View Full Version : Struggling with scheduling, need advice about *timing*

07-06-2011, 10:47 PM
So I've chosen my curricula, scheduled our extracurriculars and decided on a start date and length of our "school year." I've even figured out roughly how many days per week (and lessons per day) I'll need to teach each of my two older girls (5, 7) each subject.

But here's where I'm lost......Figuring out at what time in the day to teach each thing to each kid since I can't teach them both together for *most* of the curriculum choices I've made. It's not because I "can't" in the sense that they're on different levels (though that's part of it), it's more that my eldest needs a LOT of hand-holding. Where most kids can be given some direction then left for a little while to do some work on their own while attention shifts to another child, and then a few minutes later switching back ,etc...My eldest will literally disengage if I'm not paying RAPT attention to everything she's doing. So I've intentionally chosen work that needs a lot of interaction from me (lots of classical and hands-on unit-studies type stuff). But I added it up, and I'll have to spend roughly standard school hours with her just to get it all done! I thought maybe it was too much, but really, for 2nd grade, and given where she needs work, it's NOT!! I can't think of anything I'd just "let go," yk?

My kindergartner will need half a day from me to get through what I've picked for her and she can--if she wants--join us for science class (though a lot of it will be repetition from her own curriculum, just at a higher level), and let's not even talk about my precious 3 year-old who's going to be all alone it seems like, unless she can quietly work her way into our lessons or color/draw/play nearby....Gulp....

How am I gonna do this??

Other considerations is that they both need to do about 20 min of Rosetta Stone each day (Chinese) and we have one computer. But that's the only sharing they have to do, the rest is offline. Also, my youngest will be going to preschool outside the home two mornings a week so I'll have more time to do academics with the older two without interruption. Luckily, drop off and pick-up won't take more than 15 min ea. start to finish b/c the school is across the street from my house ;)

The middle is a morning glory, the eldest has to be roused from her bed using C4, some mornings more like a bunker-buster. All of our extracurriculars are after 2:30 pm. So that leaves me most days the hours from 9-2 to do school. Are there better ways to toggle between two kids that I'm not considering? Should I do same-subject teaching even though they're at different levels and just sit between them and go back and forth so both girls feel attended to? (Of course I'll feel like I'm at a tennis match) When do I read to them from their different books? I have to read SOTW to my eldest and picture books to my middle child. Should I read the STOW as bedtime reading to the eldest and just do the activities during the day? Maybe same with the middle? Is that leaving too much time between the reading and the activity and they'll forget what they heard?

Any tips for how to handle this?

Stella M
07-06-2011, 11:17 PM
What I've found helpful is to schedule subject by subject. First week, you worry about maths. Try out different times and ways of working. When you've found something that suits, add in LA and do the same. Keep adding subjects in once you have a good idea of where the previous subject sits.

For example, can you do maths with your middle child in the morning, before eldest wakes up ? Then have breakfast all together with an audio book playing. Send middle off to play with little while you tackle maths with eldest.

Have you considered easing your load with your middle child and schooling her a shorter week, including the days youngest is at preschool. Buddy the two youngest up the rest of the week and do the really intensive, hand-holding stuff with eldest the other days ?

Car schooling ? If you are driving a lot to other activities, can you have CD's for stories, maths drills, biographies, music etc ?

Another idea is to hook subjects to something that happens daily. For example, listening to music at breakfast. Story books after bath. Science after lunch table gets cleaned up. SOTW chapter at morning tea time, activities after morning tea.

Can you homeschool on weekends when your dh is around ? Spread the workload over the 7 days ? Yo-yoing between young children is pretty exhausting. If they can't school together, because of content/skills differences and they can't school apart, because eldest needs you right there all the time, I'd be trying to adapt my program to the circumstances, in the knowledge that things get easier as children get older ( mostly ) and there is plenty of time to add more content in.

Your schedule sounds really busy!

07-06-2011, 11:36 PM
Thanks! That is all helpful actually. I hadn't considered using weekends, but now that you say it, it makes sense. It will take some adjustment on my husband's part b/c he's so attached to "time-off" with the girls on the weekends and has already instilled in them the expectation that weekends are for non-stop FUN (don't get me started...), but it might be the only way. Also the idea of lightening Kindergarten even more. I think that feels right. I didn't do that much with my eldest for Kindergarten and she did fine the following year (well, with the exception of her behavior ;) ). I also like the idea of doing a subject day rather than trying to do all subjects in each day. That could work out the BEST actually b/c one thing my eldest has said is that she dislikes it when every day is the same. What better way to mix it up, and it might give me more time to really delve into a subject too. We could get more work done in one day that way too so it would seem on paper as though we'd done a week's worth in one day.

What do you think about math and foreign language though, things that typically require more immersion or consistency to really learn? Is that a myth at this age? Or overstated? Could I get by with a longer once a week (or twice) math lesson vs. a little every day?

One good thing is that they have some separate extras after school, and I thought one solution could be to use the time my younger two are at dance class to work with the eldest on something that travels well (a book we're reading, math, grammar, writing workbook, etc...) and vice versa when the eldest is at drama and the younger two have to wait for her. That would free up some time during those days for more "free" time/play.

I'd also thought about combining all "writing" related work into one day, but again, wondered i not having writing each day would hurt them. Any thoughts here?

Stella M
07-06-2011, 11:50 PM
I'd do less maths but every day. Short but consistent. Same with writing.

You could probably get away with a a couple of language sessions a week rather than everyday, with just conversational practice in between.

I like the idea of using the extra-curricular time to get work done. I've done that a lot, and as long as you're prepared, it can work well. Sometimes we only work for half of the class time if it's later in the afternoon, as the attention flags then.

I think you have to get creative with scheduling when there are multiple factors at work - younger kids, full schedule, other needs.

07-07-2011, 01:41 AM
I don't want to sound all negative here and Melissa has given some great positive ideas, but I could never ever do what you are proposing. I know some can but not me....Ive been blogging some about our past four years just recently, my link is my sig if you are interested in reading some of the things I've tried.

It sounds to me like you will be spending your days bouncing between kids, is anyone going to be happy like that?

I think you never really know what is going to work until you start, so in some ways these things will just sort themselves out as you all find a groove of working together you know.

I realise everyone is different, but I have learned to lower my expectations greatly, whilst I have a toddler and one learning to read ..... We simply cannot do everything I wish we could and trying to was making me miserable.

My focus would be on essentials and then try to do the other things together as much as you can.

07-07-2011, 03:08 AM
Wow that seems overwhelming! I know you think you can't scale back at all, but that really does sound like a lot. We just finished up Kindy here and can't say we ever spent more than an hour a morning at the table. We do lots of hands on, literature based, and game based learning here though.

I would honestly try to break it down to the "must haves" at first, and then as you get into a groove, start adding other stuff in. Stuff like science or history can be once or twice a week at that age. Reading and math are biggies to me and I prefer them at least 3 days a week. 15-20 minute is a more realistic expectation for that age when it comes to attention span though. With breaks in between to burn off some energy, get a snack, etc.

Start with what you feel are the "absolute essentials" like math and reading/phonics - whatever. Schedule them 15-20 mins 3-5x a week. Then add in the other stuff like science and history with all the kiddos together. Work with the early bird first while the other is sleeping. Then work with the eldest later in the morning. Use their natural schedules to your advantage! :)

Also maybe you can pair the older girls up with the baby while you are working solo with one of them? Like having them play, read, do art projects, etc together. Great way to practice reading aloud. You can get a TON of learning in using games and art projects - I am all about the sneaky learning approach ;) educational movies/shows like School House Rock, Electric Company, etc are great too. Lots to choose from on Netflix. Plus there's a ton of great online resources - games to reinforce whatever they are learning about. Or their Chinese program.

SOTW has the audio book/MP3s - well worth the investment!! We use this wayyyy more than the book. DS reads the book on his own - but he begs to listen to the CDs. In the car, over breakfast, during play time - he just loves it.

Right now, I feel like my biggest responsibility is to develop/support a love of learning. The rest comes in time, but first a child has to want to learn and enjoy learning. It has to be meaningful to him/her. I try to make learning as fun as possible (hence all the games) and it amazes me how much DS picks up that way! And how much he explores on his own as a result of his love of learning. He is much more willing to do difficult tasks now than he was last fall, cuz he feels satisfaction at completing and mastering something.

Stella M
07-07-2011, 03:13 AM
Trial and error is the best way of learning what works for our particular families, don't you think ? :)

07-07-2011, 03:14 AM
I agree about the weekends! Great time, especially since you have Daddy around to help out!

Also what about weeknights? Some kids are too tired to learn after dinner but that might be a good time for some 1-1 time. Daddy can take the other kiddos and you can get some 1-1 time in there. DS often will ask to do school work while I am cooking. He sits at the kitchen table and works on whatever - or we prep dinner together and then sit together and work on something with the occasional stir/taste breaks.

07-07-2011, 03:20 AM
Trial and error is the best way of learning what works for our particular families, don't you think ? :)

Oh yes!! I tried to create "school at home" and it was a disaster LOL Backed off a bit and let it take its own course and WOW! It amazes me how much we can get accomplished when I let go. For example, I would NEVER have considered math drills. So not up DS's alley. But he invented a game that is his own unique, on the move version of math drills. And begs to do it. He loves setting the timer and running around the house or jumping on the trampoline while I call out the problems on his MM worksheet. LOL We can breeze thru 1-2 sheets in under 10 mins, when it could take 10mins sitting down at the table to complete 3 problems off the same sheet. :P

Gotta love outside the box kids and how they take their education into their own hands sometimes :)

07-07-2011, 09:33 AM
I have to echo what some of the others have said here. It all sounds really overwhelming--on the parent level and child level. Spending a normal school day's amount of time while home schooling? Doesn't that somewhat defeat the purpose? ;) I'm not trying to rain on your parade but I feel as though you might be setting yourself up for some problems and disappointment because it sounds like flexibility is going to be difficult at best with so much going on...and in my experience it's the key toward peaceful home schooling.

It seems like your 7yo may need some de-schooling? At some point you'll beed to teach her how to work a bit more independently and no time like the present, right? Giving her the rapt attention she demands, in my opinion, is more than likely going to encourage her to continue requiring that degree of your attention and at what point will she learn to work without that attention? I think you'd be doing her, yourself and your younger two kids a favor if you worked on this with the oldest. I speak from experience...my 12yo had that issue and I gave him what he wanted for many years and it made getting him past that issue very, very difficult on both of us. I am not saying it's a situation you can fix overnight--it will be a process--but I think it's worth starting on from the beginning of home schooling.

What I'd suggest as far as working with them would be to seat yourself at a table with both and alternate giving each direct attention/instructions. They will each learn the rhythm...mom reads to me, gets me started, then works with sister while I work by myself for a few moments, then mom comes back to me and we discuss what I did, etc. Once you get the rhythm established you can let one of both sit away from you and have them come to you if they need input or another activity, I don't think there are enough hours in the day to spend 5-6 hours with one child, half a day with the other, from 2pm on for activities some days...and where does the 3yo fit into this? LOL

Good luck, I'm sure you'll figure it out. Just remember the cardinal rule of home schooling: Be Flexible :)

07-07-2011, 10:36 AM
I tried posting once, but didnt . . . i sometimes get snitty on my period and we all know THATS not useful! BUt i think when I first started . . . i started with curriculum for 2 subjects, and just reading books from the library for other subjects. I stayed with that until those 2 subjects seemed good and it became obvious we needed to add more. I grew it organically so that I didnt overwhelm any of us. I STILL needed to change almost every single curriculum choice i'd made, even tho I'd put a LOT of planning in to it. And seriously, I'm a chick with big brains. Its just really hard to know what will work for you and your kids until you try it.

I would strongly suggest not spending a lot on curriculum right off the bat. I mean, if your kids are both gifted and driven and your reason for homeschooling is to give them a more rigorous education than they could get in a private school, keep on with your plan. If you want your kids to be happy and you have a challenging kid to deal with and you are trying to be in this for the long haul, consider stepping in to it more gradually. I just worry that you could get quickly overwhelmed and frustated and burn out!

Accidental Homeschooler
07-07-2011, 11:33 AM
I have two who are 7 1/2 years apart in age so they do nothing together unless it is a field trip or art. I go back and forth with my younger dd getting a "break" while I work with my older daughter. My older daughter can do quite a lot independently but not everything and we sit down and go over/check her work together. I expected her to be much more self-directed than she turned out to be and I also enjoy time with her so it is a challenge some days. With my younger daughter, who will be six next month, I alternate some subjects by days. History is twice a week. Science is twice a week. Handwriting is twice a week (formal, she does some on her own). Critical thinking is twice a week. Math, reading and practicing her instrument are everyday. I also notice that my younger dd is showing some signs of working independently, not wanting me there when she does math, wanting me to read the directions and then go AWAY. I am expecting/hoping that to continue as up until now I have had to sit right next to her for everything. I haven't been keeping track of hours worked, but for my younger dd it is probably two to two and half hours a day (with lots of breaks) and for my older it is probably four.

I actually figured out how much time my dd was doing in 7th grade at public school and used it as a sort of guide. She had six periods if you don't count lunch. Each was 40 minutes and I took off ten for getting started and packing up at the end of class. So six periods of 30 minutes each, or three hours a day of on task academics (including P.E. every other day and French every other day). We dropped French and will start Spainish in ninth grade and PE of course I don't worry about doing formally. So even at three or four hours a day I think we are beating ps.

If your older dd is not a morning person and younger dd is, could you teach your younger dd first? Or maybe just get the bulk of her work done first? Good luck, it is sort of a balancing act around here some days but we are slowly figuring it out.

07-08-2011, 05:55 AM
Yes, perhaps I was projecting. :o Sorry about that, Deb. I just don't want you or your kids to completely burn out. It may totally work for you guys to school from 9-2 every day. Everyone is different. Sometimes I forget that not all kids are as...uncooperative...as mine. lol
Lol I probably need to ditto that, my response wasn't very helpful, sorry.

Trial and error and flexibility rule the day in my book.

07-08-2011, 01:49 PM
You are getting some great advice so I'll try not to repeat it. My kids have very different learning styles and can be very needy learners. What you have outlined is going to result in burn out but I totally understand feeling like you can't cut anything out. To save my sanity I switched from TWTM to CM since the latter is easier to do with multiple children. The key things that kept me sane:
1. Use meal times for read alouds like SOTW. Then even the younger kids will be able to listen to the best of their abilities (chewing activates the brain pathways!). My youngest learned an amazing amount just tagging along with our history and science studies.
2. Use the kids' natural sleep schedule to your advantage. I work with my early morning child while the night owl sleeps in in the morning.
3. Don't have them do everything in writing!!! This REALLY slows down the speed at which you can get through schoolwork and most kids learn even more verbally than they do in writing. In this one area I think Ms. Mason is absolutely correct and the Wise-Bauer folks are dead wrong.
4. Do combine learning together whenever feasible. My family tends to do some literature, most science and most history together. Yes, the younger child does end up with some repetition but that repetition really helps the k-3 set learn.
5. Learning at this age (regardless of philosophy or methodology) should look a whole lot more like fun than work.
6. My husband is also a "fun time daddy" who wants only weekend fun with the kids. We turned him into the "fun field trip daddy". Many weekends my husband takes one or more of the kids on fun or educational weekend activities while I stay home and lesson plan or clean or do something for myself. We also use these times as "dates" with our kids by making sure that each child gets time alone with each parent during the month. These dates do wonders for family harmony which makes homeschooling easier/better.
7. For my family, using specific times for specific subjects never ever worked. Instead I tend to make a list of EVERYTHING (even brushing their teeth) that needs to get done that day and we just work through the list as it best works out for that day. This method is esp. helpful during cold and flu season when you need more flexibility due to illnesses. During really busy years I would take this daily list and divide it into 3 columns: what must be done, what would be nice to get done, what can be dropped and forgotten if needed. My teens are now finding it useful to divide their days in similar ways.
8. My kids and I became experts at taking boring workbook pages and turning them into family games based on our favorite commercial games (ie. turn a science worksheet into mini-trivial pursuit, turn history narrations into a jeopardy game, turn math drill sheets into bingo games and so on.
9. And many years I spent my day sitting in the same room with my kids bouncing between them as they needed me.
10. Turn some of your daily schoolwork into learning centers that the kids can do on their own. My youngest had her own math manipulative center, copywrite center, art center and so on. This way she could bounce around the centers as they interested her while I worked with the older children.
11. Encourage the kids to "teach" each other as they play. When my middlest was 6 or 7 yo she "played preschool" with my 3-4yo, doing all the favorite activities from her own preschool days. To this day, those two years are some of my youngest's fondest memories with her big sister. It created a great basis for a wonderful friendship between the two of them.
12. I REALLY REALLY REALLY wish I had focused more on teaching my kids household chores and good life habits instead of focusing so much on academics. Turns out that learning those good habits is vital to doing well as a teen student (mine were your kids' age when we first began homeschooling but are now teens).
13. Watch your kids play. When you see them re-enacting some scene from a book you read them, mark that down as a narration. When you see them choosing math games or manipulatives in their freetime and those games cover the same skills as your workbook pages then mark that down as math time. Remember, with a little creativity any worksheet can be turned into a hands-on activity.

And finally...remember that there is no one correct way to homeschool...do what works for you and your kids and don't worry about what anyone else is doing or expecting. Wishing you well on your journey.

07-08-2011, 02:09 PM
I have 2 sons aged 5 & 7 and I started Kindergarten with both of them very early. We did first grade last year when they were 3 turning 4 and 5 turning 6, I just expect a bit less from the younger one - although, surprisingly he kept up nicely. This year I am doing 2nd grade with the 7 year old and 1st grade again (but different material) with the younger one. The only subjects I do differently with them are English and Maths - I don't think Science, Health, History etc need to be on a less advanced level for the younger child to understand it. He has never had a problem, they both do equally well in those subjects (the little one obviously doesnt do much written work, I let him draw illustrations instead). I give the younger child longer breaks inbetween subjects so I can spend some extra time helping the older child with the more complicated Writing, reading and Maths. It works really well!

07-08-2011, 03:01 PM
Hello. I am in South Africa and have 2 boys, they have just turned 7 and 5 in the last few weeks. I decided from the beginning it would be easier for everyone if we did the same things and just modified it for the little one, so we did Kindergarten when they were 3 and 5 and then First Grade when they were 4 and 6. I basically did the work with the older child and the younger one seemed to learn by osmosis! This year I am doing Second Grade with the 7 year old and First Grade again with the younger one (but now he does it properly and it is all completely new material from last year). The only subjects where I differentiate between grade levels are English (I think you call it Language Arts or something over there) and Maths. For Science, Health, History, Geography and other languages (being South African we do Afrikaans and Zulu) they do the same, except the younger child doesn't have to write more than a few words while the older one writes a couple of sentences. I also give the little one more help than his brother. For English and Maths I sit inbetween them and assist them alternately as suggested by someone else above, and this works really well. I give the little one longer breaks inbetween subjects so I can spend some extra time assisting the older child with the more advanced work. When we have finished all of our work for the day they each do reading aloud with me individually (the little one only reads one or two pages from the reading books I made for him - he gets distracted by the pictures in the readers we've bought and guesses the story rather than reading - he doesn't even look at the words - so I made up stories about him and his adventures with no pictures and he loves them!). I really worried about the age difference until I actually did it. I tried a bought curriculum (Oak Meadow) for a few months but we all found it incredibly boring, repetitive and babyish so we went back to doing what we always have. I use my intuition, teach them what I think is important (I am a very scientific, logical thinker so real science and maths are very important to me and they love it too), use various resources - I love the RIC Publications books - we are using their Technology, Science and Learning Cultures through Language resource books (they are fabulous, from Australia, Google them!), I buy various Maths and English workbooks (they like the ones with stickers) and use a free Health curriculum which available on the internet: www.kidshealth.org/classroom as well as a free British Maths curriculum: www.cimt.plymouth.ac.uk which is wonderful, goes from pre-school right through to the end of high school and is done by one of the British Universities. We only do "real" schoolwork Monday - Thursday and Fridays are for computer programmes (they are doing the Jumpstart World educational games for 1st and 2nd grade as well as various others) and baking, cooking, art etc. I hope some of this is helpful. I know how daunting it can be to teach children with different learning styles and different ages but it can be a lot easier if you give the younger one a chance to try to keep up in certain subjects instead of simplifying it. My youngest child really surprises me with his capabilities, perhaps we don't give them enough credit for their learning capacity at such a young age? My little one is like a sponge, he absorbs knowledge and absolutely revels in it!

07-08-2011, 06:47 PM
The thing that helped for us in building independence was very small baby steps on my part.

Every time I got DS started I would tell I was leaving the room to do something that I really had to do (many times I did nothing except walk to the other end of the house for a few minutes ). This happened several times a day for at least 2 years and slowly slowly slowly I could stay away longer and he was able to self start on his next subject. ( I did have to spend some time reminding him not to just sit there wasting time if he was finished, to move on to the next subject. If thought he couldn't do it without me, he could find something in his tray that he could start on his own until I returned)

Now he completes all of his independent work and leaves anything we do together until the end, by this time I am generally finished with my DD.

I'm now just starting the same process with her of very small baby steps to wean her off me. If it takes 2 years like before the my youngest will be turning 5 and everything should work out nicely.

There were plenty of days that I felt like I was getting nowhere and that I had barely left room, only to hear "MUM!" and I'd have to turn back around. But now looking back I can see that in reality it was quite successful.

We do all of our basics this way and then everything else together.

But once again you can only try things out and see how it goes, have your plans but prepared to throw them out the window if need....and to ok about doing so.