Managing Your Children’s Activities – Part 2 (homeschooling)

This is the second (and a half) post in my 10 post series, 10 Areas to Master For Managing a Household. Join me every Thursday for a new installment! This post focuses on homeschool activities and working on a homeschool schedule, see last week for after school activities for kids in school.

I wouldn’t dare write a post telling any homeschool mom how to make a schedule because I know that not only is it a very personal thing, it can be such an intense hot button issue. Anyone reading this right now that does not homeschool will likely not get why it’s such a big deal. It’s a big deal because taking on the sole responsibility to educate our children can be stressful and scary at times. Being told we are doing it wrong through a lack of planning can make perfectly capable homeschool moms second guess themselves. That is not what this post is for at all. My intention in writing this is to share some ideas and maybe a few warnings on ways to schedule, not what to teach or when.

Much like over scheduling after school activities for kids in school, homeschooled kids are even more likely to be over scheduled with enrichment activities and homeschool classes outside of the home for two main reasons. First because we want them to have as many enrichment opportunities as possible and also because of the dreaded S-word of homeschooling – socialization. I find that my kids have more interaction with both kids their own ages and kids of other ages and adults now than when the two older kids attended school, but the stigma is still there of course. So, the urge to put homeschool kids in tons of activities, enrichment classes or not, is strong to ensure they make friends, spend time with their peers, etc.

The issue with over scheduling homeschooled kids spills into two other areas. One being there are only so many hours in the day to work through all the curriculum that needs to be worked through, and being in classes all day instead of at home actually doing your main school work stops you from being productive in that way. The second being that even though one of your many daytime jobs is educating your children, it is one of many daytime jobs! Laundry needs to be done, sinks, bathtubs and floors need to be cleaned, pets need to be cared for, and on and on and on. These tasks are generally done during the day, either while the kids are breaking between subjects or for lunch, or while they are working independently. Either way, those tasks are not getting done when you’re not home.

First, you have to look at your tasks for the day, both your chore lists that you’ve made up for each area of your home, and your task list for school. Again, I’m not going to tell you how to plan your school day, your courses are your choice, but I will say you need to take all those courses and plug them into a schedule of some kind. If you are a very laid back homeschooler, that’s fine, but bear in mind that if you want to meet a specific benchmark or goal, you will need to set aside time to do the work.

The most common way is to look at how the materials break down into lessons. For example, maybe your math textbook has 100 lessons. Most school years go for 180 school days, so when you plug math into your schedule you’d know you wouldn’t have to do math every day, but you would have to plan out when you’d do it, so you wouldn’t fall behind. Or you could choose to schedule math every day, and give yourself 80 review days.

There are some electives that you don’t really need to finish. If you’ve chosen to teach piano or classical art for example, you can look at the number of lessons the book you’re using the same as you’d do for math, or you can just decide that after everything else that has to be done in a week, you only have room to do music or art every other day. This would apply to things like photography or digital art, or even an additional foreign language. For example, we do French through our charter, but we do Latin as well because we choose to. So when I plan out French I make sure we finish on time, but when I plan out Latin it’s ok if we don’t finish by the end of the school year.

Once you have laid out your core classes and your at home electives, you can add in enrichment classes and social activities. Generally two classes a week, especially if they do not require homework, is a safe number that should fit within the rest of your schedule and still leave time for a social day and downtime. Unlike after school activities, enrichment classes that happen during the day for homeschoolers are often family oriented, so they may have multiple classes going on at once where all your children can participate. If not, you can always bring your most portable subjects with you to do with the other kids while they are waiting, I tend to bring language arts with us when we are in situations like these. If they are distracted or don’t feel like working in a different environment, we can at least read.

When it comes to social activities for homeschoolers, I have found that these park days are very popular because they are simple and the kids and all just ‘go play’, but they are often chaotic and kids don’t really get a chance to connect in any meaningful way. So I like to host social activities for our homeschool friends. If we do not know them well, I tend to choose an indoor playspace or similar environment. Sometimes, I have suggested a new friend try out a class one of my children is taking. Most places have a ‘bring a friend’ option where your friend can attend a class for free to see if they like it. Once we know them though, I like to host an ongoing weekly event. It can be hard to get others to commit to a weekly date. You will come across moms that love having a standing weekly date and you’ll never have to make plans with them again. I have a few friends at both extremes and several who just cannot commit to once a week. I tend to see these friends more like once a month or so. For my own sanity, I have a day set aside specifically for rotating friend dates. Occasionally, no one can get together that day and it ends up being a relaxed day at home, not exactly a bad thing!

The most important thing to remember when it comes to planning out kid’s activities when you’re homeschooling is to make sure you have scheduled (or at least set aside time) to complete all your core courses. Then really think about how much time you want to devote to classes, park days, the library and social activities before you map out what your week looks like. I try to keep some spontaneity in mind, (I know, I know, I’m lame for planning to be spontaneous). I just want to leave room for it. If my weekend is jam packed and my daughters friends are over on a Friday night and ask if they can sleepover, I want to be able to say yes without worrying about moving everything else around. Many of our friends do not homeschool, so we try to be as flexible on the weekends as we can so we can spend time with them, too!

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