Homeschooling families have a lot more on their plates than ever before. Both parents may be working, either out of the home or from home (especially since the COVID-19 pandemic), it’s harder to keep everyone happy with the pandemic restrictions, and funds may be tighter for a variety of reasons.
These factors and more impact the time you have to do the actual schooling. A strict school schedule may be very difficult to keep consistently and could cause stress.
On the other hand, home educators may feel that they are letting down their student if they have to do school at a variety of different times or on weekends and can’t keep a particular schedule from week to week.
In this blog post, we’re going to show the pros and cons of a strict daily schedule contrasted with a flexible schedule. To wrap up, we’ll help you think through which approach could be best for you, given your circumstances and the ages of your students.
Pro: You know exactly when school will happen. You aren’t trying to decide on a schedule each day based on what else is going on. You are working consistently through the curriculum every day.
Con: There isn’t much flexibility. If an interesting opportunity arises, you may not be able to take advantage of it if your schedule is too rigid. It’s difficult to schedule everything else you need to do after school hours.
Pro: Your kids know what to expect. This is an advantage because when kids know what to expect, they are often happier and more cooperative.
Con: The lack of variety gets boring. When things become too routine, they can become stagnant and uninteresting. Kids can balk at doing their lessons.
Pro: Once school is done for the day, everyone is free to pursue other activities. All extracurricular activities—such as clubs and sports—can happen once school is completed.
Con: A lot of homeschool activities occur throughout the day and you may not be able to participate if you have all of your academics scheduled from 9am to 3pm.
Pro: You are available to teach and assist your kids the whole time that they are working on their schoolwork.
Con: Kids don’t develop their own time-management skills and resourcefulness if you’re always nearby.
Pro: School fits around your life rather than life adapting to your school schedule. If an interesting event is happening or you have a heavier workload than expected, you can move school to a later time that day.
Con: You may struggle to get all the school work completed without a firmer schedule. Sometimes leaving school until later in the day means it doesn’t get done that day.
Pro: Kids can take more responsibility for their learning. You can give kids independent work to do while you are making a business call or creating a spreadsheet for a client.
Con: Kids may not be responsible with their school time. Kids may fool around and not complete their independent work unless they are directly supervised.
Pro: School can be done when you are available. My eight year-old son often does his math and handwriting at the kitchen table while I am prepping dinner in the early evening.
Con: It’s hard to keep kids attentive if there are too many other things happening around them during the time they are doing their schoolwork.
Pro: You can take advantage of many teachable moments throughout the day knowing that learning isn’t restricted to textbooks.
Con: You may not be covering all the bases if you rely too much on lifestyle learning.
Which approach is best for you?
As you can see, each approach has benefits and drawbacks. The method that works best for you will have a lot to do with your non-homeschooling responsibilities—for example, whether you’re working and how much flexibility you have with your schedule—plus the ages of your children.
I’ve worked most of the time that I have been a homeschooling parent. I found a stricter schedule served me best when I worked outside of the home and a flexible schedule is more helpful now that I work from home.
In general the younger the child, the more supervision he or she will need and the shorter the school day lasts. So if you have young kids that aren’t yet reading, you will likely need to have a somewhat stricter schedule that requires more of your direct involvement. If you have older children who are reading well and who are able to work more independently, you can likely be more flexible with their scheduling.
Parting tip: Keep a planner
A key to incorporating more flexibility is to keep an organized teacher planner. Each weekend I sit down with my planner and do the following:
- Write all the assignments and lessons that we will need to complete, broken down into daily work
- Gather all the needed materials together
- Bookmark the pages of books we will be using
- Put everything together in one place
I check off assignments as they are completed so that it is easy to see what we still have left to complete each day. If we take off an hour to go to the park, or I get stuck on a long business call, we just pick up where we left off.
Just remember to have fun and enjoy your homeschooling journey, no matter what kind of schedule you keep!