Is your home chaotic? Do you regret your decision to homeschool because now it feels like there’s no calm or peace in your home?
Many of us begin homeschooling envisioning an “ideal” childhood for our children, filled with joy in learning and ample opportunity to nurture curiosity. Then reality steps in. Teaching our children to read and write is more difficult and complicated than we thought it would be. School supplies take over our house and cause our home to feel less like a sanctuary and more like a workplace. And feelings of “we can’t fall behind!” lead to seemingly endless homeschool days. The joy in learning, and in our homes, slips away.
I’ve struggled with those feelings in our homeschool. I, like most parents, want to give my kids a “magical” childhood, which for me means playing, creating, and reading. But I struggled to combine those activities with my legal and moral responsibility to educate my kids.
The more I peeled back the onion of homeschooling, the more struggles I saw. There was the issue that one aspect of a magical childhood that I cherish – reading – requires some education up front. But teaching a child to read isn’t always the easiest. The struggle to teach my children to read, or to teach them anything, really, revealed the need for discipline and character training. Essentially, I realized that I needed to focus more on training my kids in the ways of responsibility (aka chores) and work.
Before I knew it, the desire for a “magical” childhood led to a focus on routine and discipline. Shocking, I know.
Homeschool Block Schedule to the Rescue!
I’ve found that a homeschool block schedule is an ideal way to instill some order into chaotic days while also making room for character training and the “magical” aspects of childhood that I cherish. Setting up a time block schedule in our homes ensures that we have balanced days – some learning, some playing, some working, some relaxing. These are all important aspects of everyday life. Putting boundaries around those important aspects showed me the importance of focusing on the most important activities in each area, rather than doing whatever the family next door (or the homeschooler online) is doing. And ensuring that we have blocks of time to do what needs to get done gives me the mental bandwidth to devote my attention to my boys during other parts of the day.
Setting and maintaining boundaries around important activities has given my family the freedom to lean into our unique selves, both individually and as a family.
Consistency, madam, is the first of Christian duties. (Charlotte Bronte)
Homeschool Block Schedule Secrets
Create a Weekly Block Schedule
The first step to creating flow in your home and family rhythms is to consider how you want the average week to look, before getting down to the nitty-gritty of daily rhythms.
Consider the characteristics of each day
- Most Difficult Days – Is there a particular day of the week that is a struggle for your family, or any individual in your family? The beginning of the week, after the relative freedom of the weekend, may be a struggle. The middle of the week may need extra attention. Or kids might be distracted on Fridays as they look forward to the weekend. A parent’s work schedule or other commitments may also make a particular day of the week more challenging.
- Parent Work Schedule – Whether a parent works at home or outside of the home, dedicated work hours should be taken into consideration.
- Household Service – Do you have the help of a cleaning service that comes to your house one or more times a month? A lawn service? These should be taken into consideration because they will affect the activities that you can do during the times that the service is performed at your home.
- Co-op Days – If you’re involved in one or more co-ops, there will be large chunks of time during the week when you will not be home. Preparation time needed for a co-op should also be taken into consideration.
- Afternoon/Evening Activities – Do your children take any classes outside of the home? Do they have sports practice that they need to attend? Do you have church activities in which your family participates? Volunteer organizations?
- Finishing Strong – Pay special attention to how you want to end your week. Do you want to catch up on work? Do you want to ease into the weekend?
Consider your family’s current season
By season, I’m referring to both calendar season (winter/spring/summer/fall) and season of life. Both can affect your family’s activities.
Is your family hibernating during a harsh winter or enduring a scorching summer? Is the promise of spring or the beauty of the changing of leaves beckoning you out of doors?
Do you have a baby or toddler at home? Do nap times and potty training rule your days? Is your tween or teen anxious for more time with friends?
Is your family on a journey to better health, involving more meal preparation and exercise? Are you starting a business? Or preparing for a move? Has a health challenge turned your world upside-down?
Are you in the middle of the school year? Or enjoying a carefree summer?
In my home, I’ve had to take the following into consideration as I’ve established a weekly schedule:
- Mondays are a struggle for us. The kids just have a hard time transitioning from the weekend to a school day.
- I spend mornings working on personal projects, but know that I need a shorter work block on Mondays since that’s more of a teaching day for us.
- We require a shorter school day on the day that our cleaning service comes since we’re busy getting ready for the cleaning (does anyone else do that?!).
- By Friday we’re all pretty saturated, so I try to do little teaching/grading/checking that day.
These considerations led to the following weekly schedule for us:
- Monday – teaching day, jump into schoolwork and get back into school routine as quickly as possible.
- Tuesday – Thursday – “regular” school days
- Fun Friday – tackle subjects in a more fun way, like Mad Libs for grammar, crossword puzzles for spelling, drawing as part of history or science. Use it as a catch-up day if we took a day off during the week.
- Cleaning Day – shorter school day with more independent work.
Here are some examples of how other families plan their weeks:
Create a Daily Block Schedule
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A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. (Annie Dillard)
Once you have an idea of the flow for your week, you can concentrate on your daily routine.
First, consider what activities require blocks of time. These blocks should reflect your values, vision for your family, and identify the most important activities that your family does.
Possible blocks could include:
- Independent Learning
- One-on-one Teaching
- Group Learning
- Outside / Physically Active Time
- Parent Work
- Free Play
- Screen Time
Now that you’ve identified important activities or blocks of time for your family, think about a general amount of time that each block will require. This is a very important step! There are only so many hours during the day, so overloading a daily routine will not bring about the peace and joy that we’re striving for. This process will likely require some trial and error, but you’ll get there if you keep refining your daily routine.
- Our current daily block schedule for a typical day looks something like this:
- Breakfast / Chores
- Outside / Physically Active Time – outdoor physical activity or indoor P.E., depending on weather and mood
- Independent Learning / Mommy Work Time
- One-on-one Teaching
- Free play – crafting, reading, games, outside play, educational screen time
- Free play – crafting, reading, games, outside play, non-educational screen time
- Cuddle Time – evening snuggles before bed
- Here are some examples of how other families plan their days:
Tips for Establishing Your Homeschool Block Schedule
I’ve created a freebie for you to download to help you establish your own block schedule. It contains a “Weekly Time Block Routine” worksheet for you to brainstorm about the characteristics of your day and how you might set up a time block routine for each day. It also contains a “Today’s Routine” page for you to display for your family. You may wish to laminate it and use either magnetic dots or Velcro dots to affix your daily routine. I’ve included colored time block labels, both blank labels and labels with possible time blocks. You may want to laminate these as well, and use velcro or magnetic dots on the back to put on your “Today’s Routine” page.
(You can find some of my favorite supplies to use with printables like these here.)
As you work through your own homeschool block routine, consider the following tips.
- Determine school hours, at least when you want school hours to end. A block schedule makes it obvious that a school block that extends from morning until late in the evening is unreasonable. Your day will flow much better, and your mental health will be much improved, if you have a set time that your school block ends, no matter when it starts.
For example: in our home, Mommy/Teacher transitions into just Mommy at 5pm. My kids know that schoolwork needs to be completed by then (at least any work that needs my help) or they don’t get screen time.
- Don’t do every subject every day. I divide core subjects into two general categories – skill practice and content absorption.
- Skill practice subjects (ex. reading, math, handwriting, spelling) require consistency, so we do those subject most days (usually four days a week).
- Content absorption subjects (ex. history, science) don’t need as much consistency, so we usually tackle those only one or two days a week.
- Incorporate make-up days (Fridays?) into your weekly homeschool block schedule, especially if you don’t homeschool year-round and want to be done with school before summer.
For example, Fridays are our easy/fun day, but it’s also a makeup day. So if we have an illness, holiday, birthday, or other day off that interrupts our week, we use Friday to make up some of the work if it makes sense.
- Respect your time blocks to maintain your family rhythms.
- Avoid random trips out of the house during learning/teaching/working blocks.
- Use timers as a reminder to transition to another block. For example, my kids get 30 minutes of educational programming (Odd Squad on PBS is one of their favorites) while they eat lunch. I set the sleep timer on the TV for 30 minutes – after the TV goes off, they know it’s time for Kitchen Chores. We set a 5-minute timer on our Homepod for our 5-Minute Cleanup. And I use the timer on my Apple Watch all the time to remind me that it’s time to go back inside and do school work after outside play time, or while my younger boys are reading to me so that they don’t get mentally worn out.
- Move your blocks around during the year to take advantage of nice weather or to keep things fresh.
For example, summers are way too hot to do schoolwork outside or for outside play unless we’re in the pool. But spring and autumn are wonderful times for us to spread a blanket on the lawn and enjoy reading under the trees. So during spring and fall, I adjust our time blocks so that we have outside time during the nicest part of the day. During the summer, I adjust our time blocks so that our outside time is in the morning or evening when it’s cooler.
- Don’t worry about assigning your time blocks to specific times.
For example, it doesn’t really matter if we begin our independent learning block at 9am or 10am. What’s important is that it happens, and that moving between adjoining blocks (chores and lunch) is graceful and peaceful. The issue of time can’t be completely ignored – it would be foolish of me to assign my fifth grader four hours of work to do during his Independent Learning block if I see that we usually don’t get more than three hours during that time. And my kindergartener has a limited attention span (as all kindergarteners do) and needs short periods of work and plenty of breaks. The genius of a block system is that it makes us, as our kids’ teachers and managers of our homes, look at these specifics and, with the information we glean from studying our families, make reasonable choices for what we can and should get done during the day.
That vision that you have for your homeschool and your family – a vision of peace and joy and learning – can become reality. All you have to do is put some thought into what pieces make up your vision, and then honor your vision by assigning those important pieces into blocks throughout your day. Creating a family rhythm that both nurtures and delights takes some trial and error, but the resulting contentment, confidence, and creativity that will infuse your family will make your vision a reality!