This is the time to decide what fun stuff you will be doing this semester. Perhaps you and your daughter have always wanted to learn calligraphy. You probably have realized by now that it will never happen unless you plan for it. Maybe your son wants to try woodworking. Do you think the skill will somehow develop by itself? Not likely—ask around for a teacher and pop that into the mix somewhere. Don’t forget to leave a few boxes blank. White space will make you feel rich and leave you room to shift things should one of those unexpected events occur.

When you finish filling in those boxes, you might feel overwhelmed at all there is to remember! However, the schedule should not make you feel pressured. Instead, it should free you from pressure. You won’t need to worry about remembering when to pick up your 14-year-old from CAP; you won’t need to wonder whether or not your kids have done their piano practice this week; you won’t need to feel guilty that you haven’t been able to “find the time” to finish that scrapbook for your parents’ wedding anniversary. Your schedule has these things neatly arranged for you.

On the other hand, if so many little boxes all in a row make you feel as if you are tied down to a life of boring servility, loosen up a bit (or a lot). Without throwing away the valuable scheduling of those important fixed items, you can still do much to make your schedule fit your individual personality. If your children will be studying their main academic areas (reading, math, history, and science) in the mornings, just label that entire block “learning time” and let the children proceed at their own pace. If you need an hour to unwind, sip a cup of tea, garden, read your Bible, or crochet, find a likely spot in the schedule (perhaps during the kids’ afternoon quiet hour) and call it “Mom Time” just for you. Doesn’t the schedule seem more appealing already?

Independence

The second element that can help you immensely as you homeschool a houseful of kids is to encourage them to be independent learners from a young age. A strong reader can handle and enjoy almost all other subjects without much outside assistance, so reading should be the main academic focus of the early years. You can achieve this goal through a solid phonics foundation, as well as through reading wonderful books to your children regularly and through modeling your own ongoing appreciation of the beauty and usefulness of books. As my students grow older, they need less of my focused attention in connection to their studies, and this frees me to spend my valuable time on targeted areas such as advanced math, writing critiques, worldview discussions, and making spaghetti for dinner.

Please know that I am not saying your kids should all be working quietly in their own little cubicles on their own little workbooks. No, that is not what I mean at all. Much of our work is done together, but there are certain studies my children can handle easily and efficiently by themselves, depending on their ages—such as poetry copywork, typing practice, or reading historical novels. This gives me the time necessary to explain quadratic equations to my 8th grader, have a 15-minute conversation in French with my daughters, and then gather my emerging reader on my lap and listen to those amazing Bob Book stories yet again.

High school students should be able to study completely independently if necessary. They should have the ability and self-discipline to research, analyze, and write about any given topic of interest. This doesn’t imply that teens will never have questions or that they need no adult input: Obviously, there will be many times when discussion of people, events, and philosophies will be important and beneficial to them.

However, our homeschooled teens need to become independently responsible for their academic studies. They need to begin independently growing spiritually and developing their views on current world events. The gradual process of equipping them for adult life and “letting go” should start long before our teens leave us. As a bonus, such independence helps teens gain self-confidence, a stronger work ethic, and greater leadership ability.