How To Plan A Homeschool Day

In this guide, we’re going to start with five ways you can schedule your homeschool day (w/ examples), then talk about planning around your family’s “anchors”, like naps, meals, and extracurricular activities.

Once you’ve selected a schedule and added the subjects, I’ll show you a great way I’ve found to order the lessons so your children won’t get brain fatigue and both of you will have a more productive homeschool year.

Let’s take a look at each one more closely.

Homeschool Schedules To Consider

Let’s take a look at some different ways to schedule your homeschool week. Think about your family’s schedule, including work schedules, out-of-house activities, and fun family time when selecting a schedule.

Remember, homeschooling is about flexibility – my hope is you’ll find a schedule that provides opportunities for learning and freedom.

Traditional 5-Day

This type of schedule mimics a typical school day in public schools. If you’re using a pre-planned curriculum, it will assume you are teaching a traditional five-day.

Although this is helpful for those parents who like a formal set schedule, it doesn’t allow you the flexibility that other scheduling formats offer.

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4 Day Week

As the name implies, this schedule has a traditional four day schedule with the fifth day acting as a “free day”.

That free day is great for planning field trips, outside adventures, library days, extracurricular activities (music, sports, community outreach, etc), co-op activities or errands.

If you are planning to use pre-made lesson plans, some offer a four-day option as well.

One Subject Per Day

Another option is to focus on one subject each day for five days, allowing you to dive deeper into the subject without jumping around each day.

I avoid this type of schedule for several reasons:

  • Parents really need to understand how to structure the lessons correctly so the children don’t get “subject-fatigue”
  • There’s a large time gap before revisiting a subject again (usually 7 days)
  • If your child is struggling with a certain subject, that time gap can cause more struggle, not less

Although I’m not a fan of the one subject per day schedule, you can tweak it to avoid the time gap issue using the Plus Schedule.

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Plus Schedule

The plus schedule still allows a deeper dive into a specific subject but it includes revisiting some of the core subject areas every day as well.

The core subjects that get revisited each day are typically language arts (reading, writing, spelling, grammar) and math.

So a typical day would be touching on the core subjects first, then focusing on the deep dive subject afterwards. Some of the deep dive subjects include:

  • Science
  • History
  • Geography
  • Art & music

The nice part about the plus schedule is parents are able to tie the deep dive subject into the core subjects.

If your deep dive subject today is science, then reading a book about science in the morning and having a math lesson on how to calculate something science-related works to support the deep dive subject later in the day.

This schedule is particularly helpful for younger children who are just learning to read, write, and do math because they need to be exposed to the core subjects each day when they’re first starting out.

Co-op Schedule

Homeschool Co-ops are a group of families that meet on a regular schedule for either academic subjects, socialization, community service, or a combination of these things.

Academic co-ops usually meet once per week and a parent or parents teach the core academic subjects to a group of children.

With the co-op schedule, your homeschooling is centered around non-co-op subjects and helping your children prepare for their co-op classes.

A co-op schedule can work well in combination with a 5 day or 4 day homeschool schedule.

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Scheduling Around Anchors

By anchors, I mean daily occurrences in your family like meals, nap time, play time, and extracurricular activities.

This is particularly helpful when you have a wide range of ages. As the younger ones take a nap, you can work with the older children on a one-to-one lesson.

Have an older child prepare a snack for the younger one while you work individually with the middle child that needs extra help with a subject.

Solid Block vs. Split Schedule

Now that you’ve selected a weekly schedule that fits with your family life, you need to decide if you’re going to teach straight through or break up your daily schedule into chunks.

Solid Block

If you schedule your homeschool day as a solid block, you are teaching a series of lessons straight through and then you’re finished for the day.

For example, you could start at 8:30am and be finished at lunchtime, with small breaks for snacks and bathroom.

The advantage of solid block scheduling is it opens up the rest of the day for outdoor activities, community service, or extracurricular activities.

The disadvantage is it could lead to “brain fatigue”, if you don’t order your lessons in a specific way (Don’t worry – I’ll show you how to do that in this guide).

Split Schedule

A split schedule is spreading the lessons out throughout the day. You may start with language arts in the morning, then take the kids to a music lesson. After lunch, you work on math and science, then church group in the evening.

The advantage is you can break up the day by chunking the lessons and give yourself some breathing room between subjects.

There are two downsides to split scheduling: it may be chaotic to keep the schedule straight with multiple children and your children may have difficulty refocusing when you return to a new lesson.

How To Order Your Lessons

When teaching the lessons, you want to order the activities in such a way that avoids “brain fatigue”.

I found a great article that dives deep into this topic – I’ll summarize the steps then provide the article link if you’d like to read more about it.

To avoid “brain fatigue”, a child’s brain doesn’t need a complete break – different parts of their brain just need a break.

By allowing children to use different parts of their brain throughout the day, they won’t experience “brain fatigue”.

This avoids taking extended breaks which could lead to them having a hard time refocusing when it’s time to get back into a lesson.

The 3 M’s

When structuring your lessons, think about the 3 M’s:

 

  • Materials – what are they focusing on or working with (words, numbers, pictures, objects, music, etc)
  • Movement – what is their physical position (sitting, standing, moving, walking outside, working with hands, etc)
  • Methods – what skills will they be using (listening, writing, narrating, reading, drawing, memorizing, reciting, singing, talking, looking, describing)

Chart It Out

The author created a handy chart with four columns:

  • Subject
  • Materials
  • Movement
  • Methods

Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say your first lesson of the day for your first grader is a reading lesson using a picture book.

The materials are words and pictures; the movement is sitting; the methods are listening, looking, and talking.

The next lesson you have planned is a writing lesson.

The materials are words; the movement is sitting; the method is writing and looking.

In this method, you don’t want identical rows next to one another.

At least one word needs to change from row to row, in sequence. If you can have two words change, even better.

For this example, I might not go right from the reading lesson to the writing lesson because the materials, movement, and methods are very closely related.

Instead, I would teach a math lesson that changed some of the materials, movement and methods before teaching the writing lesson.

Short lessons using alternating parts of the brain help with attention and help them keep moving through the lessons without a complete break.

Once you understand the 3 M’s, it’s very easy to move the lessons around on your schedule to get the most from your teaching without that dreaded “brain fatigue” cropping up.

This works particularly well when using a solid block schedule because your children will stay engaged for longer periods of time.

To learn more about the 3 M’s, click here.

Use A Planner

A helpful tool for keeping track of your homeschool schedule is a planner. Start by planning out your overall goals for the month (be flexible).

Take that overall monthly plan and write out a tentative weekly schedule.

At the end of the week, evaluate and see if certain topics/lessons need to be revisited before planning out the next week.

A great time to do this is during a quiet, independent activity at the end of the week.

Let’s Recap

My goal for this guide was to help you, first, figure out which homeschool schedule fits best into your family life.

Now that you know your weekly schedule, to help you use your family anchors to get a solid understanding of what a typical day will look like.

Finally, I wanted you to see how to schedule each lesson in order so your children won’t get that dreaded “brain fatigue” and struggle to enjoy their homeschool experience.

I hope you found this guide helpful – bookmark it as a reference and revisit it as you progress on your family’s homeschool journey.