“How can I get it all done?”
This is the question of stay-at-home parents, and especially homeschooling parents, everywhere.
As common as this question may be, it’s sometimes hard to explain to people who don’t know this life. After all, as a homeschooling parent, you are the captain of your own time-ship, right? You have all this flexibility! Surely, life must be easier because of that, right?
The answer, as you probably already know, is complicated.
It’s undeniable that flexibility is a privilege that not everyone has. As a homeschooling parent, you get to see more of your children than other parents do. You probably also get to travel more. You get to go on field trips, nature hikes, and do all kinds of fun stuff!
Maybe you even work from home or pursue other interests as part of your flexible schedule. To the more structured majority of the world, it may seem like you are living the dream. And, in some ways, you definitely are.
However, that’s not to say that the life and schedule of a homeschooling parent is easy.
And actually, because of the many things you get to do and the flexibility with which you get to do them, the schedule of a homeschooling parent can actually become pretty difficult to manage.
The Juggle Struggle
Just like stay-at-home parents often experience the weight of responsibility from being “on call” 24/7, homeschool parents also experience this…but more.
Full-time homeschooling parents (usually moms, but I don’t want to forget about those awesome homeschooling dads out there), aren’t just full-time parents. They are also full-time teachers. More often than not, the roles of parent/teacher/homemaker/errand-runner/budgeteer/spouse/numerous other roles are all kind of mixed up into this kind of 24/7 whirlwind of responsibility. (Many of us have other jobs, on top of all of this!)
I’m not saying that people who work full-time and have children in public school aren’t seriously busy. I am saying that it’s a different kind of busy. When you have a full-time job outside of the home, and your children are being cared for by other people, you are able to compartmentalize a bit and fill one role at a time.
This is a lot harder to do as a homeschool parent. You can’t really compartmentalize. You are all the things . . . all the time. Honestly, I think it’s this ongoing “juggle struggle” that makes it so hard to get things done as a homeschooling parent.
While we can’t change the fact that homeschool parenting will always involve a lot of multi-tasking (that’s kind of the nature of the game) there are definitely some pitfalls that we can do our best to avoid.
One of them is a stress-inducing homeschool schedule.
In today’s post, we’re going to look at 9 common issues that might be messing up your homeschool schedule and making it hard to get things done. So, if you find yourself struggling to get things done in your homeschool, here are 9 questions you may want to ask yourself.
9 Questions to Ask When Your Homeschool Schedule Isn’t Working
1. Do you even have a schedule?
Yes, this is the ultimate obvious question, but truly: do you have a real schedule in place? Can you recall a time that you sat down and made a physical plan for how and when you would teach your kids? Did you look at the requirements for the year for each subject and create some kind of timeline? And, most importantly, did you stick to your plan until it became a routine?
I’m not a natural planner, and sometimes my plans end up looking a bit . . . messy. Therefore, I totally understand how it’s possible to think your schedule “is falling apart” (thus leading you to this article), when the reality is that you never actually had a real schedule at all.
No worries though. It’s never too late to get organized. The first step is to be honest with yourself. The second is to make an actual plan. The third (and maybe most important) is to follow through! Follow through until you don’t have to think about it anymore.
Your plans don’t have to be perfect or extremely-detailed, but they do have to be something you can stick with.
2. Are you overly-committed?
It’s pretty funny that one of the assumptions people make about homeschoolers is that they never get out of the house. Most of the homeschoolers I’ve ever known were busy: sports, church activities, 4 H, music lessons, volunteer commitments, part-time jobs, etc. Homeschooling parents typically like to make sure our kids get plenty of socialization, variety and responsibilities.
The truth, especially as kids get older, is that sometimes homeschoolers do a little too much. In fact, over-committing to activities is probably one of the most common pitfalls of a homeschool schedule.
You already know if this describes you and your family. You’ve probably been struggling for awhile with feeling like you need to give your kids all of these additional experiences, while simultaneously finding it impossible to cover all the academic ground that is necessary.
The solution? Prioritize and simplify. Here are some factors to consider in terms of priorities.
- Which extra-curricular activities are your children most passionate about?
- Which commitments are instilling valuable academic, moral or practical learning? (And which ones aren’t?)
- Are there any activities that more than one child can attend at the same time (AKA less division of time)?
- Are there any special interests your child could pursue from home, therefore integrating it more smoothly into school time? For instance, your student with an interest in art could take professional online courses through Sparketh on his/her own time (and you won’t have to drive anywhere).
Letting go of activities can be difficult, but sometimes it’s totally necessary. If the main thing hindering your homeschool progress has to do with doing too much, consider prioritizing and simplifying your list of commitments.
3. Are you doing enough extracurricular activities?
I know, I know. This is the flip side of the last point. However, it’s a very real issue, especially among homeschooling parents with several young kids.
Whereas homeschooling parents of older kids and teens may feel like they are always in the car doing a million activities, those with younger children may feel like they are trapped inside their home with a bunch of wild monkeys.
Again, you already know if this is you.
If you feel like you and your kids are home way too much, committing to a couple of activities outside of the home could actually be a really good thing for your homeschool schedule. Here are a few reasons why:
- If you didn’t have a schedule before, having commitments to work around provides some structure to start with.
- By giving kids a fun and/or physical outlet to enjoy, you are helping them get some of that energy out. This often helps younger kids sleep and/or focus better.
- Extracurricular learning helps your children find out more about who they are and what they love. This may impact how you teach them and what they invest in, learning-wise.
- Extracurricular activities can also help hone a sense of responsibility, which will positively impact your homeschoolers’ attitudes.
- Especially if you have younger kids, letting someone else be responsible for them for awhile can help you (and your kids) refresh and reset…and maybe even give you some time to catch up on planning (or whatever you need that time for!)
Essentially: if you are feeling cabin-fever-ish, find a way to get those kids out of the house and doing something else, with someone else! It can be good for everyone.
4. Are you/your children morning birds or night owls?
Not all kids (or adults) function their best at 7:30 a.m.
A big benefit of homeschooling is that you aren’t limited to a traditional school schedule, so if you are teaching a night owl (or early bird) you can build your homeschool schedule around your learners’ most functional time of day.
You can also consider your own natural tendencies. Personally, I am not an early bird, and I definitely don’t function at my best before coffee. This doesn’t mean that I won’t teach my early-bird daughter in the morning, but it does mean that I plan on her doing independent educational activities (or honestly, watching an educational documentary or something) while mama’s caffeine kicks in.
I’ve met homeschool families who rise early and get everything done before noon, and I’ve also met homeschool families who believe in sleeping in late and do work in the late afternoon/evening. If your current schedule isn’t working, consider making some tweaks based on whether your family is consists of early birds/night owls (or a mixture of both). And if you aren’t totally sure who is what, you can always take a quiz to find out.
5. Are you spending too much time on school?
If you never feel like you have enough time at home to get school tasks and life tasks done, then you might actually be spending too much time on school.
With homeschooling, the extremely small student-to-teacher ration means that active, personalized instruction happens on a much more regular basis than in a public school setting. This means, that most homeschooling students don’t need 7 or 8 hours of school time.
With personalized instruction, most homeschooled students pick up new material more quickly than their public school peers. They will also be able to work independently, some of the time.
If you’re trying to mimic a public school schedule in a one-on-one instructional format, it’s likely to cause some stress and probably some resentment (for both you and your homeschooled student.) It will also likely leave you feeling like you don’t have any time left over for regular life stuff (especially if you are teaching more than one homeschooler.)
If this sounds like you, try taking some of the pressure off yourself. Maybe choose mornings or afternoons for school-time. Schedule time for your “life stuff,” and your “school stuff.” Go for quality over quantity, and see if it makes a difference in your schedule and in your life!
6. Is one problem area dragging you down?
Many parents choose to homeschool specifically so that they can help their child in an academic area that is challenging for him or her. While the ability to give your child extra attention in a problem area is definitely a homeschooling pro, it can present its own challenges.
Sometimes (not all the time), we can get so focused on the problem area that it ends up eating up a lot of the academic day. Focusing too much on an area that’s challenging for a child can also cause tension and strain that affects the rest of the school day negatively, slowing everything down.
I’m not saying this happens often, but it can happen.
Children obviously become stressed when working on a subject that’s hard for them, and teaching a student something they don’t want to learn isn’t easy for adults, either. However, homeschooling doesn’t just offer the opportunity to make math (for instance) more accessible…it also offers the opportunity to make it less scary.
Personally, I think it’s important to remember the “less scary,” part. I think that when students can be encouraged by small successes, they become more willing to learn subjects that were intimidating, before.
So, if one problem area has been dragging your whole day down, think about how you might be able to set your goals for that academic subject differently and maybe some reasonable incentives you can offer your homeschooled students for tackling something that’s hard for them.
You may find that you actually progress more quickly by moving more slowly, reinforcing new concepts frequently, and making the problem area more accessible (and less scary) to your learner.
It’s okay to take things slowly, as long as you keep moving forward.
7. Do you have help?
When I talk about feeling like you can’t get it all done, I’m not just talking about the books and the essays and the math worksheets. As I mentioned before, the lives of homeschool parents are an ongoing “juggle struggle.” Homeschooling impacts every facet of your life, just as other facets of your life impact your homeschool schedule.
You are the only one who knows your life and what kind of help you need/ feel comfortable asking for. However, I want to encourage you to ask for help in some way, in some area of your life.
For example, you might seek out:
- Homeschooling help that comes in the form of a language tutor, homeschool co-op or online art class.
- Babysitting or daycare assistance that allows you to work, run errands, or get ahead in your homeschool planning.
- Housework or organizational help that allows you to teach more effectively in your home.
Homeschooling doesn’t have to be isolating, but it can be if you let it. Don’t go it alone. Find a tribe. Find support. It will help you run a tighter ship and be happier, too.
8. Do you have little ones?
What if you have a new baby and/or little children (5 and under) while also homeschooling older children?
Well, I’m not going to lie about it. Your homeschool schedule is going to have interruptions. Babies interrupt. Toddlers do crazy things. You are powerless to stop it. However, there are a few things you can do to create a “new normal,” for your homeschool schedule:
- Plan quality time with your youngest children in the morning; they will feel more settled for the rest of the day.
- Have independent activities prepared for older children that they know to work on in case of interruptions.
- Prepare a homeschool space that includes things for the youngest children to do.
- Plan some crafts (or other activities) that younger and older kids can do together; this will make your little ones feel more involved.
- Have special toys/activities for babies/younger children that are only accessible to them when you are teaching.
(These ideas are summarized from our full article on the subject of homeschooling with little ones. Check it out, here).
9. Are you claiming your time?
Okay, here it is. Probably the most important thing you can do to keep your homeschool schedule from going off the rails is to claim your time. Whenever you do anything from home, people aren’t really going to respect your time unless you respect it, first.
I can personally attest to this as a homeschooling mom who earned her MA remotely and works remotely. (Honestly, I’m not anti-social. I just live in a rural, remote area).
It has been very easy for my local friends and family to forget I am doing these other things, simply because I do them from my house. If I was going to physical classes for my MA, or into an office to do work, or taking my daughter to school, it’d be more understandable for people. However, one of the prices of flexibility is that people just don’t automatically understand the fact that you actually do have time commitments.
At least, they don’t understand it unless you help them understand it. As a homeschooling parent, you are the only one who is in charge of claiming the time that you need to homeschool. And if you don’t claim that time, it will get eaten up, fast.
This might mean blocking out certain areas of the day, every day, and refusing to make appointments during those hours. It might mean saying “no,” to people who think you can drop what you’re doing. Some people won’t get it.
Homeschooling is valuable, and the time it requires is valuable. Remember that as you plan a homeschooling schedule that works for you and your life.
Which of these 9 common homeschooling scheduling issues hits home with you? What will you do to help work out the kinks?