Have you ever noticed that no matter what task we have to do, it fills up whatever time we have? If we know our in-laws are coming for dinner on Friday night and it’s Monday, we spend all week cleaning the house. But, if it’s Friday afternoon and they call to announce that they’ll be over in a few hours to pick you all up for dinner, the house still manages to get clean.
The same thing happens with school work and our kids. We teach a math lesson and give them a worksheet while we either sit there tapping our fingers or leave them to it while we run to throw a load of towels in the washer. As far as they know, that’s all they have to do for an indefinite period, so why rush through it? It’s way more interesting to stare out the window, kick a sibling under the table, or get 3 drinks of water.
I know, not every kid will be like that. Some kids will eagerly breeze through every worksheet, textbook, and reading assignment and be completely done with schoolwork by 11 a.m. This post is for the rest of us.
By creating a schedule, we are creating a time frame in which our children need to complete their work. With enough searching, you can figure out realistically how much time each subject should take each child at his/her level. Curricula vary in their time expectations, so I’m not going to say there’s a hard and fast rule for anything here. You also need to take into account your child’s level of competence and working speed. Some kids can churn math worksheets and essays out with enough motivation. Some kids try and try and still take forever, so be sure to factor all of that in.
Anyway, after you figure out about how long each subject should take, make a list with every subject and the length of time it should take (be sure to count the actual instruction time you spend with them as well) for each child. Be sure to mark by each subject whether it usually requires your input and/or whether it is a group subject.
Then, make a chart on the computer or a piece of paper with 15- or 30- (at the most) minute intervals. Pencil in each subject, starting with the ones that require your hands-on attention. Make a separate chart for each child. If you have a lot of outside commitments, you may need to make separate charts for each day (or, a M-W-F chart and a Tu-Th chart or whatever–you get the drift). Be sure not to schedule yourself to teach math to one child and reading to another at the same time! This step could take a while, but keep at it; it will be worth it, I promise!
Post the charts where everyone can see them. For younger children, set a timer for each new subject. Older kids are sometimes motivated by a timer as well, or they can just watch the clock. At the designated time, they need to move onto the next subject, whether or not they’re done with the first one. Whatever is left over is “homework” for later in the day. You know, later when their neighborhood friends come over to play, later when Dad comes home, later when you decide to take only those kids who have finished their schoolwork to the store.
What this does is to free you from saying “Hurry up already!” every five minutes. It also frees you from waiting on the little darlings to finish one thing so you can teach another subject. One of my kids used to drag out one or two subjects ALL day and then announce that she was ready for me to teach her the next thing right as I was getting ready to make dinner. This method cured that!
When kids reach middle school, or even a year or two before that, they’re ready to have a copy of their daily or weekly schedule (what they’re expected to do in each subject) so that they can work through more subjects on their own. This helps to foster a sense of ownership and autonomy. Check back tomorrow for more tips on how to do scheduling with older kids.
Go check out my friends’ blogs, too:
10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick