Working and Homeschooling: Cutting Back to Allow Downtime

Working and HomeschoolingI must have changed our school schedule 20 times in the past year.  We are currently in a season of needing to be adaptable so our schedule adapts to our current needs.  Since I added a third child to the mix I’ve found it difficult to be able to meet every child’s need with the time I had.  Add to that the couple hours I spent working online after the kids went to bed and it was too much.  I had to find a solution where my kids would have their needs met and I would have some down time each day.  Out of necessity and to borrow some ideas from our unschooling past, I revamped our schedule.

Basically, I cut the formal school day shorter by about 45 minutes and my kids only have formal academics four days a week.  Those times are not school holidays though.  The 45 minutes at the end of the school day is for child-initiated learning.  The 5th day of the week allows me to work about 5 hours while the kids are learning independently.  This makes my work at night much shorter the other days of the week.  I’ve only done this when we have a full week of school.  If my kids have a day off for a holiday or another reason then we skip our independent learning day that week.

How do the independent learning days work?  My boys write up a plan for their day.  They simply write a list about what they want to do.  At the start of the day I approve or disapprove things on their list.  I want them to be able to tell me what they plan to learn by doing each activity.  In other words, things like playing Mario won’t pass muster.  I’m pretty lenient as to what they choose.  One of their top favorites is doing history projects on Roblox.  One son is making the Shang Dynasty from ancient China.  He built a palace, a house, and is working on more.  Another son built the Great Wall of China and started to build ancient Troy.  Art and logic games are also top picks.  My little girl likes to do what she likes to do everyday.  She loves to draw and has started making story books with papers stapled together.  I do require an hour of foreign language for the independent learning day.  Their foreign language that day is independent and is usually game-based or it involves watching a DVD.  At the end of the day I get together with them and have them show me what they have done or tell me what they have learned.

We are making great strides in our academics the other four days so I have no concerns that this will make us fall behind.  I am pleased with what I have seen my kids learning on their own and I expect that this plan will continue for this school year.

For our normal academic days I write down the boys assignments on a white board.  I color code them.  One color is for independent work and another color is for one-on-one with me.  I have to try and balance my time.  A typical day for us looks a little like this:

9:00-9:30 Breakfast and Bible DVD
9:30-1:30 I start with Bible with the boys a couple days a week.  The other days they do Bible independently.  When I don’t start with Bible, I begin with my 4 year old.  We do about 20 minutes of reading, phonics, handwriting or math.  Then I work with my 3rd grader one-on-one for a couple hours.  We typically hit math, some language arts, and foreign language.  If there is time left I start working with my 5th grader.  A good percentage of his day is independent aside for math and foreign language.  Sometimes he has to wait for me and he does his independent learning time early.
1:30-2:15  Lunch break and foreign language video
2:15-3:15  PE
3:15-5:30  Finish one-on-one time with 5th grader and they finish up any independent work.  During this time I may hit science labs or work the boys do together.  Once that is finished they can study any topic of interest until 5:30.  If there is time left I work again with my 4 year old with her unit study or foreign language.

8:30-9:00 As part of my 4 year old’s bedtime routine I read a Bible story with her, she retells a favorite storybook, and I read her a new picture book.  We are making our way through a list of over 300 picture books this year.
9:00-10:00  5th grader reads his literature assignment in bed

Here is how I have their day split up:

5th Grader
30 minutes of Bible
60 minutes of math
60 minutes of foreign language
60 minutes of language arts
60 minutes of reading
60 minutes of PE
20 minutes of guitar practice
45 minutes of science
45 minutes of history, logic, geography, art, or music

3rd Grader
30 minutes of Bible
60 minutes of math
30 minutes of foreign language
30 minutes of reading
60 minutes of language arts
60 minutes of PE
10 minutes of guitar practice
45 minutes of science
45 minutes of history, logic, geography, art, or music

20 minutes of math, phonics, reading, or handwriting
20-30 minutes of read alouds including Bible story
30-60 minutes of craft, game, or activity (if time allows)

I was tentative with this set up, but it appears to be a win-win for all of us.  They are getting their academic needs met, they are enjoying exploring new ideas and creating new projects, and I am having more down time each day.

Update 2015:  My kids loved this set-up, but over time it didn’t end up working well for my job (online work for a company I used to own and operate).  We ended up having longer periods of independent time 5 days a week instead of having one day devoted to my work time.  This morphed into two long periods of my work during my children’s school day while my kids exercised and did some video schooling.  I never went back to working at my job after the kids went to bed.

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