Looking back over the years that we’ve homeschooled, we have kept a very similar schedule each year, though, of course, it gets tweaked here and there. For me, the best time for formal, academic lessons has been in the mornings right after breakfast, though for my younger son, he isn’t a morning person, so I usually spend an hour one-on-one with him after lunch. But he usually joins his brother for some lighter lessons in the mid-morning, or he does some work on his own at this time. (Currently, he’s working on his own in the mornings and with me after lunch.)
My eldest son has always worked in the mornings, and in the last few years, he’s gotten up slightly earlier each day so that he has more time. As he gets older, he has more work to do. Right now, in 7th grade, he spends three to four hours each morning on his lessons. He’s very motivated to finish by lunchtime because the afternoons and evenings are reserved for his piano practice. We usually have outside lessons and activities in the afternoons too.
When he was younger, he had many varied projects because I use project-based homeschooling techniques. He used to like to build and make things, or we did science experiments, so our “project” time was either right before lunch, and then it moved to after lunch. This is where it’s stayed because this is when he practices piano, but he also practices right after dinner too. The piano is his only project now, but it has morphed into a serious vocation. 🙂
My younger son has never been as much of a maker and builder as his older brother, and curiously, the only long-term project he’s got going on is his love of birds. We’ve done many activities and field trips to help him with this interest, and we continue to do so. But he’s never needed a specific “project time” for this, so he just works at his lessons at his preferred times — before and after lunch — and he also practices cello (a hobby for him) after dinner.
Setting Your Own Schedule
If you’re trying to work out a homeschool schedule for your family, I would try to follow the natural schedule that your family is already inclined towards following. You can ask yourself these questions:
–What is my family’s preferred schedule on the weekends?
–Are there times during your weekends when your kids want more time with you, i.e., when you have their attention?
–Are there times when they want to retreat and be by themselves?
–Do they need a nap or downtime in front of the T.V.?
You can use this information to help form a schedule during the week, leaving the quiet time alone (keep that!), and using the other times when you have their attention to do work. But don’t forget to also use some of that time to have fun with your kids or just talk to them about anything. You don’t want all your time together to be prescribed work. Those fun/quiet moments can be much more important and valuable for your child than academic lessons.
How much time to spend on academic lessons?
I mentioned that my eldest son, who is thirteen, is working 3~4 hours in the mornings on his academic lessons, but this is because he now has specific goals for his future, so he’s very motivated to do the hard work.
When my kids were in the first grade, I found we didn’t need more than an hour to work on reading and math. That was all the “academic lessons” I did with them, but once you consider everything else we did — reading aloud as we snuggled on the sofa, building/craft projects, watching documentaries, visiting museums, exploring nature trails, I could tick off all the boxes of a typical 1st grade course of study. The boys had no idea that all that “other stuff” was educational. For them, it was just fun! It was our DAILY LIFE. I did not plan much. I followed the boys interests and my interests. If anything, I was strategic about picking out what library books I wanted to read to the boys, but I always let them pick their own books too, and we alternated the books.
Every year after that, our “academic lesson” time got a little bit longer. Some years, it may have only been stretched by 30 minutes. Other years, it got about an hour longer. Overall, I would say we didn’t need more than three hours to complete formal elementary curriculum in the 5th and 6th grade, and I don’t think we’ll ever need more than four.
I think as homeschooling parents, it’s our job to look at our child’s overall day and find the moments when our kids are learning despite it being part of our planned agenda. Kids teach themselves far more than we can teach them. If you compare their child-led work to a typical course of study, you will find they are doing far more than is expected. (Even if they are playing video games — look for what they are learning from that!) Over time, all of this learning can make some exceptional kids…as long as the adults don’t get in the way.
Unfortunately, kids who go to school are so used to adults planning every minute of their day and having information forced upon them that they are incapable of getting excited about the natural world, or books, or documentaries, etc. It all smacks of “school” to them. Anything associated with “school” isn’t fun to them. These kids need a long time to adjust and get used to more freedom. They especially need to be given freedom in exploring things that interest them so that eventually, they will begin turning down metaphorical “rabbit trails,” i.e. learning about other things that branch off their main interests, which can lead to many various and highly educational places.
If you find my blog helpful, I ask for only one thing — please share it! Share it with your friends and on social media. And please leave me comments about how you schedule your day. You may help others that way. If you have any questions, you can also leave a comment or email me through my contact page.