If you’re new to the world of homeschooling, you’ll have to adjust your daily routines to make room for learning.
Time management is the ability to use your time (in this case, your whole family’s) effectively. For homeschooling, managing everything that needs to be done in a day calls for good organization and prep, a family schedule, and the willingness to learn and adjust.
When you homeschool, the reality is that your home (or at least part of it) now has a second purpose (or even third, if you’re a parent who works from home). Kitchen tables become classrooms and the everyday pace and volume of a given day seems to grow steadily; it can be a recipe for chaos. Less-effective instruction, mismanaged schedules, and clutter can quickly become the new normal for new homeschooling families who don’t take this crucial step.
So how best to get organized for homeschooling? Success depends largely on tailoring things to your own family.
“An individualized approach is best for ensuring long term change and adaptation because you’re more flexible when you’re more aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are” says Sunny Schlenger, author of How To Be Organized In Spite Of Yourself.
Maintaining control and flow in your homeschool plan is to stick to one that meets your household’s specific needs, and to purposefully organize around both homeschool and “not” school.
A good first organizing step for any homeschooling family is to create a shared family schedule.
Create a Family Schedule
Your family schedule is a basic routine that records daily school and non-school related tasks to help ensure sufficient time for education at-home. It’s a vital element to a homeschooling plan. It pays to be specific and task-oriented when planning, but remember to give each item on your schedule ample time to be completed.
Daily Homeschool Schedule
Here’s a basic example for a weekday.
- 7-8am: Wake up, brush teeth, get dressed
- 8-9am: Prepare, eat and clean up breakfast
- 9-9:30am: Tidy up – put away clothes, make beds, and organize school areas
- 9:30am: Family meeting to discuss the day’s goals
- 10am – 11pm: Start homeschool time w/ Mom
- 11am-12pm: Tutoring sessions
- 12-1: Lunch and “recess”
- 1-1:30pm: Daily chores – Monday: vacuuming and dusting, Tuesday: laundry day, etc.
- 1:30-3pm: Homeschool time w/ Dad, and tutoring assignments
- 3pm: School’s out!
For an effective and consistent schedule, work with the whole family to list important tasks, get input, and agree on what works best for everyone. Then, stick to it. Discussing changes, what’s working and not working, and other details can be discussed on a regular basis, so every member of the household continues to evolve and refine the family schedule.
Being organized is extremely helpful in getting through a homeschooling year. Without proper planning, done in advance (and not the day or week before), your homeschool journey can quickly become difficult – your kids unprepared for activities, the house a mess, and everyone scrounging for their materials while lessons should be happening.
Having everything – assignments, household chores, activities – all written down goes a long way towards eliminating frustration.
Work on your family schedule a few weeks at a time, and make changes where needed. Make sure everyone understands their roles, and plans to make good on their parts of the plan. Kids can plan ahead for school tasks by collecting their materials the night before and arranging their learning space. By planning ahead, the homeschooling part of your day can wind up much more productive (and much less stressed).
Make Decisions As A Group
The first priority in managing your homeschooling schedule is to decide what is prioritized. Include everyone in your household to make those decisions. Focus on those tasks or responsibilities first.
Co-ops and homeschool pods are a popular way to form homeschooling teams in a community, while also making sure that students get the social and group-learning benefits of a classroom. A big homeschooling misconception involves the belief that kids who learn at home lack socialization, but pods and homeschool co-ops prove otherwise.
Most homeschool families will tell you that flexibility is as big a big part of educating kids at home as their family schedule. While teachers and classrooms need to stay on rigid calendars, and meet high expectations, a homeschool family should be a flexible one.
The good news? This is a perfect opportunity to teach your kids to be flexible, themselves, which is a skill that’s critical for their overall education. Encourage honesty about how your students are feeling, and ask them to help formulate solutions when homeschooling goes a little less smoothly than planned.
Take Frequent Breaks
Homeschool struggles are something parents and students both experience, and everyone deserves a break (especially when they’re all working so hard). Those breaks can be built into your homeschool family schedule, and also used when someone in the household just needs to give their brain a rest.
Short breaks during work time have been shown to be beneficial. They reduce stress and help increase productivity. The key is to take them before it’s too late for them to help!
For grade-schoolers, it’s usually after 10 to 15 minutes of work. Older students in middle and high school can study or work on classwork for longer – up to 20 to 30 minutes before they need a break.
Breaks can be active (exercise), quiet (watching TV or reading a book), or can even be used as a time to work on art projects or help prepare lunch. The point is to shift focus so your kids’ minds don’t fatigue.
Learn What You Teach
If you’re starting homeschooling with kids in elementary grades, you likely have enough know-how to help with what your kids are learning. Once they enter high school, that could change. For a lot of parents it’s been awhile since they sat and formally learned in a classroom, and a brush-up is a chance to refresh and feel confident. It pays to learn alongside your kids in order to better understand how to help them absorb and retain the things they’re studying.
This might sound intimidating for some parents, but there’s help! If you need to just review the correct steps for long division, or get some help remembering the parts of a research paper, work with a tutor in your own time (or spend some time with your child’s tutor every so often) before you expect your student to need the help.
Remember: It’s A Journey
Since you only have 24 hours to eat, sleep, shower, homeschool, work, walk the dog, and relax…how do you get it all done? Use your time efficiently. At the end of the day, homeschooling isn’t as predictable as sending kids to school. Responsibilities from outside the learning environment still matter, and compete for attention. If you don’t intentionally determine a daily rhythm, and communicate with your kids, homeschooling can feel like a chore instead of an opportunity.
Brainstorm and discuss your family’s priorities, both with regard to schoolwork and education, as well as home life and the things they’re passionate about. Keep a schedule, but remember it’s not a curriculum – there’s always room to adjust and grow.
Learning to schedule and prioritize tasks with enough time to get everything done is an important lesson that your kids will take with you throughout their education and into adulthood.
For More Homeschool Help
We’ve published all the free homeschooling resources on The Wyzant Blog in our Homeschool Resource Hub. Check it out for even more advice and ideas.
For help finding a homeschooling tutor for your family, use Wyzant’s Homeschooling Tutor Concierge. Whether you’re partnering with other parents in the community, a “homeschool pod”, or want long-term support for your kids regardless of how school shapes up this year, our Concierge takes the guesswork out of finding the perfect support for your unique goals.