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Our Flexible School Day ~ What Works and What Doesn’t

We have tried a lot of different things over the years, and we’ve been very flexible with our schedule to accommodate our current place in life. School looked different when we had napping toddlers underfoot than it does now that everyone is a part of the learning. In fact, school is always shifting and growing for us–as the youngest begins to enter the independent reading stage, as the oldest enters the independent learning stage…. our school day is always flexing, shifting, growing, like a living thing.

Even though things are flexible and are in a constant state of growth, there are some things that definitely work, and some things that definitely don’t. Some things stay the same. So I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some things that work for us (or don’t work as the case may be) to make our school days go smoothly.

Tips to Make Our School Day Run More Smoothly

1.) No tv in the morning. We’ve tried this before and we recently went back to it. Our tv does not come on until after 3pm (even if we’re done with school.) Not only do we watch too much tv but if we turn it on first thing, it distracts us and holds us back.

2.) Start our school day with God. I covered that in my post about making my overall day run more smoothly, but here’s why: if we take a minute to remember that this is something that God calls us to (not just homeschooling but learning and educating ourselves, studying His Word and His world, equipping ourselves for whatever He may call us to in the future,) and acknowledge that we are able to homeschool through His provision, seeking to glorify Him through our school day… well, we’re just starting off on the best mental “foot” possible.

3.) Use our Workcharts. Our “backwards workbox system,” when we use our workcharts we are more on task, more diligent and more effective. When we don’t, we struggle with dawdling. We never got our workcharts set up for the new year last year, and then we moved, and then we didn’t get them up in the new house either…we missed them. But they’re ready to go for the new year. I just need to add some new work tags to the box. =)

Our 2013 Workchart system is nearly ready. I need to add velcro to two charts, and I need to add new tags for the new materials. We keep many of our old tags because we will cycle back around to them again later.
Our 2013 Workchart system is nearly ready. I need to add velcro to two charts, and I need to add new tags for the new materials. We keep many of our old tags because we will cycle back around to them again later.

4.) For me – Make sure that I’m caught up on work. No last minute blog posts to write, so I don’t feel inclined to try to squeeze that in before we begin school. Tidy the house before bed so that we’re not overloaded with chores in the morning. That sort of thing.

5.) Group school works for us. We do as much as we can together as a group. It not only saves me from bouncing around from kid to kid with different subjects and tasks while feeling like a ping pong ball, but it also saves a little on curriculum expenses, saves a little on time, and did I mention that it saves my sanity? Oh, I did…

6.) A “No interrupting during individual time” rule. Apart from group school, I will sit down with the youngest to work on math and reading with him. While I work with him, the older two work independently on theirs. If they have questions, they have to wait. They MAY NOT interrupt. They MAY skip that problem or lesson and return to it when it’s their turn and they have my help. After I’m through with the youngest, I move to the next youngest, and after her, the oldest. This little gem of wisdom I got from Karen DeBeus’ Simply Homeschool. LOVE IT.

7.) Using a Planner (Maybe Sorta?) Okay, in the past I have had great success with our planner. However.. this last year went so off track with family staying with us and moving that I completely (I mean completely) abandoned the planner, very early on in our year in fact. We just worked through the material systematically. I am undecided about ordering a planner this year. (I might not! *gasp!*)

8.) Alternating Science and History. For many years now we have had a schedule of history on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and science on Tuesday and Thursday. Doing it this way instead of trying to fit them both in every day allows us to spend fewer LONGER time periods diving into the material instead of more frequent SHORTER time periods. It’s easier to fit the science experiments, notebooking, and other projects in when we have more time to do it.

Things that Haven’t Worked For Us

1.) A strict schedule – a strict schedule has never worked for us. Though there was ONE brief time period where we had a very organized schedule with a little bit of flexibility that actually worked for us, for the most part we don’t do well with them. We do better with a schedule that goes something like this: “First we do this subject, and then this subject, etc, at whatever time we start working on it for however long each subject takes.”

2.) Teaching everyone different things at the same time. I already mentioned that we prefer group lessons as much as possible, but we didn’t start out that way. Trying to teach the two girls differently, simultaneously, (and at such a young age) did NOT work for me. I was constantly torn between the two and not able to give either of them my full attention. This did not work for us at all. The group method coupled with the no interrupting rule saved us!

3.) Overplanning. I have a bad habit of overplanning. I picked a lot of stuff to try to fit in last year and with the unexpected blessings the year brought, there was no way we could fit it all in. I’m trying to plan more simply this year, since we have some catching up to do, and if we have time, I still have those extras that we never got to. 😉

I’m sure there are more but this is all I can think of right now. Since we’re really flexible, most of the stuff that doesn’t work is the over planning and over scheduling and things that interfere with the flexibility of our day. However, flexible as we are, one more thing that definitely doesn’t work is “skipping school” too often to accommodate impromptu plans with friends and family. Yeah, we can do that sometimes, but we have a responsibility to meet here and you can’t be so flexible that you aren’t getting it done. There’s a balance!

What are some things that work for you; what things don’t?

Back to (Home) School 2013 – School Day

Your turn! Tell us a little bit about your school day – your schedule, lesson planning for the day, whatever you want.


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Hey, y’all! I’m Amber and I wear many hats. I drink a ton of coffee and I’m constantly sweeping crumbs off the floor. After 18 years of homeschooling, I’m getting close to graduating my third child and now we are starting over at preschool with our fourth, Lil Miss Mouse. She keeps us young and she’s the main reason for my excessive coffee consumption. Drink up!