“I don’t know how you do it!” Every homeschooler has heard this comment more than once. In this series, we tell you!
Early on in our homeschooling journey, a friend loaned me a book entitled Managers of Their Homes by Steve and Teri Maxwell. This book encouraged setting up schedules for the family for everything that needs to get done, daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly! Appealing to me especially because of my training to be a schoolteacher, I implemented a loose system ever since and have reevaluated and updated it every year. It especially helps me and my husband prioritize with our time what ought to be most important in our lives. If it’s important, it ought to be on the schedule! If it’s important, we need to find time for it! The following are some of my schedules and chore charts from over the years.
With this peek into our structured lives, I offer the caveat that many families thrive with much less or no schedule. Use these as inspiration if you find them energizing, but if they feel frustrating or overwhelming, they aren’t required to have “blest” homeschool! You are not lacking if you have a less detailed (or no) schedule! For a variety of reasons, my husband and I place a great value on academic progress and value that in our homeschool, which lends itself to a detailed schedule. This can be a good thing, but is not always the best thing in homeschool. I need to constantly remind myself that we homeschool for many other good reasons, too, and that it’s okay to deviate from the schedule when “life” happens—that it’s not a failure to pause and be available for the emotional and physical needs of my children. The schedule I set up is meant to serve us, not rule us.
Here is a peek into how our homeschooling schedules have grown and changed over the years.
Two children, ages 1 and 2.5 years old
Notes about this schedule:
LLL is La Leche League. I had a playgroup I attended some mornings. I also prepped for leading educational meetings some afternoons.
I remember at this time in my life trying to fill the long days. The two girls were very busy, but after being an active and involved student for so many years myself, I found being at home all day with them overwhelming. I tried to schedule in at least one activity every day so that we would leave the house, mostly for my own sanity.
Preschool with my 2.5 year old daughter at this time consisted of singing a Bible song or hymn, reciting a simple Bible verse, reading a story, and doing a short activity together, such as putting together a puzzle, or playing with playdoh. At this point, I had not yet committed to full-time homeschooling.
Three children, ages 1.5, 3.5, and 5.
Notes about this schedule:
Compared to three years earlier, there is another human added to this schedule. I also notice that there are more academic things going on. We had visited several community preschools over the past year, and decided to homeschool our oldest for the near future. Still, we managed to have a lot of free-time for playing and exploring, with Mom as teacher switching between direct instruction between children, while those not being instructed were engaged in meaningful activities. Kindergarten curriculum took less than 3 hours per day.
Five children, ages 6 months, 3, 6, 8, and 9.5
Notes about this schedule:
As God richly gave us the gifts of more children, more creativity was needed in scheduling everything for my two full-time jobs: homemaking and homeschooling. Adding two children since the previous schedule was not such a challenge; rather, adding a 3-year-old boy to the mix, who was very physical, unlike his older bookish brother, was a challenge! Three mornings a week, 3-year-old was shipped off to a well-loved babysitter where he could have a playdate with another active young boy who is still his best friend. My husband would drop him off on the way to work and pick him up on his way home for lunch.
I am blessed to have a husband whose job allows him a lot of flexibility. He is willing and able to be very involved in our homeschool. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, he stayed home a little later (and worked a little later into the evening) in order to teach our three oldest children Latin and Science. At this point in our lives, I intentionally kept all of our academic work to the morning, so afternoons could be free for play and activities.
When looking at this schedule, it is helpful to know the key: Each capital initial stands for a different person’s first name. ‘M’ is for Marie, or ‘Mommy,’ whichever you prefer! Also, “seatwork” is my name for work the children do independently, including memory work, handwriting, spelling, and math facts. Looking back, I noticed I have myself scheduled to nap with the baby. That was a really good idea! Did it ever happen? I was too sleep deprived to remember!
Six children, ages 1, 4, 7, 10, 12, 13
Notes about this schedule:
Whee! This looks super complicated! But, it is my daily life…, and we do get a lot done! Compared to the previous schedule, the 2020 edition has locations for each person added to the subject matter. We’ve also adding “Morning Meeting” based on an idea from Teaching from Rest, which includes praying for each other, reciting a longer section of Scripture together, looking at beautiful art and listening to classical music, as well as map study and vocabulary words. It is the favorite part of my day.
This schedule also denotes the addition of a co-op that I attend with my sons, while my older daughters babysit my younger ones. (Game-changer!) On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my husband comes home for an extended lunch, and still teaches Latin and Science.
Compared to many of the earlier schedules, I spend considerably less time this year doing chores myself (because older children do many of them). However, this also means I spend little time thinking about chores and do much less supervising my younger children, whereas I used to be right there with them sweeping or wiping and training and encouraging. I used to spend a good chunk of my morning cooking and cleaning up breakfast together with my little ones, as well as doing particular house cleaning jobs on a daily or weekly basis. That is no longer the case, for better or worse! This is ironic because, in many ways, my house is just as clean as before with little effort from me. And in various other ways, it is quite a bit less kempt! Laundry is magically clean and folded and on my bed each Sunday evening. But, Monday morning when I call the children to start school, I am shocked and appalled to see that the table is still a sticky mess and there are scrambled eggs all over the floor!
Also, seeing as we are halfway through the school year, and I never exercise and my little ones have taken approximately two baths during History class, I think we can safely say that the best of intentions in scheduling don’t always come to fruition. Instead of bathing, the little one has a substantial extended snack all history class long, and his big sister makes large piles of paper schnitzels. I try to be patient with myself for the things I feel I ought to be doing (i.e. can you say, “exercise”?) but am not, and try to consider why it isn’t working out how I planned. When I next update my schedule, I plan to think about the fact that even though the early morning ought to be the most convenient time to exercise, I don’t actually do it. Maybe moving it to rest-time would work out better for me? In any case, we live and we learn. Whatever we may do or not do for school, however we may or may not structure our days, or years, I’m grateful that our family devotions and Scripture scaffold our day. Only there can we truly rest with confidence, assured that God consistently does everything that we need: He feeds us with His Word, He forgives all of our sins, and He equips us to serve each other in whatever vocations the days, or years, may bring.
Marie K. MacPherson is wife to Ryan, homeschooling mother of six, and child of God. She is the author of the devotion book Meditations on the Vocation of Motherhood (2018), and editor of Mothering Many: Sanity-Saving Strategies (2016). A certified Classical teacher from CCLE and Elementary Education graduate of Bethany Lutheran College, she enjoys researching and writing in her free time.