How To Homeschool: Developing a Framework For Your Days

Welcome to How To Homeschool—a series addressing all aspects of secular homeschooling. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

Hopefully if you have followed along this far, you are feeling confident in your decision to homeschool and have a few of the logistical issues sorted. This post will help you with developing a framework for your days: an overall picture of what homeschooling will look like in your family day to day.

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Choose a Calendar That Fits Your Needs

There is more to choosing a calendar than simply deciding if you want to follow the traditional August or September to May or June public school timeline or continue year round with limited breaks {like we do}. 

You might decide to follow a calendar like many year-round public schools, which usually includes more time off at the end of the year for Christmas/New Year’s, a shortened summer vacation {six weeks or so}, and more frequent or longer breaks throughout the year {e.g., a full week around Thanksgiving, two weeks of spring break instead of one}. 

Or maybe a system where school is “on” for six weeks, then “off” for one week would work best. Unit studies would fit nicely into this timeframe. 

There is also the option of going January to December, or beginning with your child’s birthday, or choosing a random start date. {For several years, our starting date was the Monday closest to July first.} 

Once you choose the best fit, you can begin to block out dates for vacations, holidays, planned time off, and any outside events that will affect your school year. If you are in a state that requires a certain number of days of instruction, you can do a preliminary count to see where you might have to adjust. 

Daily Requirements and Scheduling

One important consideration will be what you require of your student{s} each day {or week}, and how you will schedule your days to make this happen.

Will you expect a certain amount of work to be completed by the end of each school day? Or will you plan more in terms of a full Monday through Friday week, with pacing slightly different for each day—maybe even using Friday as a “catch up” day?

Will you expect to start and finish school at the same time each day? Would you allow for differing starting and ending times based on the day’s agenda? Or will you want to follow a more strict schedule, without a lot of outside interference?

Will you have a full day set aside for appointments and field trips, or add them into your week as you go?

What about lesson plans? How detailed will they be, and what happens when {not if} they go south? Personally I am more of a general planner: I have an idea of where I want to start the school year, and where I want to end up, but I do not use a weekly or daily lesson plan to get there. We simply begin the year and move forward. 

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How Much Independence Do You Anticipate?

Another thing to contemplate when developing a framework for your days is how much independent work you want your student{s} to complete. Depending on age/grade, this may range from “little to none” to “basically everything.” 

Spoiler alert: Independence will come more slowly {and later} than you think. You will need to plan your own time accordingly.

If you are thinking that the very beginning elementary years are the only time you will need to sit with your child while they are doing the majority of their work, I have a surprise for you: They will need you to guide them longer than you would imagine. Even my very independent oldest still has lots of questions for me and wants me to be right there readily available while she works most of the time.

Spoiler alert: Independence will come more slowly {and later} than you think. You will need to plan your own time accordingly. Click To Tweet

This is not a bad thing. While easing into more autonomous study is a laudable goal {by 6th grade my oldest was going off into the other room to concentrate on at least part of her daily work} don’t expect independent study to come easily or quickly or early.

Younger children will literally need you to be sitting beside them helping them navigate most of the time. By late elementary or early middle school, they should be able to handle more of their school work without direct guidance. But honestly, even older students will need/want you to be nearby and accessible.

The next post will address a few key surprises {all positive} that I did not expect {nor fully appreciate} when we first began our homeschooling journey. I encourage you to check out the other posts in the How To Homeschool series as well.

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