Last week, I helped you sort out the big picture of your school year. We talked about planning time off and making an overview/pacing guide for all your curriculum. If you did that step, you should now have a spread sheet that divides all your school work down into a week-by-week workload.
When I do this, I don’t date the weeks, and I really want to encourage you to not be very uptight about it either. And here’s why:
That pretty schedule you have is going to get really messy by the end of the school year. Kids will get sick. Plans will be changed. And if you are super stressed trying to stay on schedule, you may end up feeling burned out. (If you feel burned out–or if you’d like some information about what to do if it happens–you’ll find some helpful suggestions in the article Dear Burned Out Homeschool Mom.)
So I want you to look at that pretty schedule right now and remember that this is flexible. It’s valuable to have a pacing guide, and it is going to help, but this is a best-case scenario guide to help you fit schooling into real life. The guide is to help you. It’s a tool. It is not the boss. YOU are the boss.
Use your yearly plan as a guide to pace your week.
When you do a lesson, scratch it off the list. If you don’t do science this week, don’t scratch it off. And don’t panic either. Do it next week. Maybe do two science lessons if you have time. Do science on Saturday. Decide you don’t care about that lesson and skip it.
(Shhh, I did NOT tell you that. But you know, sometimes public school kids watch an episode of The Magic Schoolbus and learn about the solar system from the show instead of from their teacher. Your kids will survive. Skip it if you need to.)
Just don’t panic. Your pacing guide tells you pacing. Now you know you are behind in science, and you know exactly HOW far behind you are. No big deal. You are the boss.
Let’s talk about those pesky outside-of-the-home activities.
Now that we covered who the boss is, let’s talk about your week. This is another arena where you need to remember you are the boss. I hear a lot that people don’t have time to “fit it all in.” If you feel that way, then Mama, stop cramming it all in.
I’m talking about outside-the-home activities. We all worry a little about our little darlings not being socialized. We fear that maybe, if we keep them home, they may never learn to be “normal human beings.”
I promise, your kids will be fine. You don’t need to do everything. Look at the activities you have on your calendar and see what purpose each one serves. Are they worth your time? Are they important?
You may need to re-create this form with each changing season. (I do.) But this is the master form I use for regularly occurring weekly activities.
On it, I write down all the things I agreed to do. Kids sports, volunteer obligations, outside classes, social invitations, field trip Friday…. all of it.
Now that you have all your activities down, take a look at that bad boy. You didn’t write down schooling at ALL. How much time does it take each day to get schooling done? Some states have laws about how much time you should spend per subject or per day. (If you aren’t sure about the homeschool laws in your state, you need to find out about them. Go to the HSLDA website to get the information you need.)
Children in the lower elementary grades can probably complete school work for the day in 1 to 3 hours. Those in upper elementary school through middle school may need 2 to 4 hours. Those in high school may need 3 to 5 hours or possibly (occasionally) more.
Where does your school time fit on your calendar? If you feel like there is no way to get it all done, it’s because you probably can’t. When you feel overwhelmed like that, it’s a sign that you are doing too much.
Some families choose not to have any obligations before noon. This gives them the morning hours to dedicate to “doing school.” And if you’re someone who has trouble saying no, you may find it easier if you’ve made an agreement with yourself that you can’t say yes to activities before noon. Others may choose to participate in outside-the-home activities on only certain days of the week, or they may only allow each child to choose one outside activity per semester. The most important thing is to set boundaries and stick to them. It may be hard to say no, but saying no once is much easier than wishing (over and over and over) that you’d said it every time you have to head out the door!
Scheduling Schoolwork into the Week
It seems counter intuitive to have talked about “other” activities before we got into scheduling lessons, but I do this for a reason.
First, I know many homeschool families are stretched too thin, and if YOU are one of them, I wanted you to see that and think about fixing that before moving on.
Second, I wanted you to have a realistic idea of how much work you can fit into your week so you can plan lessons in a way that won’t make it impossible for you to get work done.
At this point, you should be able to look at your weekly overview (which you made last week) and consider how you want to break down the assignments over the week. Let’s say you need to do one English lesson each week. Do you want to do that all on one day, or do you want to do it over 4 days? How about science? Twice a week? Once a week for a longer chunk of time? Or daily?
Some people do a little bit every day.
Others do the 3 Rs daily, and then they do science and history two or three times a week.
Others do a block schedule and do longer classes less often. For instance, they might do math three times a week for an hour and a half or two hours instead of daily for 45 minutes. (This might be too much for younger students.)
Again, come up with a general idea of what you want to do and when you want to do it. Plug that in on your master weekly schedule form.
(I draw a box around our “school hours” and write what topics are being covered that day)
Now for the fun part! The weekly planner that promises you will never fall “behind”!
All your brainstorming is done, and hopefully you’ve culled your outside responsibilities to make sure you have enough time to cover all the academics you need to teach. At this point, you’re done with the “big” planning, and you’re ready to start teaching.
A lot of people actually plan out what to do day by day, but I prefer to look at my whole weeks’ worth of obligations and just roll with that. I use the pacing guide to tell me what I need to get done this week, and I use my daily planner to write down what we actually did AFTER I do it. When it’s done and in the planner, it gets scratched off the master pacing guide.
If I am not planning out every day in advance, there is no such thing as being behind. There is flexibility. I have an idea of what needs done, but I get to play by ear when I do it. We do have a general routine (the 3 Rs first thing in the morning with history on Monday and Wednesday and Science on Tuesday and Thursday), but other than following my pacing guide, I don’t stress myself out with a detailed plan.
…because again, life happens!