Every year since I’ve begun homeschooling, I look toward a new year and feel the pressure to be better with time management–knowing time management will break or make our upcoming year. Every year, I’ve added either another student to our school or have added subjects for existing students. I have seen each year with a strong conviction that the year will whip my butt if I don’t master my personal and school schedules!
My kids, first day of school this year.
I’m not a naturally scheduled person. One of my favorite things about leaving high school and going to college was staying up all night, writing or painting with such absorption that I lost all track of time and skipped meals. But this does not work well with raising kids. Hence, all the more reason why I really need a schedule. So while I know many unschoolers or other types of homeschoolers who eschew a schedule and manage to be productive–what I can say is, I’m glad for them and wish them well. I just am not one of them!
Have you seen the book The Homeschool Experiment by Charity Hawkins? It’ll make anyone laugh who has gotten through the first year or two and/or tried to homeschool with a baby!
My favorite part was how the chapters, each covering a month of a school year, began with the mom’s daily schooling schedule. The first one is perfect–ideal, rigorous, balanced, with many goals. As each month goes on, you can see her expectations have altered. By the end of the year? It changes in many ways, among them becoming extremely simplified! But that to me is really the best representation of the journey you go on as a homeschooling parent.
It’s good to make that ideal schedule–but you have to know that it WILL reveal itself to be tweaked or OVERHAULED!!!
Last year, my challenges in creating our daily schedule, compared to the previous year, were to keep in mind that my 2.5 year old would not be content to just entertain herself all morning, and I had to fit in science a couple times a week because of my first grader who revealed himself to be passionate about it. (On top of everything we did the previous year.) My big hurdle that year was time. I knew I had to start the day earlier. Previously, when my sons had been in grades 2 and K, we didn’t start until 9. But all summer, I pep-talked myself to start at 8. (I work at writing and editing in the afternoon, so all schooling had to be done before lunch.)
Yes, the image of my schedule below isn’t the best–but the point is noticing the linear form, the blocks.
Basically, everything is the same every day of the week, 8-noon, except there is some juggling to fit in art once week and Spanish, and a review game another day, geography another day. And 11:15, some days, it’s science, other days it’s history.
Then this summer, I was driving myself crazy to try to use this format again with our new reality in which no two days are the same! (Between co-ops two days a week, a mid-morning activity, and one day I need to shorten a bit for an afternoon commitment, our time is not as regular.) When I tried to chart it out, it was very complex, and it just made me dizzy. The whole reason I make a graphic is so I can take a glance and see the future day/hours ahead of me. But a glance at these attempts just made me feel overwhelmed!
Even drawing the bisected (or trisected) rectangles just got too complicated–especially when things didn’t break down neatly. I mean, doing a subject from 11:55 to 11:20 is just–weird. Like that will stick!! Public schools that run on bells do such things, but this would not work in our home! (And I don’t want to try to make that work.)
An additional challenge was in the shapes of the graphic itself. I measure my time by a circular clock with the divisions of quarter hours obviously demarcated very differently than a rectangle divided in halves or quarters. When I’m busy and a bit overwhelmed, multiple children pulling me in different directions with different needs and questions, I need something simple enough so that when I look from one graphic to another, I don’t need time to translate.
So I thought, what if the schedule looked like the clock? What if my hours were shaped like circles instead of rectangles? What if my partial-hour increments were like pieces of a pie or half a circle? This is what I got:
Somehow, this works so much better for me, a visual person! The demarcations of transitions form lines that actually looked exactly the same on paper as they do on the clock! I can easily look at this graphic without expending any brain power to go from a system of rectangles in a linear formation to a system represented by circles. (I’m telling you it’s the little things that make a big difference when you’re a teacher and your day may best be defined as being pelted with questions and having to make decisions every. single. second.)
I also coded it: a bold line around the edge of the circle if it involved my one son, and a thin line if it involved the other. When they are both involved, I draw in both lines. (My third pre-school aged child can join wherever/whenever she likes, so I didn’t muddy the graphic by writing anything for her.)
The only thing that keeps it from being perfect is the weirdness of a subject going past the hour. For instance, I have one son doing reading from 8:45-9:15. It’s just a bit weird that when you look at the 8-9 circle, you see only the first half of the reading class. Where your eye needs to go next is the top of the hour for 9-10. But it’s just bit less than the natural thing your mind wants to do. I’ve considered ways to represent this that could reflect the continuous flow of time, but I’ve not come up with one. (I’ve considered making it 3D, like a paper coil or spiral where you could see the hours flowing into each other–but even if that were a more accurate representation, it’d hardly be user friendly. It needs to be used easily with a mere glance, and with no need to turn anything with my fingers.)
I showed my Thursday schedule above. My 11:00-12:00 circle is different on Fridays. And the other days of the week have significant differences because we have other commitments. But this schedule shown is the main one I use every day we are home all morning.
The first couple weeks, I felt like it was a bit nutty and rued my plans for the year that dictated that we don’t have two days of the week the same. But honestly, after a few weeks, it became easy and normal.
And I should say a few words about the fact that this is a suggestion/guide for me. I don’t ring a bell at the end of a time segment. I’m a big believer that you have to have boundaries formed to be able to make the best decision about bending them. Kinda like how you need to know the rules of grammar and composition in order to make the best decisions about breaking those rules and being more experimental or expressive. I need the ideal, balanced schedule up as a guide, but on a day to day basis, I switch things around, or decide to skip something altogether because maybe history is going really well and the kids are really enjoying the project they are doing.
Last, the very bottom of the sheet shows part of a list of things I have the boys do during “quiet time.” Every afternoon, not only do I need time alone to do the writing/editing on the side, but the kids need time away from each other. They each claim it is a favorite part of the day. As a creative myself, I totally get that and am glad they value it. It used to be always and only free drawing time for my every artistic boys. Now the older they get, I do use the beginning as homework time. It’s good for things the boys best do without interaction: handwriting practice, copywork, practice doing math functions (either on computer or on worksheets), and for my piano student, to practice his music.
This was my most complex year to schedule, and I think the circle graphic saved my sanity both as I planned our flow and as we moved through the months.
Did my schedule change/simplify throughout the year so far like in the Homeschool Experiment novel? Well, no. I guess that means it was pretty workable. The only problem is: my eroding discipline of getting breakfast on time… So, like the character in Charity Hawkin’s novel, if I posted my “real” schedule lately, it’d show breakfast at 8:15 or 8:30 instead of 8:00. And history often shrinks to 30 minutes to compensate. (But that’s another story/problem.)
What kind of schedule works best for you? If you’ve ever done a circle graph, please share how!
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