September 26, 2009

Finding Routine

I hate schedules and I always have but I am learning I need to follow one in order for us to be successful this year. My kids like schedules, they like knowing what's coming next and being able to set their expectations and when I look at it that way so do I.

We have been playing around with schedules this year to try to find one that works for us, however I have realized any schedule must be fluid as we really live fluid lives where things change often. One of the reasons for that is we are a one car family and some days we may not plan to have the car and realize we need it and need to change or adapt plans as when we want the car we need to drive Serona to work.

So how do we have a fluid routine? I have set the goal this year of being sitting down at the table at 9:30am and working until around noon before lunch. That happened one day this week, the other days we started at 10, 10:30, 11am and one day after lunch, so much for the first week of a schedule. The goal was to have a solid 2-3 hours of uninterrupted work time, then lunch, then finish up whatever work was not done before we have to get to evening activities and get dinner on the table. That goal we met though we never started at the same time each day.

The printed work assignments helped my kids have some structure to hold on to even when it seemed we were not following what we said we were going to. The accomplished everything on their assignment sheet this week except our science experiments because our kit never came. Most days they were close to following their schedule but on Thursday I added in a several hour video and discussion time about consumerism and advertising and how advertisers are gong after kids and what strategies they need to fight back. It was a great afternoon and I am glad we added it in but it basically became school all day Thursday.

I was thankful we use a 4 day schedule because that allowed for me to add in the extra advertising afternoon with no fear of falling behind since I knew we could make up the rest of Thursday's work on Friday which we did. I also made the choice this week to not to a field trip even though we have been doing one a week each week in September, we needed the time to get into routine instead. Also looking ahead to realize that next week we have a field trip, homeschool cooperative, and a swim meet, which typically means 4 practices during the week and then the meet on the weekend.

One of the flexibilities I love of homeschooling is being able to modify our school schedule as needed for my kids based on what is going on in their lives. Next week will be a busy week for my 10yo and so I can lighten her load a little by making this week and the week following a bit heavier. In the end the same amount of work will get done over 3 weeks as if I had not lightened her load but this way her swim meet week can be lighter on school so I can counterbalance some of the stress going on due to sports and free her up to focus on both.

That doesn't mean I place sports above school. She knows if she falls behind in school she will lose swim practice or even a meet and I still keep her doing school because that is the priority. However, she is an excellent student who can handle a busier week and appreciates a lighter week when other life responsibilities are bigger. I figure that is how smart adults manage their time, how good college students plan ahead and these are good habits and strategies to build in from a young age. So I am thankful that when someone is sick, has a big sports event, or just needs a rest that we can be flexible and take some of the school pressure off and then make up for it at a later time.

One of the things about homeschooling in our family that I have learned is September is not the most productive month overall. We typically start later and take more days off because the weather is beautiful here in Minnesota so we get outside more and the world is quiet as everyone else has gone back to school, it is some of our favorite homeschooling times. Sure we start all our textbooks and assignments, but we are also starting sports, fall activities, homeschool coop and the like so I find we ease into school, reviewing and building routines, habits and getting interested in the topics at hand, while also enjoying the last nice days for what will be awhile.

Yet January through March we are far more productive than many others, sometimes I think we get more than half our school work done in just those three months. January and February are pretty miserable in Minnesota, the weatherman always uses a positive or negative on the weather report, because we are just as often negative as positive, with stunning windchills and it is typically not even that fun to be outside in the snow/ice when it is that cold. There is little going on or planned because it snows often or you could have windchill warnings so I find we often make spontaneous field trips decisions rather than planned ones, because truthfully there are somedays we never really want to leave the house. This is a perfect time for our family to get a lot of school done and not drive anywhere.

There are subjects we do everyday: math, reading and writing. This is typical year round but we may cover half of our science, history and geography books during the cold months in comparison with the easing in of a chapter a week we are doing now. My daughters dream of a minute by minute schedule is not going to work in our lives but she too is coming to understand the beauty of a flexible schedule and I am coming to appreciate the need for more structure to meet her needs, we seem to be meeting somewhere in the middle and for now that is good.


  1. Fluidity is the key. Thanks for the inspirational thoughts because we are so disrupted right now with the chicken pox situation.

    Gotta keep the faith that things will be a bit more productive in the cold, dark days of winter.

  2. MKlosterman10:41 PM

    Yes, my kids like schedules too. I usually pass out their assignments at the beginning of the week. When I didn't have it, they kept asking me for it. I think they feel a sense of accomplishment when they can cross them off their lists.