Scheduling Your Homeschool Day

My son’s pitcher plant is blooming beautifully right now. The Carnivorous Plant Project was a lot of fun.

This post talks about how I block big chunks of our day for our homeschool lessons. If you’d like to know how I schedule the individual, academic lessons within those larger chunks of time, please refer to my blog posts on each grade, which you can find in my menu. For 7th grade, I have a PDF resource in my store.


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.

How to Create a Homeschool Schedule

The Sassafras tree growing in our yard is turning color. This is one of many trees we’ve identified for our plant project this year. I’ll write more about that at a later date.

I have written a post about our 3rd and 6th grade curriculum for the home/school/life blog, and you can see all my favorite curriculum choices on this page, which I keep updated.

Since I already wrote about our curriculum, I thought I would take the time to share how I schedule our week, though it’s not complicated. You probably use a similar way to schedule your homeschool.

First, I work around our weekly appointments, and then I try to keep to the routine that we established when the boys were very little, which is work in the morning and rest in the afternoon. (Although now that they are older, we also do some work in the early evenings too.)

Morning – academic lessons for eldest son/educational activities for both
Lunch – watch a documentary
After Lunch – piano practice for eldest and academic lessons for youngest
Late Afternoon – rest/T.V./play for boys
After Dinner – instrument practice for both boys (piano and cello)
Showers and rest/T.V.
Books before bed

That is roughly how our daily routine goes, though three afternoons a week we have appointments, and on some evenings, we attend music recitals or concerts at a local university. I should also mention that this schedule is also my schedule and partly my husband’s too. He usually sits with my eldest son as he practices piano, and I sit with my youngest as he practices cello. This habit has benefitted us all, but it makes for a very full day for the parents. 🙂

Fitting in the Academic Subjects

How do I work in all the academic subjects? It’s impossible to do every subject everyday, so the first thing I do each year is make a big list of the subjects we’re going to study. Then I arrange them from the highest priority to the lowest. This year writing, grammar and math are my highest priorities, so we do those subjects first at least three days a week.

Each day is a little different. I usually work one-on-one with my eldest son in the mornings, but, for example, I will schedule a list of lessons that he can do without me on the morning that his brother is preparing for a cello lesson in the afternoon. On days that we have no appointments, I can spend more time on more challenging subjects, or I can spend more time reading history or doing science projects that both boys participate in. If I can’t fit the lower priority lessons into the week, I will just skip them or possibly rotate them in the following week.

For these past six years of homeschooling, I have mostly not worried about finishing a particular curriculum in one year. In general, when we want to take a break, I’ll close the book and then open it again when our break is over. As long as we are making progress and moving along, this strategy has worked, and it’s benefitted my boys to go at their pace.

However, now that my eldest is twelve, and he’s in “middle school,” I have changed my tactics this year, especially with math and grammar. I have a goal to finish our current resources by early spring, so to determine how much we need to do each week, I’ve counted the number of lessons or chapters, and I’ve divided by the number of weeks we have until my self-imposed deadline. We’re going to try to do that many lessons each week. But the deadline is flexible, of course, and I used a rather absurdly early deadline of April 30 to determine how many lessons to do. If we finish by June, that’ll be great too. There isn’t any REAL deadline when you’re homeschooling, but as I said, I like to see us making progress. Part of the reason I’m trying this is because this is a testing year, and I’m hoping we can take the test early. If we can’t, no big deal.

I’m also trying this new “goal setting” because as my son gets older and into high school, he will have to work more independently, and he’ll be working on more challenging assignments, so 1) I want to make sure he’s met the prerequisites for this higher level work, and 2) I want to teach him about setting goals and pacing himself. He’s learning a lot about this by playing the piano and preparing for competitions, but he can see how it will work for his school work too. Or maybe I’m the one that needs a trial run before we get into high school! (Yes, I think that’s it.)

This year I’m finding it helpful to plan our whole week at one time. I usually do this over the weekend. (Last year I planned each day the night before, and that worked okay too.) I made up a little planning chart for myself. I make photocopies of these, and then I discard them at the end of each week. (I have another chart that I use to record what we actually did, and I put these into the boys portfolios.)

Click here to upload my weekly planning chart. (PDF)

I’m happy to share this weekly planning chart with you, but you could easily make one up for yourself too. Each week I first pencil in our regular appointments and any other appointments that may arise. Then I work in our lessons around that. I always use pencil because it’s always bound to change.

I could go into much deeper detail about how I schedule our lessons, but that would make this post too long and confusing. Instead, I invite you to ask me any questions, and I’d be happy to answer in the comments section.

Even if you don’t have any questions, I hope you’re having a happy homeschooling year! I’d love to hear from you, if you have minute.