Scheduling, Time Management, and Home Organization
In this series of articles, a panel of homeschoolers has informally shared some of their teaching tips, thoughts, and experiences on a wide variety of homeschool questions that were submitted to us, which originally ran in the Virginia Home Educator magazine.
Be sure to check out the first “Answering Your Homeschool Questions,” post that answered some basic questions on the law and tips for teaching your child at home.
Keep in mind that each of our panelists is sharing what worked for her–and sometimes they even have opposite opinions! So just take the ideas that will work for you and ignore those that won’t. And be sure to watch for this upcoming post:
- Part I: Answering Your Homeschool Questions
- Part III: Attitudes in Homeschooling and Homeschooling on a Tight Budget
Now, without further ado, we invite you to grab a cup of coffee or tea and join us for part two of our casual Q&A!
Scheduling and Time Management
What is a good schedule to structure your day, and what are some homeschool and housework tricks to get it all done?
- We had a family breakfast time before which all personal chores had to be done. School started immediately afterward. Lunch was another “anchor” of the day, but other than that, our schedule flexed. The children all had daily and weekly chores to help around the house. And frankly, some things just didn’t get done as frequently as I would have liked!
- We figured out what was hardest and did that when we were fresh. After beginning with Bible reading, we devoted the mornings to language arts and math.
- Revisit your routine and get back to basics. Keep a schedule and stick to it. Knowing what comes next without having to make one more decision can be a relief.
- A friend devoted her family’s Friday afternoons to chores. Then her husband cooked dinner. They fed the boys early and had a quiet meal to themselves later.
- Incorporate home economics into your curriculum and teach your kids to do housework and cooking.
- Plan meals the night or week before. Waiting until 4 p.m. is exhausting.
- Try the once-a-month cooking approach so that your evening meals can be put together quickly. (Once-a-Month Cooking is by Mary Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson.)
- For housework we had games, challenges, and incentives. Also, we always had a “five-minute pick-up” at the end of the day. For a while, we threw stuff into a basket, but that proved a bad idea in the long run. Baskets never got dealt with. So then everyone had to put away—in its correct place—ten things not their own, plus their own stuff. Someone quickly vacuumed, someone tidied the entry (for first impressions!), and someone set the table…things that said the school day was over and evening was here—even if there were still assignments to finish.
- The book Managers of Their Homes by Steven and Teri Maxwell offers a workable plan for creating a family schedule. To be useful, a schedule must be functional yet flexible.
What are some tips for time management? Can you time manage without being on a rigid schedule?
- We needed a schedule, or my son would still be listening to me talk about novels— and he graduated five years ago. Have a schedule, but don’t be obsessed by it.
- Yes, you should have a schedule; no, it should not be rigid—just predictable. This is an area of discipline for the homeschooling mom or dad. The schedule should start around the same time each day and be as protected from “important” phone calls and e-mails as possible. Outside activities should be reasonable and not during a core period. I liked about three uninterrupted hours, which gave me time to check on each child to make sure they were tracking.
- Decide your routine and then make a daily, visual to-do list. Get a clock that chimes the quarter of every hour to help you keep track of time. Set an alarm to start dinner.
- Deal with stuff quickly—say yes or say no. Though there are times when we need to wait on the Lord and be still before Him, don’t let simple decisions hang over your head.
How can we avoid overexertion and burnout so that we can keep our joy?
- You have to pick and choose your activities. For every activity you choose, there are hundreds more you can’t choose. That’s life for all of us—we can’t do it all or pay for it all. Select the best, and ignore the merely good. (And there might be times—pregnancy, illness, etc.—when you have to drop even more.) Your kids will keep on learning after they leave home—you don’t have to provide every opportunity for them now.
- Remember the “home” part of homeschool. Stay home, get school done, and limit outside activities. Designate only one day every month for field trips.
- Show respect for your work and make it your priority. Determine your school hours and be unavailable to everyone else just as if you were teaching in a classroom on the other side of town. That means not answering the phone during those hours (if it is a distraction, turn the ringer off) or allowing other people to give you or your children tasks (babysitting their kids, providing meals for all the shut-ins, etc.).
- Each winter was a struggle for me. In January, I would have a hard time getting back on track after the holidays. I learned to plan some fun things out of the house to get excited about learning again, and not to make any major decisions about homeschooling during the winter blahs!
- Recognize the source of true joy. When I am spending time in God’s presence, I can choose to be joyful, speak gently and cheerfully, and recognize that I am blessed to have this season with my children.
- Recognize spiritual warfare for what it is. I had to be reminded to take captive every harsh thought about my children, every selfish thought about my own entitlements in life, every self-pitying thought about being a less-than-perfect homeschool mom. I learned that the enemy really can’t take away my joy, but he sure can influence me to give it up! If you are committed to raising warriors for God, your family is a target for battle, and you may want to take inventory of your Ephesians 6 armor.
- Have a vision for your family, have realistic expectations of your children, and have realistic expectations of yourself.
- Say no to some things. Think, pray, seek advice from people you respect, and cut back if you are doing too much. If your husband says you are too busy, pay attention.
- Once the children were old enough to be left home alone for twenty minutes, my husband and I took walks or jogged together most mornings. I found regular exercise classes also gave me a good mental break and more energy.
- Have a quiet time in the morning before everyone gets up. When your school day begins, work on the most important subjects first—usually the skill subjects (language arts and math)—with each child. Do history and science only two to three days a week in longer blocks of time. Focus on things you can do together and projects that will bring the subject to life. Reevaluate your outside activities. Stay home more.
- It is helpful to build moments of joy into our day. Try praying for your children as your fold their laundry. Treat yourself to a small piece of chocolate after lunch. Meet a friend for a quick cup of coffee during a piano lesson.
Helpful reading : The Life-Giving Home: A Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally Clarkson
What are some tips for home organization?
- I recently heard organization expert Peter Walsh say, “Finish the cycle.” He means take every task through to its end—don’t leave chores unfinished. That includes little things such as putting recycling in the bin immediately, putting laundry away completely, putting the scissors back in the drawer. He says that if you open it, close it; if you take it out, put it back; etc. Don’t think to yourself, “I’ll do it later.” Do it now; do it completely. Train your children to do the same.
- Allow each person so much space and no more. When that space is full (and that doesn’t include messy or overflowing), they have to discard or donate before they get anything else. Don’t make the mistake of adding more storage bins—use only the space you have already allotted. This should be the rule for clothing, toys, craft supplies, decorations, books, papers, and everything else.
- Take care of the things that bother you the most. Before your school day begins, have everyone do one or two simple jobs: making their beds, loading or unloading the dishwasher, taking out the trash, feeding the pets, gathering the laundry, etc. Use charts and give stars or stamps, not only for the job but also for good attitudes! Then start your academic day.
- I have a clean-as-you-go policy. I ask my family members to look back when they leave a room and say to themselves, “Is this room/kitchen/desk as clean (or cleaner) than when I came in?” If not, they take a few minutes and do the job. It’s much easier and faster to keep something clean than to clean up a huge mess—and mess always breeds more mess
- Institute the “five-minute rule.” Give everyone a five-minute heads- up before dinner, and have them clean up as much as they can in that time. Even unfinished projects can at least be tidied up.
- We used our kitchen and family room for much of our homeschooling, and although we didn’t have a dedicated school room, we did have one location for all our books and school supplies. We always returned them to their “home” and knew where to find them the next day.
- Don’t buy anything until you know where you will keep it. Store materials within easy reach. Get rid of stuff you haven’t used in a few years, unless there is a younger child who may grow into it.
Helpful reading: “3 Things to Drop from Your Homeschool Schedule” by Lynna Sutherland and “When God Writes Your Lesson Plans” by Melissa Barnes.