Our homeschool schedule really isn’t one. We operate more along the lines of “rhythm and routine.”

That sounds pretty chill and soulful, doesn’t it? Like, we just let go of stress and obligations, and the important stuff gets done. That sure would be nice. But anybody with a dirty kitchen and unfinished math homework knows it doesn’t work that way.

When I say that we don’t have a schedule, I don’t mean that we just “let things happen.” Our homeschool has a very definite structure, thanks to Darren. Each Sunday afternoon, he plans the kids’ assignments for the week. His plans give me the confidence that as long as we accomplish that week’s tasks, we will stay on track for the year.

But on a day-to-day basis, things are more flexible. We don’t operate by a schedule that looks something like this:

  • 8:30: Breakfast
  • 9:00: Language Arts
  • 10:00: Break
  • 10:15: Math
  • 11:15: Break
  • 11:30: Spelling
  • 12:00: Lunch

I mean, nobody in this house wants to eat breakfast at 8:30. Gamerboy isn’t even out of bed by 9:00! And who wants to do math at 10:15? How about 10:15 at night instead? What if I did my Language Arts and Spelling together, and then took a half-hour break? I’ll do my reading while I eat lunch and get that out of the way . . .

And that’s how rhythm and routine works.

The kids have a lot of choice in when and how they do their work. The only real requirement is that it must be done.

Usually, I take the mornings to write. The kids get up gradually, watch YouTube videos and chat online, and get something to eat. About 11:00, I look over the day’s plans. The kids need me to get them moving and keep them on track, and I use a different approach with each child:

Ranger (age 11): I gather the schoolbooks he’ll need and give him a ten-minute warning to start time. We still go through his subjects together.

Sparkler (age 14): She likes me to assign certain times to each subject. She can, of course, rearrange the schedule if she needs to, but she likes the concrete schedule to follow.

Gamerboy (age 17): A concrete schedule irritates and oppresses him. So for him, I arrange his subjects according to “quick” and “takes time,” and leave it up to him to accomplish his school as he sees fit. This isn’t a foolproof plan—we frequently deal with “I didn’t do that because I didn’t have time” or “I stayed up really late getting that done, and I don’t remember anything I read.” On the other hand, he’s learned a lot about how to manage his time and has a sense of how he works best.

Bookgirl (19): She graduated last year, so she’s not technically under my stewardship anymore. However, she’s working every other day and taking two online classes with the local community college, which are new demands for her. So I still give her helpful nudges (“Do you have something to pack for lunch tomorrow? Have you done whatever reading you need to do for your class tomorrow?”) as she’s figuring out how to balance her workload.

Somewhere between 11:30 and 12:30, I sit down with Ranger to do school together. His normal routine includes English, spelling, reading, science, and math. It takes anywhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour to get through the day’s lessons. Rarely do we have to go beyond thirty minutes.

Then I assign independent work for him. I usually give him a page of spelling, a page of English, and ten or so math problems. (I never assign the entire lesson of math; twenty problems of concepts he already knows doesn’t reinforce anything except frustration.) Last year, Ranger was required to do the independent work immediately. This year, he’s matured enough that he can choose when he wants to do it, as long as it’s done by suppertime.

Around 1:00, I’ll remind Gamerboy that school is required and he needs to figure out how to accomplish his day’s assignments. Sometimes he’s already knocked out some schoolwork; more often he growls, “I will! Just a minute.” I’ll check in on him once more in the afternoon, but then I leave him to experience the consequences of his own choices.

At 3:00, the household Electronics Cutoff takes effect: no electronics until 5:00. The kids do the bulk of their school during this time (although sometimes Sparkler likes to save this time for painting or working with clay). I meet with Gamerboy to sit through his math lectures, since it helps him focus if I’m there. I also often read science with Sparkler and go over any questions about her English class.

Their school is supposed to be done by suppertime, which is about 6:15. If they haven’t finished something, they have to finish it after chores (7:30) and before they get back on electronics. Most of the time they don’t like having evening work, but sometimes they decide it’s worth it to have more downtime during the day.

Last year this routine was broken up by outside classes, lessons, and co-op. This year it’s mostly online, which is a little boring but gives them more time to get their work done.

Sometimes, yes, our day goes completely haywire. Work doesn’t get done, kids melt down, and I’m exhausted after being the principal and guidance counselor and classroom teacher and mom who makes chai tea for a kid’s online class. But for the most part, this “rhythm and routine” works great for us.

If you read over this post with a knot in your stomach, thinking, “That would never work for me!” then good news! You don’t have to do it this way! But if you think, “Wow. I love how that sounds!” then I encourage you to consider your kids’ tastes and needs and to develop your own homeschool rhythm and routine.


Photo credit: iStock.