When I started homeschooling my oldest for preschool, I figured I would have loads of time. I was teaching one three-year-old. How hard could it be? It turns out it was very hard. I got to the end of the day and had no idea what I’d done. I just knew I was exhausted. In the 17 years since then, I’ve learned a lot about homeschooling and how to manage my time. If you’re beginning your homeschool journey (or just feel like you are), I think you’ll appreciate these tips for homeschooling time management.
The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling Time Management
#1 Take your life into account
When I considered what was required just to homeschool, I wasn’t worried. I would read, use a few math manipulatives, maybe do an art project and I would be done. That would take an our, tops.
What I hadn’t considered was:
- My toddler who was into everything
- My baby who needed constant attention
- My husband who expected a plan for dinner
- Homemaking tasks that still had to be done
- My need for time with God, socializing, writing time, exercise, reading…
I hadn’t considered the demands of just an hour of homeschooling on my already busy life. No wonder I often found I hadn’t homeschooled at all.
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Luke 14:28 ESV
Like a foolish builder, I hadn’t determined whether I had enough time set aside to homeschool. Based on my results, it appeared I did not have time. But once I took account of all my activities, I was able to make sure homeschooling was a priority. You can claim your free tool for taking account of your time here. In order to manage your time, you need to determine everything that demands your time and how much time you’ll devote to each area.
#2 Create routines
Before I gave up on homeschooling and having any more children, I discovered FLYLady online. From her, I learned that the main reason I felt I didn’t have enough time was because I didn’t have routines. Every day was different in my home. I thought that was the great thing about homeschooling. No longer would I have to get up at the same time every day, take a child to daycare, and bathe the baby at the same time every night. What I didn’t realize is that I threw the baby out with the bath water! Yes, the flexibility of homeschooling was wonderful, but I had given up on the routines that saved my time and my sanity.
There is a time for everything. Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV
I started with an evening routine. I loaded the dishwasher every night. That allowed me to know that the dishes (and sink) were clean every morning. This made a world of difference in my attitude! My preschooler could unload for me, saving me time.
I added a morning routine. I started getting dressed nicely, instead of staying in my pajamas or sweat pants all day. I did my makeup and hair, too. My brain got the message that this was a “work” day. People started asking me where I was going since I was “dressed up.” I didn’t realize that before I looked like I was home for a sick day. I started doing chores and then homeschooling in the morning before there were many interruptions. I would also plan what was for dinner, so I wouldn’t have to dread my husband’s question about it that evening.
I created weekly routines. I knew when I would do each child’s laundry, when I would grocery shop, and when I would try to schedule appointments. Suddenly, I felt like I had tons of time. Things went so well that I knew I could continue homeschooling and even have more children.
For successful homeschooling time management, begin to establish routines.
#3 Put your time in a box
The more children I had and the more I tried to accomplish with my time, the more I needed a schedule. I hated schedules. It was a big attraction of homeschooling — being able to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. But I realized I either needed to give up a number of activities (blogging, church leadership, tennis) or I needed to be more disciplined with my time.
I read Managers of Their Homes and attempted to create a schedule for every 15 minutes of my day. I was so discouraged when I couldn’t follow the schedule for even an hour that I gave up. But the demands of my full life continued to put pressure on me.
I discovered time boxing which is what I consider to be between a routine and a schedule. Rather than schedule specific times for what you want to do (like doing math from 8-8:30), you assign blocks of time to general areas. Today, during the school year, early mornings are my personal, marriage, and curriculum-writing times. Mid-morning to lunch is chore and dedicated homeschooling time. Early afternoons are dedicated to my blog and podcast. Late afternoons and evenings are dedicated to my family and to homemaking. During the day, I have time boxes for free time as well.
Time boxing does require discipline at first. Setting a timer and rewarding yourself for abiding by your time limits can make it easier to build the habit.
Time boxing is flexible enough to deal with interruptions. If I use some of my personal time for family needs, I will dedicate some of the family time box to my personal needs.
Time boxing also creates family harmony. If your social media time, for example (guess why I’m using this as an example?), takes up your whole day and your child keeps clamoring for your attention, explain your time boxing system. Make sure your family has their own time boxes. While you’re on social media, your child’s time box may be napping or playing an educational game, for example.
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8 ESV
Continue to look for the right time for your activities. As the day goes on, I have less and less ability to do challenging work. Time box your toughest tasks for when you have the most energy. Think of time boxing as an ongoing experiment. Every season may require changes. Read more about time boxing and apps that can help.
The key is to not give up. Keep working on putting your time in a box in a way that works for your family. If I can homeschool with the poor time management skills I had at the start, anyone can!
My dear friend, Dr. Melanie Wilson is a Christian psychologist turned homeschooling mother of six. She blogs at Psychowith6.com, podcasts at The Homeschool Sanity Show, and is the author of The Organized Homeschool Life and Grammar Galaxy language arts curriculum.
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