January 12, 2010

How I schedule school subjects

The short answer is, I don't.  Can we still be friends?  We're in our 4ish year of homeschooling and the first few years I spent hours, HOURS I tell you, writing out schedules.  Every week I sat down to write out what we'd do the following week.  Then someone would get sick.  Or the library wouldn't get the book in time.  Or my husband deployed on 24-hours notice.  Or whatever.  And the schedule would get all messed up so I would sit down and re-write it.  Then it would get all messed up.  So I would sit down and re-write it.  Then it would get all messed up....wait, there's a pattern here.  I'm sort of slow and it took me a while to figure that out.

So I changed my planning to a more generalized this-is-what-we'll-study-this month.  And wouldn't you know it, the same crazy pattern popped up.  I then started planning by the term.  Same thing.  Okay, year, the year will work.  No, it won't.

ARGH!!!!  (I think I was a pirate in a previous life because I love to say ARGH.)  Anywho....the stress I felt because I couldn't stick to a schedule was driving me insane.  Literally.  I had to change.

Now what I do is pick a book and start reading it.  When we're done, we move on to the next one.  No more figuring out that I need to read 5 pages each day in order to finish by such-and-so time.  We open the math book and do the next lesson.  If we miss a day for whatever reason, we do the next lesson the next day.  Not exactly rocket science, but hey, I'm not a rocket scientist.
In order to help my aging brain remember what I was supposed to do every day I made a magnetic chart.  I'm learning that I'm a visual person and if I ask my kids to hold me to something, they will.  With a vengeance. So we now have this chart with each day of the school week (Monday through Friday, although sometimes we learn on other days, too).  Each day has a picture (with the written words) for each subject I'm hoping to teach that day.  When we've finished a subject, we take it off the board and put it in the bag.  At a glance I can see what we still need to do that day.  And so can the kids.  "Mom, we haven't done composer study yet."  "Hey, you need to do my reading lessons."  Darn those pesky kids.

Most of our subjects are done together so there's just one magnet for History or Science.  Other subjects are individual though.  To make it easier for us all, I colored-coded those.  For example, each boy has time with me to work on reading and spelling.  So I have 3 subjects labeled "Reading time with mom".  Around the edge of each one is a boy's color (they chose red, green and black).

Because I have 3 kids in school we decided that each week a different kid would "go first", meaning they would be the first one to work with me individually while the others did their independent work.  I made a small sticker that goes on the bottom.  It sits next to a label that says, "Goes first" (I'm creative like that.)  That boy is also the School Leader for the week.  He is responsible for choosing who says morning prayer and makes sure his brothers aren't playing with toys during lessons.  He also gets the coveted job of taking the magnets off the board.

Thus far the system has worked really well for us.  It's helped us make sure that everything gets done in the day.  It's also shown me patterns that I can work on.  For a while Read-Aloud was never taken off the board.  I looked at our day and figured out a way to rearrange it and now we're getting it done.  It was just a time of day issue, but I hadn't realized it was a problem until I saw that it was never happening.

Now does this mean I have no overall plan for our education?  No.  We're doing American History right now and I have a list of books that we're reading through, in chronological order.  I'm just not worrying about getting them done in a certain amount of time.  Sometimes we fly through them and read a book in a day because we're so interested in it.  Other times we stop and spend a lot of time with a person or topic from a book.  And often we chase those wonderful bunny trails of learning - you know, the question that leads to a question that leads to another one and soon you're way off topic but you're learning and exploring together.  I've decided that it's okay if we don't finish History in one term.  It's okay to just go with it.  As long as we're moving forward and enjoying the process of learning I'm at peace.

I have the same sort of system for our other subjects too.  Science we do our own special way.  Math we just follow the book.  Same with spelling.  And scripture study.  I pick a curriculum or book or series of books and we work through them.  Ah, life is much simpler for me and I'm not wasting hours every week writing and re-writing my schedule.

In case you want to make your own chart (and really, who wouldn't?), here are some fun resources for clip-art.  I did a lot of googling as well.


And in case you're wondering what subjects we have for each day....
Every day - Scriptures, Circle Time, History, Math (x2), Handwriting, Read-Aloud, Science, Reading Lessons With Mom (x3), Workboxes
Monday - Composer
Tuesday - Artist Study
Wednesday - Poetry
Thursday - Art Lessons
Friday - instead of History we do Geography.  We also don't have an 'elective' on Friday because we try to go on a field trip.


  1. i absolutely LOVE this idea!!! i am nodding and agreeing with absolutely everything you said about schedules and feeling like a failure and not getting it all done - my dear sweet soul sister!!! I had finally made up a sheet that I was writing everything down that we were gonna do but it was just more work for me to do since i was just writing down the same thing over and over again!! i am gonna probably spend the entire weekend making my own board to use on monday - thank you so much for sharing this!!! i think i might even take it one step further and put up the name of the composer and artist we are studying for that time frame because we do that for 12 weeks at a time or not....

  2. i did it - i totally copied your idea!! you can read about it if oyu want!!! http://boysschoolandfun.blogspot.com/2010/01/schedule.html

    thanks again so much for the idea!!!

  3. Hypothetically speaking, say I know this homeschool mom that really likes schedules and wants the one pictured above (with an additional pink outlined set because she hypothetically has a girl along with her 3 boys).... how does she go about getting her buddy to make one for her??

  4. How do you incorporate your workboxes--what goes in them now that you have this system--do you use them for individual work like review, piano, etc? Just curious, because I love your system! I did see where back in October you had info. about workboxes and I was wondering if you had modified what goes in them. I have 2 boys, 6 and 8.

    Thanks, Kerri

  5. Kerri -

    We took a break from workboxes for a while (vacation, etc) and are starting them back up again next week. The older boys (10 and 9) want to continue using them, but only 3 days a week. For now, every day they will have a math worksheet, a grammar page (from Growing with Grammar), a page from Explode the Code, a reminder to exercise, and a copy work assignment. These are the subjects they asked for in the workboxes. I will add in "practice piano" as soon as they start getting actual assignments to practice.

    They work on them whenever they have a spare moment or when I need a few minutes to get something done, like make lunch or read to the youngest. If it's not done by the end of the school day, they need to finish it before they can play. Each page takes 5 minutes or less.

    The 6 year old will do workboxes too, 3 days a week. He will do a handwriting practice page, a short math worksheet, a page from Explode the Code, a reminder to exercise, and a fun activity (coloring page, puzzle, game, etc). He loves to write on the white board so I often include a white board, pen and eraser with an index card with some words for him to copy to the board.

    I have stopped adding in "fun" activities to their workboxes because they would get distracted and frustrated that it took so long. Now they just to the work then have extra free time where they can do those "fun" activities. They usually get a small piece of candy or a few minutes of computer time once they finish. Or they can play at the park, go for a bike ride, etc.

  6. Since we need to be gearing up for school I was searching my google reader for schedule info and found this. What a sweetly awesome idea! Thanks for sharing.

  7. This is what I was trying to do with our family but since it is our first year I thought I was being way too lenient with our "schedule." I'm glad to see it works for your family...it gives me hope that the ideas I have for my family will be ok even if the rest of the world doesn't do things like us.

  8. Love your ideas and your humor. I still plan out for a term but leave the last week empty for catch up. Last term we some how ended ahead of schedule, imagine that.

    I am off to read more about your science and then want to read about your ipod. Alot of good stuff here.


  9. I absolutely love this idea! I hope I can implement it right away. I have the same problem. I also have the same problem with chores. Maybe this would be a great idea for them also. Hmmm? :)
    I was wondering what I was doing with the workbox thing. I just couldn't organize it. I was having such a brain fart everytime I tried to implement something. I like you would rewrite and rewrite. I felt like such a bad parent for not getting it all done. I am leaving it all behind. Thanks :) sherry