It’s a little daunting to see everything listed like that, isn’t it? Sometimes when I write it all out, I have a better picture of the craziness we’re trying to accomplish over the course of a school year, and it helps me to pare down. Conversely, I can see where we might be able to add an activity or how we can map out the year. I like a long summer, so seeing that we can finish a subject or two in May makes me very, very happy.

Once you have everything listed, begin to arrange your day. I use a Microsoft Excel or Macintosh Numbers spreadsheet because that’s what works for me, but you can do it any way that works for you. I make columns with each child’s name across the top and then time periods down the left side, in rows.

Sticking to a time schedule in a rigid manner just stressed me out, and I wasn’t a nice mom when I tried that style. Instead, I use the schedule more as a flow chart, and I glance at the clock every now and again to make sure we’re moving at a reasonable pace. Mealtimes are pretty set; they anchor the rest of the schedule. Quiet hour/nap time is a non-negotiable, as are our devotional times, chores, group teaching times (we call them “Circle Time”), and bedtime.

The key to a successful routine? Flexibility. Sounds a bit counterproductive, but it’s just what our unpredictable lives require. We’ve spent weeks in the ICU with two different children, the results of emergency situations we could never have planned for. We’ve had high schoolers change their minds about their course of education just weeks before school was to begin. Job changes, moves, new babies, relationship issues—they’re all a part of life, and they aren’t there by accident. As such, we need to learn to hold our plans loosely.

Our sixth baby was born a week before Christmas, and I made a schedule for January that I felt would get us back on track once the excitement of her birth and Christmas wore off.  After the first day, I knew I had to make revisions. So we tried the revised plan the next day. Within a week, I realized that I had to make some more major changes. We were now onto schedule number three, and it was drastically different than anything I’d done before.  

My then-2-year-old was extremely busy, and I was increasingly frustrated by her innocent interruptions, things such as falling over and whacking her head on the coffee table or eating a whole stick of butter. I revamped our mornings to be more toddler friendly, at least until we were over that hump. We did everything together in the mornings, so our whole spring that year went something like this:

  • Morning stuff
  • Breakfast/Cleanup
  • Circle Time
  • Chores
  • Walk or play games
  • Read aloud
  • Free time
  • Lunch/Cleanup
  • Little ones down for naps
  • Academics

It worked well for us then, and I’ve even returned to a similar schedule during different seasons of our lives that have required more focus on little people in the mornings, with concentration on academics with the big kids while those little ones nap in the afternoons. Really, do what works! You need to feel the freedom to make adjustments, depending on what is going on in your life at the time. This is the beauty of homeschooling, and knowing when to change your approach and then doing it will go a long way toward preventing homeschool burnout.

Kendra Fletcher is the homeschooling mother of eight, aged 18 down to 3. She has never known what it means to homeschool without the presence of preschoolers and loves to encourage other moms who are beginning their homeschool journeys with little ones underfoot. Her website and blog can be found at www.preschoolersandpeace.com.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Publication date: February 8, 2013