Saturday, August 8, 2015

How To Plan A Flexible Homeschool Schedule

Someone asked me recently if we use a schedule in our homeschool, and I thought this would be a good time to write about how to put together your own homeschool schedule.  The answer is yes, we do use a schedule, but it's very flexible.  In our first year of homeschool I had decided we were going to be just like the public and private schools.  Lunch would be at a certain time.  Math at a certain time.  Play time at a certain time.  That lasted for about a week before I realized that for our family it just wasn't going to work and wasn't necessary.

I try my hardest to plan school on days my husband works, and less school on days that we have to do things like go into the homeschool center for PE, or attend homeschool art classes.  Even with that planning sometimes we get overwhelmed and the schedule gets thrown out the window for the day.  Flexibility on my part is the key to my sanity though, and my daughter's happiness.  For this reason I plan a flexible schedule.

1) The first thing I do when making a schedule is write down all 7 days of the week.  I look at which days I want little to no schooling to occur (my husband's days off) because we keep those days for traveling or family time.  For us those days are Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  When I do schedule school on those three days, it's going to be easier, quicker things, or things that are overflow from the rest of the week.  I also look at which days are hectic for us (Friday) because we have to be somewhere, and on those days I plan less school.

2) The second thing I do is make a list of all of our subjects, the time it takes to do each one (I know because we homeschooled last year), and how many days per week we need to do those subjects to complete them within a school year.  See the end of the post if you need to know how to figure out how long a curriculum will take.  (If you need to see a photo click it to make it larger and then right click and view photo.  You can click a second time to magnify again on computer).

3) After I have the basic week long calender laid out and my list of information, I start drafting a schedule that we'll use every week.  This is what ours currently looks like for 2nd grade.  It will likely change and evolve over the course of the school year as we find that we are going faster or slower through some things or as other activities we get engaged in pop up.  (Please excuse my abominable handwriting).

The above shows our schedule.  I put a little piece of tape (see picture below) on the right hand side of the schedule page and folded it over itself to the other side of the page.  That tape gives me something to hold onto so I can open up directly to that page every day to see what we're doing.  The main thing I use this schedule for is to tell me what subjects we're going to do each day.  We don't even do them in the same order each day as I don't find that it's important.

On the schedule it has approximate start and finish times at the bottom.  If it says start at 9 am and we have to go out and do something and can't start until 10 am or 11 am, we don't stress about it.  If other things come up in the middle of the day (like she wants to go play with kids outside on a Saturday and we're doing school), then I let her go for a while.  We can always finish up in the evening before dinner.  There are some days where I have to say no to things during school time, but I try to remain flexible.

I also marked approximate times it takes us to do each lesson and it's workbook pages.  The times I marked are just so I can have an idea how long it will take.  I don't make my daughter stick to them.  If it says 60 minutes for math and we get done in 30 minutes because she's having a really good day, then it's ok.  We move on to the next thing unless she's having fun with it and wants to do a second lesson (it happens occasionally).  Or if I have 60 minutes written down and she's having a bad day and working slowly, and it takes her an hour and a half, that's ok too.  This is where our schedule sometimes gets thrown off and we may not get to everything in one day.  For 1st grade we ended up doing some curriculums into July because we couldn't get to everything every day, but it worked out because we ended up only doing about an hour of school each day during the summer.

I like to keep my schedule and calendar in a small notebook.  I picked up this pink one at Wal-Mart for about $5 on clearance.  I like it because it's small enough to carry with me to homeschool outings or to the homeschool center once a week.  Last year I didn't have one of these and I was always writing people's phone numbers and e-mails, times and dates of events, and curriculums other people talked about that I wanted to look up on scraps of paper and trying to keep track of them later.  This year I'm prepared with my handy little book.  I only used about 20 pages for my calendar and schedule, so the rest are open for notes, phone numbers, etc.  

We do the bulk of our school year from September 1st to June 15th, but we also don't mind doing a little school through the summer if we're trying to finish one or two subjects up.  With that being said, I do not plan out each week, each month, or each quarter or semester.  When I am choosing curriculum I plan enough for the entire year (and maybe even a little extra to take us into summer).  I don't stress myself or my student out by saying that we have to be to a certain page in a certain book by a specific day or month.  We work steadily through our curriculum until it's all complete, and that sometimes takes us into the summer, and sometimes doesn't.  I do plan the order of our science subjects and approximately how many weeks we are going to be on one subject, but that's flexible.  If I had planned on doing the Human Body for 5 weeks and we took longer because we were having fun with it, then it's not a big deal.

I hope this look into how I make our flexible homeschool schedule has helped someone.  It's cheap and easy to make your own.  You need paper, a ruler, a pencil, and some highlighters.  I like to highlight our schedule in different colors as you may have noticed.  The pink highlights are subjects that take my full attention and sometimes planning.  Things like math and English are more intensive and got highlighted pink because it's not something she can do on her own and takes longer to complete.  The things I highlighted blue are work she does independently.  I'm there if she needs help, but she does those things on her own most of the time without an issue.  When she's doing independent work is when I have time for housework or work online.  Yellow highlights are subjects that I teach her or do with her, but they go quickly and are not as intensive.

Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page how you do your schedule or if you even use one at all.



Get out your curriculum.  Let's use math as an example.  Horizon Math has 160 lessons (that number includes tests).  Most states have a 180 day school year (36 five day weeks).  If you want to get done with all 160 lessons in 36 weeks, you need to do 4 and a half math lessons per week (or do 4 one week and 5 the next alternating through the year.  Or do 5 lessons per week and finish 20 days early).  You find that out by dividing the number of lessons (160) by the number of weeks you intend on schooling (36).  160/36= 4.4 lessons per week.  Do this for each curriculum to see how many days per week you should do your curriculum.

When you're trying to figure out how much time each day it takes to complete a given curriculum, take into account the time you will be teaching, and the time your student will be completing activities or doing worksheets.  Back to the Horizon Math example, there are 2 workbook pages per lesson.  For us it takes about 1 hour to complete math on average.  On a good day it could be 30 minutes, on a difficult day an hour and a half.


  1. Really great suggestions! I like the idea of using the highlighting so you can see easily what needs your attention. I'm going to use that tip! :)

    1. Highlighters, sticky notes, and lists are my best friend. I would be lost without them!

  2. Just found your site thanks to a member of Cafemom. Look forward to reading more!

  3. I do keep a schedule for school but mine is also flexible. We dont keep things tight but very relaxing and if something comes up like a drs appt, we work around that or if we have too, (depending on how far the appt is) we even reschedule class time for another day.

  4. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who still likes to plan things out on paper. I like to use a weekly planner for our homeschool planning, but it's nice to see how a notebook with plain paper can work just as well!

    1. It really is handy because it's so small, so I can carry it with me and write things down. It was a journal I got on clearance for $4 or $5.