Friday, September 20, 2013

Flexible Homeschooling

I’m all about schedules. I like to make them. I like to keep (and enforce) them! I think that having a plan helps me as a homeschool mom to make sure that school gets done and that what we are spending our days doing is actually helping us accomplish long-term goals for our family.

But sometimes life just gets in the way. And, frankly, some kids do better with more flexibility. For the past two weeks, Emily has been spending a lot of time helping out a neighbor with ALS whose wife is out of town. It’s really thrown our daily routine out the window as she comes and goes. But I think the experience is good for her and that, at times, taking the time to help someone else is just as important as book work.

At other times, our ordinary routines have been disrupted by vacations, running errands, illness, and so on. Here are some ways we’ve thought of to fit school into these “disrupted” days.

  • Taking written work along in the car and using those minutes (or hours) that might be otherwise wasted.
  • Listening to CD’s in the car—grammar, geography, or Bible memory songs; history tapes (We love Diana Waring’s “What in the World’s Going On Here?” series.); or story tapes that reinforce our current history studies.
  • Field trips—We like to fit these in when we’re out of town. Most of our vacations have an educational component, allowing us to count at least a couple of days as school time.
  • Use disruptions as lessons. A trip to the emergency room can count as a field trip! Use a skinned knee to teach about bacteria. Talk about the full moon or the leaves changing color, or whatever you encounter throughout your day.
  • We like to get started on our school year during the summer. That way, we’re leaving room for disruptions (planned or unplanned) during the regular school year and can take a few days off without feeling like we’re getting behind.
  • I like to get the bulk of school done in the morning, with the afternoons left for independent reading time and completion of assignments that didn’t get finished before lunch. However, when our schedule is just crazy (or my child pitches a fit and doesn’t get work done on time), I’ll even have her do work in the evenings to catch up.
  • Especially for younger children, daily life activities can be great school activities as well—from sorting laundry to measuring ingredients for a batch of cookies.  Older children can learn home-ec skills by learning how to repair leaky faucets, change oil, or prepare dinner. School doesn’t always have to involve books and paper!

This post is part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew “Sneaking School into the Busy Days” blog cruise, which will go live on Sept. 24.



  1. "School doesn't always have to involve books and paper!"

    I agree! I am NOT a scheduled person by nature, and I've tried various routines and schedules and they always fall apart. I've learned to just take it step-by-step, and if we get disrupted, derailed or take a rabbit trail, the learning is happening, even if it doesn't seem obvious to outsiders.

  2. Great thoughts! I'm a schedule person as well but I'm learning to be more flexible with our schooling. With a baby and a toddler it's not like I really have a choice.......
    But we're learning as we go and we give ourselves a lot of grace for when we have days that do not go at all as planned.
    We also start earlier in the summer to allow for interruptions and to give ourselves extra time off for holidays and for when family comes to visit. We do field trips usually when Daddy can participate too or when we have family in town.
    We try to do most of our school in the morning too. Afternoons are for reading, Bible, art, and music practice. We often don't finish but Dad steps in when he gets home and he helps me with read aloud time or with supervising the music practice times.

  3. I couldn't agree with you more!! Flexibility is key to a successful homeschool and to the mother keeping her head :)

  4. Great ideas. I love Diana Waring!! I can't wait to start listening again when we start the ancients next year.

  5. I so agree that there are some lessons that are not learned from books. I love a schedule too, but as you say it is so important to be flexible. They schedule is to help me and my kids through the day, not rule us.

  6. I will have to check out the history CD's. As a second generation homeschooler, I remember lot of disruptions over the years, and we learned as much from the trials as we did from the school lessons. God is faithful. Thanks for sharing.


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