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I have people asking how our minimalist homeschooling schedule looks, and I’ll be honest, I’m just not a big fan of publishing our schedule. Why? Well, because it would be our schedule… not the schedule. I fear that people would look at it and think “that’s the minimalist homeschooling schedule.” You know? So, I would much rather provide lots of insight into minimalist homeschool planning than give a schedule that likely won’t work for many people.
As my husband put it, I’m more about encouraging people to rethink how they do things than telling them how to do it. So, with that in mind, take a look at my notes, and see if anything I do makes you rethink your homeschool planning… but, I’m not telling you how to do it :).
We have a toddler (2), kindergartner (5), second grader (8), and fourth grader (10) in our home right now. I know you’re eager to see how we are doing our “most important things” with multiple ages, so I’ll get to it.
One Minimalist Homeschooling Mindset Hack from the book is: Time Yourself.
I have timed ourselves, and I time ourselves whenever it feels like things aren’t falling nicely into place anymore. I know how long lessons actually take, and I know how long my children will usually pay attention before they need a break or change of scenery. Of course, I need to consider how long they can usually go before asking for food, too. I know how long I need for my tasks; and I know how long I can give 110% before I need a break. I’m a big fan of being realistic, not idealistic when it comes to homeschool planning.
My secret weapon is Table Time!
Hear me out, and read the notes. There may be something that you can apply to your homeschool planning even if you’re certain that table time can’t work for you. Maybe it can!
This only works because…
- I timed ourselves and I know exactly how long I want to spend on our priorities, and how much time is available to spend on our priorities (either because of other obligations, or because of limited attention spans and patience).
- I have homeschool priorities and values. We don’t just fill this time because I feel obligated to do table time, or because someone told me I should. We do table time because there are specific things to which I want to give my best attention each day.
- It suits how I like to teach and our personal homeschool priorities. If you do not value prescribed lessons, or traditional subjects taught in a traditional way, then this probably won’t work for you. This goes back to the introduction when I said this is our way, not the way. There are many ways to have a simple, minimal homeschool. I encourage you to check-out the book if you’re inspired to find your own way.
Table Time Notes
1. It happens first…
…right after I read aloud on the sofa. Why? Because we do the most important things first, of course. So reading aloud, and the subjects we do at table time are the most important in our school. Note that we’re not just doing any “book work,” but rather, we are doing our high priority subjects. We want these subjects specifically to get our best time and attention with me. We’re all on our best behavior early in the day – including me.
2. We all sit at the table together, including me.
We minimize distractions, and I do not multitask beyond being available to all 4 children – no phone. See where that coffee mug is? That’s where I sit – between the youngest ones at the table.
3. I include the two year old.
I know what half of you are thinking: There is no way my toddler will sit through table time without wreaking havoc on the whole ordeal!
Hear me out. I happen to have a two year old now who likes being included, and so she has her own dollar store workbooks, some crayons, and a pencil. She may have stickers some days. It has NOT always been that way. She was not sitting at the table at this time last year, and my other daughter was not interested in being included in table time until she was 4. So, they played. During those stages, our table time was at the coffee table in the living room so that I could sit on the floor and be available for tea parties while I worked with the older kids. It was still “table time,” and I still did our most important things with the oldest, while accommodating the youngest.
The point is, it is not a requirement for the toddler to do workbooks – cater a bit to what she wants.
4. I “peel off” the children.
To start, they all sit down with their math. The kindergartner (and toddler) get most of my attention first, even though I am available to answer questions from the oldest two. I do two 15-minute lessons with her, and then I set the the little ones up with an activity that they can do on their own as long as they’d like (worksheets they like, mazes, stickers, stamps, do-a-dot, coloring, beads, etc.). When they are done, and have cleaned up their “school work,” they may go play together.
Then I work with the 2nd grader, taking 5-15 minutes to review the math he has done, teach any confusing points, and/or practice things together that might need some oversight and correction. We do another subject for about 15-minutes, and I leave him with some practice work.
Finally, I work with the 4th grader, who has been doing math for 45-60 minutes by this time. Now, I know that he loves math, can focus for that long, and needs that long to really get his momentum – because I have timed it :). If a long period of math doesn’t work for your child, choose one or two subjects that are a high priority that do work. I spend a few minutes looking over his math, and discussing any difficult points. Then we do two 15-minute lessons together.
This way, the kindergartner works with me for 30 minutes, plus an activity that she can take or leave for as long as she’d like. The second grader works at the table for about an hour, and the fourth grader works at the table for about an hour and half, maybe 2. I am done with the heavy-lifting in about two hours.
5. I’m not actually bound by a clock.
My summary shows approximate times, but I don’t watch the clock and switch lessons as soon as we hit our time limit, nor do we start another page just because there is still “more time.” Confining ourselves to a specific number of minutes creates meaningless stress. For what? I know how much I want to cover each day, so we cover that. As a result, some lessons may only take 5 or 10 minutes, but a complicated or exciting concept may stretch things an extra 10 or 15 minutes. I can tell when we’re done with a subject. I don’t mind if our table time takes an hour and thirty minutes, or two hours and thirty, as long as it is meaningful and everyone is relaxed. But, because I have previously timed everything, I do have a rough idea of how long a reasonable lesson will take, and I have planned accordingly.
6. Only table time is non-negotiable (mostly).
This is not the full extent of my children’s education or my homeschool planning, but, it is the part that I make every effort to be disciplined about. Then the rest of the day is more relaxed. Our afternoons often include a lot of free time. Because I have clarified our priorities and goals, I know which subjects I want to spend some of our afternoon time exploring, and exactly how I want to do that. So, we do those things as time allows, but I don’t often stress about getting specific things done on a specific afternoon. Our high priorities are also addressed during morning read alouds. The book goes into detail about all of the facets of homeschool planning.
7. We have always had table time.
Table time has evolved and adjusted as we have had more children, and the children have grown. We have abandoned it at times, but always come back to it. Ever since my oldest was in kindergarten, he had two subjects to do with me every day. I purposely do NOT do it during nap time: I want the younger ones to see table time so they know what to expect when they choose to participate. Plus, nap time is a useful time for lots of other things – like board games that the little ones will destroy, or quiet time for mommy ;).
If your kids are not used to table time, or doing the same thing at the same time every day, but you’d like to try it, make sure that you stick with it diligently for a couple weeks before you decide whether it works. But with that said…
8. Some days are crazy.
This is not a perfect system any more than we are all perfect human beings. Just like in school, some days the kids are riled up and distracted. Unlike school, some days the toddler is throwing things across the table at her brother, or sitting in the middle of it. We sometimes stop in the middle because everyone is starving, and pick-up where we left off in the afternoon. Some days there is singing and joke-telling, or bickering and complaining. Most days go smoothly. Some days we throw in the towel after a very short time at the table. My motto for this time of the day is:
Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, not even if your whole world seems upset.
– St. Francis De Sales
In summary, our table time goes like this (all times are approximate, give or take 10 minutes… or 30):
0:00 All to math.
0:00-0:15 Math with K (2yo alongside).
0:15-0:30 Reading with K (2yo alongside).
0:30 Set-up activity for 2yo and K.
0:30-0:45 Math review with 2nd grader.
0:45-1:00 Other subject with 2nd grader. Assign practice.
1:00-1:15 Math review with 4th grader.
1:15-1:30 Other subject with 4th grader.
1:30-1:45 Another subject with 4th grader. Assign practice.
For us, timing ourselves has offered important clues into how we can do what is most valuable and loved in an efficient and peaceful way. How about you? What has offered important insights for your homeschool planning? Do you have any questions? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
PS- We start with math because I consider it something we need, but also because all of my children love it. Insert your own needed and loved subjects.
This post is part of the Minimalist Homeschooling Mindset Series, where I discuss more about each of the mindset hacks in the book. A large portion of the book is devoted to scheduling, so if that is where you struggle, consider getting the book for a step-by-step scheduling guide.
We have a group of minimalist homeschoolers on facebook who are all about keeping homeschool planning uncluttered and simple. We’d love for you to join us!
Want more tips and encouragement to keep things simple and meaningful? I send Simple Advice each week. You can sign-up for that here.
Wishing you all of the simple things,