Why Your Homeschool Schedule Isn't Working and What You Can Do Instead

Years ago, when I first began this homeschooling journey, I was determined to do this thing right. Having been a classroom teacher before having my own children, I had a preconceived notion of how “doing school” ought to look. School flowed with a precise schedule.

Homeschool schedules
{As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Occasionally posts contains other affiliate links as well.}

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #454545}

The bell rang to begin at 8:30 in the morning. At 10:00, we took a morning break from our work. At 11:30 we went to lunch. At 12:30 we had P.E. At 2:30 in the afternoon we began cleaning up and packing up. And at 3:00, kids were dismissed to waiting parents. A precise schedule worked in the classroom.

And then I tried a structured homeschool schedule.

As a young homeschooling mom, I picked up a book that I had seen recommended a number of times. Written by veteran homeschooling parents, the book was intended to help homeschool moms organize their days, using a precise schedule.

I jumped into the idea of this precise scheduling wholeheartedly. I used a HUGE whiteboard that I purchased at Walmart to lay out my structured schedule. The days were broken into thirty minute increments with each person’s planned activities coordinating.

The idea behind implementing this schedule was to stick with it religiously. The author of the book even recommended setting a timer for the thirty minute increments so that you would know when to change activities.

I was enthusiastic. My family thought I was crazy. I was excited about how organized and productive our days were going to be. My family thought I was crazy. I explained the giant master schedule to everyone and found a timer to use. My family thought I was crazy.

Day one dawned. We were (mostly) up and going at our designated time- 8am. (I’m sorry. The book suggested 6am for mom to get up and started, but I don’t do 6am. Pretty much anything before 8am is still night for me.) We all made it to breakfast at 8:30am, the next item on our schedule.

And then the structured schedule didn’t look so good.

Around this time, things started to go awry. Kids didn’t finish breakfast quickly enough. There was some foot dragging. There were sleepy kids. By the time we were supposed to move into our morning devotions at 9am, we were falling behind.

The attempt at staying on schedule with the timer only created stress. We couldn’t accomplish much at all in the way of school because just about the time we were engrossed in something, the stupid efficient timer went off. And by noon, not only were we behind schedule, we were all near tears- me most of all.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that we are not a strict schedule family. It just doesn’t work for us. It isn’t necessarily a bad system. But it’s not the way we roll.

Homeschool schedules

When a Homeschool Schedule Doesn’t Work

With a little trial and error, I found what did work for us. We aren’t a strict schedule family. But our homeschool does run (mostly) smoothly with routines.

What’s the difference? And why do routines work so well for us? I’m glad you asked.

Routines aren’t based on set times.

I’ll be honest folks. I like to sleep in some days. If we don’t have any outside activities for the day, I’d just as soon start school a little later. That’s not easy with a strict schedule. Maybe it’s my OCD speaking, but if the schedule says we start at 8am, we start at 8am. No. Matter. What.

With routines, we can have a flow to our days, but we can be flexible about times. We can sleep a little late. We can spend longer on some subjects and shorter on others. If we’re engrossed in a great book, we can keep reading. A timer won’t stop us. Routines are based on the flow of events, not on times on the clock.

Routines provide a flow that helps kids- and moms- know what to expect.

When we get up and going in the morning, we’re meeting for devotions. It doesn’t matter if we get up at 8am or at 10am (not that we would, of course), our day will begin in the same way. After devotions, we’re going to work on any work that we do together. It doesn’t matter what time we get started on that work, the flow of what we’re doing is the same.

This constancy helps all of us. It helps me because it gives me one less thing to figure out. I’m not scrambling to think what we need to do next or trying to figure out how we’re going to get schoolwork done today. I know what we’re going to do. The kids don’t have to wonder what we’re doing. They don’t have to ask. They don’t get a shock. “What do you mean we have to do math today?!” The constancy of routine keeps things moving without stress and without (much) struggle.

Routines give us some accountability without undue stress.

Remember the timer? The whole point in using a timer with your strict homeschooling schedule is to hold everyone accountable. The timer keeps everyone moving to the next activity and makes it more likely that you’ll actually accomplish what you are supposed to accomplish. Unfortunately, the timer- at least for us- can also create stress. “Oh no! I only have two math problems left, but the timer went off!”

But without any accountability, the other side of the coin is to be so relaxed that nobody ever has any certain expectation about what should get done and when. I’ve been there too, my friend. And it’s far too easy to slip into a situation where nothing is getting accomplished.

With our routines, we have a set flow to the day. We always begin with devotions. We always, then, move to together work. We always start together work with Bible. After lunch we always have a break time for about an hour and then we start back to work. We know what to expect, and the routine holds us accountable to actually be doing it. But, without the need to adhere to strict times, we can move from task to task without stress.

So, what kind of homeschooler are you? If the idea of a strict schedule causes you to break out in hives but you feel the need for some accountability, try establishing routines in your homeschool. Routines give a flow and plan to your day without the constraint of the clock to cause stress and frustration.

Tell me what you think. Do you use a strict schedule or a routine?