There are so many things about homeschooling that lead to creativity – how you “do it” is truly reflective of your personality. However, I want to encourage you as you start your homeschooling journey, that scheduling will greatly affect the outcome of your homeschooling efforts.
I have often said to my teenagers, “Failure to hit the target is never the fault of the target.” That is a tremendously true statement with regard to homeschooling. I want to suggest you take a step back and look at the forest for a moment, instead of the trees.
Ask yourself some key questions: What are the ages of my children and what is my greatest goal for them this year? Write down ALL of those fantastic ideas. Include the extracurriculars – piano, dance, soccer – whatever your family desires to do. If you are given to making lists, this may be an easier task, but even if the thought of lists gives you hives, I encourage you to take this one step.
Once you have that list, set it aside for at least a day. When you return to it, select the three most important academic things that you believe you want to accomplish for your child(ren) for the year, and add ONE extracurricular.
ONE, you say? Yes. Because your investment of time multiplies by the amount of children – and you can quickly find yourself without the time to educate if you are scattered getting each child to each activity. Be careful to not impose your adult sense of time and commitment on a child. Remember, your skill at homeschooling increases over time, as does your sense of scheduling. I have heard countless parents say they did not finish a year’s academics, because of their other “involvements”. I realize I am saying something unpopular, but school is your child’s job, and they need the time to be able to focus on it.
With your top three priorities in mind, I encourage you to go back to your calendar. Flip forward to May or June. When do you want to be done with your school year? Do you plan to school year-round? (As a veteran homeschool mom, I will tell you many of those who school year-round do not necessarily accomplish more.) Choose your end date, and then work backwards. How many lessons do you have to accomplish? For example, most levels of Math-U-See provide 30 lessons in a level of work. Generally this results in approximately 30 weeks of school. Therefore, if the goal is to end on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, count back 30 weeks to find the start date. Then you need to add into that accounting whether you will take holidays off – perhaps a couple of weeks at Christmas, a week at Easter. The good news is you are in charge – and sometimes the bad news is that you are in charge. However, beginning with the end in mind will result in a higher likelihood of accomplishing the goal, even if missed by a week or two.
Once you have your beginning date, plan what your week will look like. Will you school five days a week, or only four? Remember, a clear understanding of your ending date provides a tool to better assess a realistic beginning date and will assist you in making a decision as to how many days a week you will school.
We have had a rule in our household, beginning many years ago with my “paper planner” and continuing to this day with a Google calendar: if you want it to happen, it had better be on the calendar. You might have little ones at home now, but eventually they will be teenagers, and most of us with teenagers have at one time or another received an imperative from our progeny about having to go somewhere and do something right then! My rule has always been – if it is not on the calendar, then it is NOT an emergency on my part. It challenges your children with the responsibility to plan, and it frees you from being the bad guy.
Finally, and most importantly, while I have many more tips about calendar planning, let me say one more for now. Your children need YOU – not activities, not academics, not social enterprises. They need time with their parents to BE. You plan your schedule; their simple pleasure in spending time with their family should be the greatest investment of time. A wonderful homeschool mentor of mine said that the years pass swiftly – but some of those days do last forever. Now with the benefit of looking back, take me at my word when I said you will not believe how swiftly those years pass.