Crafting your New Homeschool Schedule |

Crafting your New Homeschool Schedule

New homeschoolers are approaching the beginning of this “school” year filled with anxiety. With conviction, they have made the decision to take the responsibility for their child’s day-to-day learning. However, they are not always sure how to go about accomplishing it. And September is just around the corner.

High on the list of priorities is figuring out a schedule that sets the stage for learning.  Here are some tips to make the process easier and the outcome match the needs of your family.

First Things First

First and foremost, throw out the notion of emulating traditional school at home.  If your child was in a school setting last year, that means don’t try to mirror the schedule you accommodated previously. If your child is just entering elementary levels, that means not relying on your own notion of what school looked like for you. Start with a clean slate and assess the needs of every member of your family in the process. Remember, one of the greatest benefits of schooling at home is that you have complete freedom and flexibility in your schedule. 

Break the Schedule into Chunks

The first thing you want to tackle is the schedule for your school year. Check your state laws to figure out if there are a certain number of hours or days of home instruction required. Typically, a school year is 180-days, which works out to four 9-week quarters, two 18-week semesters or 36 weeks. Many homeschool curriculum publishers also base their products on this standard.

Within the confines of this time frame, you have some latitude to flex according to your family’s needs. You can start on a particular day and count forward until you meet the state requirement. You can work on the traditional Monday through Friday schedule. You can take breaks and days off as needed.

Organize a Weekly Schedule

Now think about how to handle the work at hand each week. Remember to be sensitive not just to the needs of your child but to your needs as a parent. You can maximize family time by working around work schedules or planning to reserve time for field trips or activities that take place outside of the home. The weekly schedule should not be rigid but instead flex to take advantage of new opportunities. And there are a ton of new resources you will discover along the way.

Choose How to Cover Content

There are two scheduling options related to how you work on various subjects. These are referred to as “block” or “loop” schedules.

A “block” schedule is where one or more subjects are allotted a large span of time a couple of days a week, instead of working on a subject for a smaller amount of time each day. This method allows the student to fully focus on a subject, such as a history project or a science experiment.

A “loop” schedule is a list of activities that a student needs to work on, but that time is not scripted to a particular day or hour. For example, subjects like art, cooking, and geography may not need to be covered each day but could be looped in one day per week. “Block” and “loop” schedules are not mutually exclusive; you can combine them very effectively.

Enhance your School Day

Constructing a daily schedule may be a challenging task for new homeschoolers. There is a tendency to think that you have to instruct the same number of hours that your child may have been in school last year or that mirrors the public school day. This is not the case. Most institutional school settings spend lots of time per day on administrative tasks (taking attendance, moving students from one place to another, maintaining crowd control, etc.). In addition, one-on-one attention concentrates learning in a manner that is far more efficient. A typical “school” day for a first or second grade homeschool student is about two to three hours; for a high schooler, that may extend to four or five hours.

When you provide a learning-rich environment, you are likely to discover that there is much learning that takes place even when the textbooks are put away. Cooking can be a multidisciplinary opportunity for a math lesson (think fractions when you double a recipe) and science (think chemistry when finding out why the cake rises in the oven).

Important Factors to Consider

Shaping your daily schedule should allow for ease of movement from home to schooling and back again. The goal is to start the day for your family stress-free. Here are a few general factors to consider.

Personal preferences: Some families tend to wake up and start the day early; some are late risers. And in some families, there are kids in both camps. Be sure to also factor in the preparation and enjoyment of meals together.

Work schedules: Parent work schedules are all over the map during this pandemic. Take into consideration who will be working and who will be teaching and adjust your schedule accordingly.

Prayer schedules: Give priority to worship by organizing your daily schedule around prayer times. It can also be a nice time to add in an Islamic Studies component by reviewing ayah from the Quran or hadith each day/week and then discussing how to apply the guidance to daily life.

Family needs: School schedules need to be adjusted to take into consideration special family needs such as the birth of a new baby, or attention to a sick family member.

Outside activities: There are a large number of resources available to homeschoolers today. Look for homeschool support groups or co-ops, and classes or activities outside of the home (libraries are a great resource here).

A sample elementary homeschool schedule might look something like this:

8:00     Prepare and eat breakfast

9:00    Quran/Islamic Studies (a great way to start your school day!)

9:45    Language Arts

10:15    Snack/Physical Movement

10:45    Math

11:15    Science

12:00    Prepare and eat lunch

1:00    History/Social Studies

1:30    Art/Music

2:00    Reading

2:30    Rest/Free Play

Putting the home in schooling means that it is a whole family venture. It is important to remember that there is no perfect homeschool schedule; one style definitely does not fit all. Instead, the goal is to find what works best for your family. Organize something that fits the bill and try it. Then flex and tweak over time. Focus on the schedule meeting the needs of your family, and not the family beholden to the “school” schedule. Remember, too, that there will be days when things flow without a glitch and other days when nothing seems to flow at all. Learning is a lifelong venture, a work in progress. So, too, is making the adjustment to schooling at home.

Zahirah Lynn Eppard is the managing editor of the Muslim Home parenting newsletter project. As Sound Vision’s Director of Religious Education, she has also spearheaded the production of more than 500 online classes serving children ages 3-12 in the Adam’s World and Colors of Islam Clubs. Eppard has also worked in the field of education as a teacher, long-time homeschooler, and Islamic school principal, as a marriage and crisis intervention counselor, as a lobbyist, and social justice activist. She lives with her husband, children, and grandchildren in Maryland.

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