Monday, September 26, 2016

Creative Scheduling

It’s easy to get into a rut. Do you study math, language arts, history and science every single day? Sometimes it is more successful to pull ourselves out of that traditional school mindset of every subject every day at the same time and experiment with some different scheduling ideas.

Why might you want to arrange your school year differently?

  • To allow more time to really dig into a subject. Sometimes, there is an advantage to having a long block of time to spend on research, hands-on projects, or even read-alouds without the pressure to “get to the next thing.”
  • To alleviate boredom. Staying with one routine day after day, year after year can be dull. When a student’s schedule changes from month to month or even day to day, it can keep interest higher.

What are some ways to schedule creatively?

  • Block scheduling. When my children were in elementary school, we did unit studies or topical studies for history and science. I found that planning was easier for me and that all the subjects actually got done if we alternated history and science. Although we continued to do math and language arts daily, we might spend 8 weeks studying the solar system. Then we’d immerse ourselves in the Middle Ages for 6 weeks, and so on. 

This year, Emily spent the first 6 weeks of school studying human anatomy and physiology. We used a Great Courses video series, notebooking, research, and a Moving Beyond the Page unit. This was an intensive study for which she’ll receive a  full semester’s credit. During that time period, she had a lighter load in some of her other subjects and we didn’t start some subjects, like Spanish, until her human A&P course was finished.

  • Schedule variations within a week. One method that is gaining popularity in public schools (and that has always been the practice in colleges) is to study different subjects on different days. Math might be scheduled for Monday through Thursday. Science might be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and History might be on Tuesday and Thursday. This allows for some variety from day to day and gives the student longer blocks of time to focus on a subject.
  • Combining subjects. This is one of my favorite ways to both save time and to make education more meaningful. Once your children are reading fairly well, they don’t necessarily need a full language arts or English class. It is so easy to combine language arts into other subjects. Use science vocabulary as spelling or vocabulary work. Assign your children biographies or historical fiction to read. Not only will this enrich their history lessons, but the assignments do double duty, counting for two subjects. Have him write reports about what he is learning in history or science and skip those end-of-chapter questions. You can still use a spelling, vocabulary, or writing curriculum as needed, but you don’t necessarily need one every day or even every year. Of course, unit study curricula are great for combining multiple subjects, from science to art.
  • Daily scheduling. Want to start small? If you always begin your day with math, surprise your children with a read-aloud or art project first thing. Take a walk or go to the park for a break mid-morning. Little surprises or daily variations can keep routines from becoming dull. Keep in mind that your children may need to do math or harder subjects earlier in the day when they are fresh, but there is probably still some room for variety.
  • High school credits. I’ve found myself doing a bit of creative bookkeeping as I award my daughter’s high school credits. She has some subjects, such as critical thinking and art that she does as she has time, depending on what else is going on with her other subjects and extra-curricular activities. Although she did both of these subjects last year, I didn’t feel that she had yet earned a half credit for the courses. She is working on art this summer to finish up a credit. She’ll complete credits for critical thinking and logic next year. I’ll just put them on her transcript in the year in which they were completed.

What ways have you found to schedule creatively?

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