By Kelly Sage of Curiosity Encouraged
Four years ago, when we first started homeschooling, I wanted a change from the constraints my busy teaching schedule offered. We started homeschooling for a variety of reasons, one being I wanted time.
I wanted to be able to spend as much time as we wanted reading and curled up on the couch. I didn’t want to worry about how much time we played at the park, how long it took to eat lunch, or how long it took my children to figure out fractions.
I wanted to offer my children what I could never offer my students. I wanted them to have time to learn. But, I knew as someone with a type A personality, a day that was totally open and free wouldn’t be ideal. We needed a guide, with room for flexibility and spontaneity.
We needed to create a homeschool rhythm.
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Homeschool Rhythm or Schedule
Some might say I was looking for a schedule. That’s actually what I was trying to avoid. My life as a teacher was scheduled. I taught 7th grade Reading Workshop from 9 am- 10:15, 9th grade Writer’s Workshop from 10:30- 11:45. I could eat at 12:15. It didn’t matter if my students were ready or wanting to read or write during class time or if they were and didn’t want to stop when the bell rang. Maybe I was hungry at 11. How we spent our time was very much determined for us.
The difference between a rhythm and a schedule, in my mind, is the difference between a list of things you’d like to do or might do vs. a list of things you are told to do.
Rhythm is a guide. Schedules feel more like a boss.
No More Schedules
After being a classroom teacher for nine years, I was done being bossed around. Done being told what I had to teach and when, how long a unit could last, how many tests I had to give in six weeks, and how long it “should” take a child to learn. Homeschooling offered my family the opportunity to take back the autonomy of our day, what we learned and when we learned it.
Instead of scheduling math every day at 9 AM, we divide our days into blocks of time: Morning, Afternoon, and Evening. The order of what we do is not important and might change every day. Sometimes we begin with math; sometimes we need to start outside. Regardless, our goals and priorities within those spans of time remain and guide us.
Our family rhythm changes each season. Four times a year, I sit down with my children, and we plan how we’d like to spend our days. What are they interested in learning and doing? What are their goals? What are my goals? Once we have a good list going, we consider times we’ll need to be home or out of the house, my work schedule, and family meals. Then we visually create our rhythm on paper, hang it on the pantry door (since they are constantly eating I know they’ll see it!) and give it a try. We always have to make tweaks here and there, but creating a homeschool rhythm offers us exactly what I hoped homeschooling would be- time together and plenty of time to learn.
How to Create a Homeschool Rhythm
No matter our child’s age, I think it’s vital they are included in planning a rhythm. I’ve found children not only appreciate and love being included, and they also have great ideas and are more motivated to follow a rhythm when they’ve helped create it.
1. Begin By Creating a Vision Board or Bucket List
Every time my kids and I sit down to revise our rhythm, we begin with a sheet of paper and colored pencils. On the paper, they list or draw everything they’d love to do or learn over the next few months. They know these are not things they HAVE to do, and we might not get to all of them. The list, like our rhythm, is a guide.
2. Consider the Seasons
In our family, as I’d guess happens in most, the seasons depict a lot of our interests and activities. I also find every few months we are ready for a new start. This doesn’t mean if something isn’t working with our rhythm we keep doing it until the season changes. We change what needs to be changed throughout the year.
What it means is we sit down together, talk about how we want to spend our days, and once again create a visual of what we’d like our time to look like.
While reading, writing, math and a variety of other subjects are focused on each season, I’ve noticed a seasonal pattern to how we spend our days.
In the fall, excited to be re-joining homeschool classes, recharged from summer, and eager to reconnect with teachers and friends, we dive into unit studies and projects. Learning new things is often our focus.
In the winter, our rhythm includes more time at home, a lot more reading and playing games. Not being huge fans of the cold, it involves less time outside, and a lot of time dedicated to gift making and holidays.
Spring brings new classes, an increased amount of time outside, a review of what we’ve learned and accomplished thus far, and a nudge to do a little more or finish up projects.
Summer is vacations, summer camps, a lot of time at the beach, library reading programs, and time to just play.
Think about your family’s interests and priorities. When do you spend more time outside, traveling, or in the library?
Discuss needs and priorities. For instance, when is everyone typically hungry, when does dinner need to happen so everyone can be present, when does each child learn best. My son prefers doing math in the morning. My daughter likes to read with me at night. Math, reading, and having at least two meals together are priorities for me. Screen time is a priority for my children. Having time to play and do projects is important to all of us. We make sure these things are part of our rhythm.
4. Put It On Paper
The look of our rhythm changes each time we create it. We’ve drawn our rhythm in a circle, created charts, and calendars. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. What matters is the visualization makes sense to your family, and you give it a try!
Interested in planning your homeschool rhythm? I’m giving away a free homeschool consult. I’ll spend an hour with you, one on one, via Zoom, and help you create your family’s homeschool rhythm.
As homeschoolers, we get to choose how we spend our days. We do not have to be overscheduled or tied down by a clock. While some things, like the classes our children take, meals, and bedtimes might need a set time, the other parts of our day can be flexible.
Allowing our children the extra time they need to learn, seeing how interested our kids are in a story and reading one more chapter or three, taking advantage of a beautiful day and spending the entire afternoon at the park- I’ve never regretted giving my children time. I have only regretted taking it away.
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