When you first start homeschooling, it can be difficult to anchor down a schedule. It seems like there is just so much to cover, and you don’t want to miss anything! Especially if you don’t have the support from family and friends, the pressure can be heavy during that first year.
In truth, that first year of homeschooling is really an experimental stage– you are going to learn what works and what doesn’t. Typically, we home educators tend to do TOO MUCH in the beginning, leading to cranky mornings and quick burnout.
Related: The Beginners Guide to Homeschooling
I’m here to encourage you to keep going, and please feel free to branch out during your homeschool experience. Try new things, try different things, and try, try again. Your ideal homeschool day will evolve over time, and pretty soon, you’ll know what it takes to homeschool in YOUR household.
One of the things that has really helped me the past couple of years is block scheduling.
What is block scheduling?
Scheduling and working in blocks means that you take subjects which don’t necessarily need everyday attention, and you break them up into blocks of 3-4 weeks (or longer, depending on your preference and what you want to cover). I prefer working in monthly blocks, so we essentially cover a new main lesson each month of the year .
For example, while math is important to do year ’round, history doesn’t really need to be an everyday focus. Specifically, when you get into the upper grades, history is something that can be on a rotation, with gaps in between. If you are studying The Middle Ages and you want to use the block approach, you may go in-depth with this time period for 3-4 weeks, and then let it rest while you move onto something different, such as chemistry or sacred geometry.
Furthermore, you can incorporate other subjects, such as grammar, math, art, and others into whatever lesson block you are working on. While studying The Middle Ages, you may decide to have the kids write a paper (grammar/writing practice), bake a medieval meal (math/home economics), or paint the English countryside (art).
Here are a few benefits of this approach:
Your family doesn’t feel burnout from a particular subject. Rotating main lesson blocks means that things stay fresh. I remember when we used a structured curriculum for 3rd grade, and the main focus for history was the Native Americans. By the end of the year, my kids didn’t want to do ANYTHING involved with Native Americans lol! They had grown so tired of the subject that they started complaining to PLEASE do something else. If I had broken this down into a 4 week lesson, they would’ve have enjoyed it more and been open to coming back to it later.
You can cover a lot in a little amount of time. Instead of spreading yourself thin over a number of subjects, you focus in on the main subject for the month. My kids continue to have anchor lessons each day for things that I feel need repetitious practice, such as math, spelling, music, and grammar. Our main focus each month shifts though, and we can really explore the subject of the month instead of breezing over it.
Themes make school exciting. My kids really look forward to our blocks. They know that whatever it is, we are going to incorporate as many fun things as possible. We won’t just read about the subject- we will also do projects, crafts, experiments, and other fun things. If there’s a holiday, I may try to pick a subject that could tie in with that holiday, bringing in even MORE fun. For example, in 5th grade, we focused on art history for the full month of February. Since Valentines Day is on February 14th, I named the month “For the Love of Art.” Not only did we read up on art history, but we also did plenty of love centered crafts that complimented our lessons.
Kids feel a sense of control. I always give my girls the opportunity to suggest or give input for the block lesson of the month. When kids know what to expect, and have a hand in decisions, it helps them feel secure in their day-to-day. It makes our homeschooling more of a team effort. This also means that my kids are more likely to cooperate when it’s time to begin the day’s lesson. When kids aren’t excited about a subject, they tend to protest with whining. If they are excited about the lesson though, it makes my job much easier!
Blocks help you schedule. When you are working with one block per month, it is easier to schedule in bulk. You can put all your brain power into learning the most you can about one thing. This helps you, as the teacher, become extra focused, instead of spread out over so much. When you are worn thin, it makes everything else seem harder. By using blocks, you can bring more to the table because you don’t have to be all over the place.
Block scheduling makes things flow so much better in my household. How about you? What has worked for your family? Share in the comments below!
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