Monday, September 28, 2009

Structure and Scheduling

Sometimes you see people write about a typical day in their home, or you are asked what a typical homeschooling day looks like. Well, in our home, there really is no such thing. I'm just not that structured of a person and life gets in the way.

Every time I try to add more structure to our days, I find that I'm more stressed and more happy about how things are going. I find that life gets in the way of completing that which is on my schedule. My piece of paper says I'm suppose to be doing history right now, but math took an extra 10 minutes, asked for help or drinks 10 times, and Madelynn decided she needed an extra few nursings. According to my paper, I'm exactly 78.3 minutes behind schedule...which makes me stressed out and likely to snap at the kids.

I think I try to add more structure into our days every school year. This year was no exception. I found a nifty, pre-made, schedule for our science text. It told us which pages to read each day and which activities to do on which days. It followed a 5 day a week schedule, which I prefer. It looked ideal...on paper.

This week was the week we'd be starting that schedule. Up until now, we've been finishing last year's textbook which we had gotten behind on. When I went to put the kids' work in their weekly binders, I saw the new science schedule and took a closer look. Start a new chapter mid-week, it says? Huh? Why would I ever do that? Do this activity on Tuesday and that activity on Wednesday, and this other activity on Friday? But what if we have an appointment or a field trip and we don't have time for science that day? I'll feel behind. It'll get stressful. I'll push the kids to catch up, maybe even get snappy.

So, we've gone back to our old way...the way that worked for us last year. There's still some structure to it, but the emphasis is on flexibility. I have a preset goal for each subject each week: 1 spelling list per week for Sam, 2 spelling lists per week for Mika, 1 chapter of history each week, 1 chapter of science every two weeks, and so on. My goal is to get the reading done and complete any complementary reading, movies, and activities during the time allotted. Which days we get it done, doesn't matter. If, on Thursday, I see that we've made great progress on science (and have another full week to finish the chapter) but got very little history done, I'll focus on history that day. Maybe we'll start the day with history and do more than we would normally to make sure we get it done and get caught up. If we don't get to an activity, I simply move it to the next week if I REALLY want to do that activity or drop it altogether. I got the basic work done (ie. the reading) and that is enough for that week. The goal is to keep moving forward and find that we've completed our curriculum by the end of the school year. The extras are just...well...extras.

Sometimes I don't get even the minimum done in a subject by the goal date. Sometimes, like right now, I hae 4 chapters of history sitting in my kids' weekly binder. Again, I don't stress it. Seeing it sitting there in their pocket divider each week reminds me that I need to step it up in history a bit for a while. (I'm especially not worried because I had doubled-up the history in my filing for the last few weeks to fit 42 weeks into 36) I know that we'll catch up by taking a day here and there to focus on history a bit more. It's the big picture I'm looking at.

Playing a game based on the last two history chapters.
It would have been dropped if I was worried about keeping on schedule.

So, what I'm saying, in short is:

I look at a bigger picture when scheduling structure into our homeschool. By doing so, we have time for errands, outings, field trips, appointments, and getting behind without the stress that would bring if I had a more strictly scheduled day.

It works for us.

What works for you?

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Mommy to One said...

Schedules stress me out too. I just have general guidelines in mind for some subjects, like one chapter of history per week. And these can always be changed if we have extra interest in a particular chapter or section. For other subjects we just move along at our own pace, and I'm happy as long as we are making progress.

This year, the only scheduling I've done is which subjects we do on which days of the week, and we've stuck to that quite well. I also made log sheets for each subject where I can record what we do and the date. It gives me more flexibility on times and dates, and I'm still keeping a record of what we do. So far I like it.

Christina S. said...

Very good article. We used to keep a much more flexible schedule in our homeschool until I went back to work full time a few years ago.

At that point, the flexible schedule did not work in our favor, as I found I was always be drawn into "work emergencies." (I should say perceived work emergencies) This year, we've implemented a schedule.

It's a "flexible structured" schedule though. ;-) The purpose is to force me to keep the work/life balance more than anything.

Christina S. Team Member