school starts as the next timer rings. We start Whatchamacallit with the Doxology and work through our list – as far as we can – until the next alarm at 10:00.
The children run and beg for a snack and play. They have half an hour for this. They know if they don’t come back at the next alarm, they don’t get a break tomorrow – because that consequence has happened to them.
At 10:30, they come back for their independent work. I’m available for help, narrations, direction, or instruction. I stay in the room they’re in.
I don’t go off to swap or fold laundry, empty the dishwasher or clean the kitchen. I’m theirs. I may have my own book while I await their need, but I can stop when they need. I can redirect when a little focus is needed. They are the priority.
The children have a list of work that needs to be done by 2:00. They work through their lists, stopping for lunch at some point or another. They often continue reading or calculating while they eat lunch.
My school day ends at 2:00 pm with a final timer. To give the children a sense of urgency, my husband and I have instituted a, perhaps unusual, rule. Any school work not completed by that deadline is due to Daddy when he gets home.
They never want to give him narrations or math worksheets, so they’re incented to finish in a timely manner without a lot of prodding on my part. The hardest part of this is me holding fast and hard to that time and granting almost no exceptions.
If this is the just way we do it, it becomes less of a fight. This has helped them to be more diligent in accomplishing their lessons – although we’re far from perfect as this is a very new consequence, we are improving.
Our routine has been very helpful in continually moving forward in our homeschooling. Our routine wouldn’t happen, though, without our schedule.
I need a scheduled routine to succeed at this homeschool gig, what about you?
For more tools like this and help with consistency in your homeschool, check out the Homeschool Consistency Bootcamp.