How to Create a Homeschool Schedule

Simple Tips for Creating Yearly, Weekly, and Daily Homeschool Schedules

How to Make a Homeschool Schedule
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After deciding to homeschool and selecting curriculum, figuring out how to create a homeschool schedule is sometimes one of the most challenging aspects of educating at home. The majority of today’s homeschooling parents graduated from a traditional school setting. The schedule was easy. You showed up to school before the first bell rang and stayed until the last bell rang.

The county announced the first and last days of school and all the holiday breaks in between.

You knew when each class was going to take place and how long you’d spend in each based on your class schedule. Or, if you were in elementary school, you just did what your teacher told you to do next.

So, how do you make a homeschool schedule? The complete freedom and flexibility of homeschooling can make it difficult to let go of the traditional school calendar mode. Let’s break homeschool schedules down into some manageable chunks.

Yearly Homeschool Schedules

The first plan you’ll want to determine is your annual schedule. Your state’s homeschooling laws may play a role in setting your yearly schedule. Some states require a certain number of hours of home instruction each year. Some require a specific number of homeschool days. Others consider home schools self-governing private schools and put no stipulations on attendance.

A 180-day school year is fairly standard and works out to four 9-week quarters, two 18-week semesters, or 36 weeks.

Most homeschool curriculum publishers base their products on this 36-week model, making it a good starting point for planning your family's schedule.

Some families keep their schedules very simple by choosing a start date and counting days until they’ve met their state's requirements. They take breaks and days off as needed.

Others prefer to have a framework calendar in place. There is still lots of flexibility even with an established yearly calendar. Some possibilities include:

  • A typical school schedule from Labor Day until the end of May/first of June
  • Year ‘round schooling with six weeks on/one week off or nine weeks on/two weeks off
  • Four-day school weeks until you've satisfied attendance requirements
  • Following your city or county's public/private school calendar (This option works well for families who homeschool some of their children while others attend a traditional school or families in which one parent works at a traditional school.)

Weekly Homeschool Schedules

Once you’ve decided on the framework for your yearly homeschool schedule, you can work out the details of your weekly schedule. Take outside factors such as co-op or work schedules into consideration when planning your weekly schedule.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that your weekly schedule doesn’t have to be Monday through Friday. If one or both parents have an unconventional work week, you can adjust your school days to maximize family time. For example, if a parent works Wednesday through Sunday, you can make that your school week, as well, with Monday and Tuesday being your family’s weekend.

A weekly homeschool schedule can also be adjusted to accommodate an irregular work schedule. If a parent works six days one week and four the next, school can follow the same schedule.

Some families do their regular school work four days each week reserving the fifth day for co-op, field trips, or other outside-the-home classes and activities.

Two other scheduling options are block schedules and loop schedules. A block schedule is one in which one or more subjects are allotted a large span of time a couple of days a week instead of an hour or so every day.

For example, you might schedule two hours for history on Mondays and Wednesdays and two hours for science on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Block scheduling allows students to fully focus on a particular subject without over-scheduling the school day.

It allows time for activities such as hands-on history projects and science labs.

A loop schedule is one in which there is a list of activities to cover but no specific day to cover them. Instead, you and your students spend time on each as its turn comes up on the loop.

For example, if you’d like to allow space in your homeschool schedule for art, geography, cooking, and music, but you don’t have time to devote to them each day, add them to a loop schedule. Then, determine how many days you want to include loop schedule subjects.

Perhaps, you choose Wednesdays and Fridays. On Wednesday, you study art and geography and on Friday, cooking and music. On a given Friday, you may run out of time for music, so the following Wednesday, you would cover that and art, picking up with geography and cooking on Friday.

Block scheduling and loop scheduling can work well together. You may block schedule Monday through Thursday and leave Friday as a loop schedule day.

Daily Homeschool Schedules

Most of the time when people ask about homeschool schedules, they’re referring to the nitty-gritty daily schedules. Like yearly schedules, your state's homeschool laws may dictate some aspects of your daily schedule. For example, some state's homeschooling laws require a specific number of hours of daily instruction.

New homeschooling parents often wonder how long a homeschool day should be. They worry that they aren’t doing enough because it may only take two or three hours to get through the day’s work, particularly if the students are young.

It is important for parents to realize that a homeschool day may not take as long a typical public or private school day. Homeschooling parents don’t have to take time for administrative tasks, such as roll call or preparing 30 students for lunch, or allow time for students to move from one classroom to the next between subjects.

Additionally, homeschooling allows for focused, one-on-one attention. A homeschooling parent can answer his or her student’s questions and move on rather than answering questions from an entire class.

Many parents of young children through first or second grade find that they can easily cover all subjects in just an hour or two. As students get older, it may take them longer to complete their work. A high school student may spend the full four to five hours – or more – dictated by state law. However, you shouldn’t stress even if a teen’s school work doesn’t take that much time as long they are completing and comprehending it.

Provide a learning-rich environment for your children and you will discover that learning happens even when the school books are put away. Students can use those extra hours to read, pursue their hobbies, explore electives, or invest in extracurricular activities.

Allow your daily homeschool schedule to be shaped by your family’s personality and needs, not by what you think it “should” be. Some homeschool families prefer scheduling specific times for each subject. Their schedule may look something like this:

8:30 – Math

9:15 – Language Arts

9:45 – Snack/break

10:15 - Reading

11:00 – Science

11:45 – Lunch

12:45 – History/social studies

1:30 – Electives (art, music, etc.)

Other families prefer a daily routine to a time-specific schedule. These families know that they’re going to start with math, using the example above, and end with electives, but they may not have the same start and end times each day. Instead, they work through each subject, completing each and taking breaks as needed.

It’s important to note that many homeschooling families start much later in the day. Our family rarely starts before 11 a.m., and I have discovered that we are far from alone. Many families don’t start until 10 or 11 a.m. – or even until the afternoon!

Some factors that may influence a homeschooling family’s start time include:

  • Biology – Night owls or those who are more alert in the afternoon may prefer a later start time. Early risers and those who are more focused in the mornings, usually prefer an earlier start time.
  • Work schedules – Families in which one or both parents work an atypical shift may choose to start school after that parent goes to work. When my husband worked second, we had our big family meal at lunch and started school after he left for work.
  • Family needs – Factors such as a new baby, a sick parent/child/relative, a home-based business, or maintaining a family farm can all affect start times.
  • Outside classes – Homeschool co-op, dual-enrollment, and other classes or activities outside the home may dictate your start time requiring that you complete school work before or after these commitments.  

Once you have teens who are working independently, your schedule may undergo a radical shift. Many teens find that they’re most alert late at night and that they also require more sleep. Homeschooling allows the freedom for teens to work when they’re most productive. It’s not unusual for my teens to leave their completed work beside my laptop along with a note asking me to let them sleep in. As long as their work is finished and correct, I’m fine with that.

There is no one perfect homeschooling schedule and finding the right one for your family may take some trial and error. And it will likely need to be adjusted from year to year as your children get older and the factors affecting your schedule change.

The most important tip to remember is to allow your family's needs to shape your schedule, not an unrealistic idea of how the schedule should or shouldn't be set up.