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Difficult School Year

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I've been homeschooling for a Loooooooong time...and this year I just cannot seem to get myself and my kids together. Part of that I know is because our schedule is the busiest it's ever been and I'm not sure how to make everything work when the kids (and I) are so dis-tractable when we've been interrupted and have a difficult time getting back into our groove when interrupted. And this year is proving to have LOTS of interruptions. 

My oldest is not being homeschooled for the first time this year. He is at a school 30 minutes away. The main reason for this is because our state provides free college tuition for high school students, but only if they are enrolled in a public or private school. Funds for homeschoolers are hard to come by. Dual enrollment starts in 7th grade, so we went that route and ended up getting 1 college class for the year. Now that he's in 9th grade and in a public school, he can take up to 30 credits a year.  My oldest is doing very well socially and academically with the combination of a small, chartered high school and then classes at the community college. However, driving him back and forth between the school and the community college is causing a huge disruption in our day with my younger two children who are still homeschooled. 

My younger two are 11 and 8 (boy and girl) doing 5th and 3rd grade respectively. So, our schedule right now looks something like this:

7:30 am: DH and oldest are in the car heading to the school and then DH goes to work. 

8:00 am: me and the younger 2 are up, showering, breakfasting and getting ready for the day. 

9:00 am: school starts. 

11:00 am: T & TH I leave to pick up oldest and take him to the college. 

11:30 am: M, W & F Lunch 

12:00 pm: M, W & F leave to pick up oldest. Younger 2 stay home to continue to work on schoolwork. 

12:10 pm: T & TH return home and make lunch. Have a difficult time restarting school after lunch. 

1:10 pm:  M, W & F return home. School is mostly not done. Not entirely kids' fault as sometimes they needed help and wanted to wait until I was back home. (Sometimes they are just really distractable and I feel that my sole role sometimes as homeschool mom is saying 100x a day "Are you focusing on what you're supposed to be doing?") 

2:30 pm: T & TH-DH returns home with oldest and works from home for the rest of the day. 

Whether it's 1:10 or 2:30, as soon as oldest returns youngest 2 feel the school day is over for him so it's over for them too. Not that they explicitly say that, but more that seems to be the general attitude. Sometimes too, after driving around and being fragmented for the morning, I'm feeling kind of done as well with the prodding needed to get our tasks done. I know this can't continue as I do value education as a whole and value what we are doing in our homeschool. But, I am feeling completely burnt out with how pulled in so many directions I feel all day long. 

So, does anyone have some suggestions on scheduling, or tricks or any types of ideas for me to implement to keep our homeschool days on track?  

Edited by MeghanL
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6 hours ago, MeghanL said:

...does anyone have some suggestions on scheduling, or tricks or any types of ideas for me to implement to keep our homeschool days on track?  

So you have a total of about 4.5 hours each day for homeschooling?
   2 hours (TTh) or 3 hours (MWF) = morning homeschool
      70 min = mid day break (lunch, car commuting trip)
   2.5 hours (TTh) or 1.5 hours (MWF) = afternoon homeschool

As long as you're not dealing with special needs that require extra time/techniques, that seems like a very reasonable amount of time to get everything done.

- Get yourself and younger 2 students up 30 minutes earlier and started with school at 8:30am rather than 9am, to give yourself extra focused time of work.

- Do core subjects in the morning when everyone has the most focus and energy (Math and LA).

- Schedule to the "strengths" of your days -- i.e., MWF you have 3 hours in the morning -- hit school hardest on those days in that morning time block, and really get the core subjects (Math and LA) covered well at that time. You have 3 hours in the afternoon on TTh -- possibly use that time for longer blocks of time for Science and History, or include a "catch-up" period for things that didn't get finished in the morning or the day before.

- If you do a "circle time" or "together time", do it as the first thing after lunch, as a gentle transition back into the afternoon school session.

- Solo reading or music practice by the younger 2 students could be done in the afternoons as "homework", after big brother has come home and has started his homework.

- Not all subjects need to be scheduled for every day. Some things can be done just 2-3x/week. For example -- alternate an afternoon time block of History (MWF) with Science (TTh); do Grammar just 3x/week; do Geography just 2x/week; do Art, Music, Logic just 1-2x/week... etc.

- When older brother returns home at 2:30, everyone takes a 30 minute transition break and to reconnect for the day, and then all THREE students sit down from 3-4pm for homework time (oldest DS = high school work, and younger 2 DC = any work they didn't finish earlier in the day, or some solo critical thinking puzzles/activities, or their solo reading time). While all 3 DC are doing "homework", you take this hour as your transition and break time before starting on dinner or running errands or other required activities.

- Try scheduling reasonable time blocks for each subject, and when the time elapses, if DC are not finished, that work is put in the "homework" basket and they will finish it in the homework hour later in the day, and move on to the next subject.

- Try setting a timer or use other techniques for helping to move students towards keeping focus or self-redirecting.
(But honestly, you may just need to suck it up and the reality may be fore another 2-3 years you WILL need to sit right there with your 2 students and redirect them back on task. I had one highly distractible DS who needed me to keep redirecting his focus back on task until about 6th/7th grade, and for his struggle areas of Spelling, Writing and Math, he needed me there with him into *high school*. Remember to pace yourself -- homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint; find something you can do while sitting with your students that allows you to look up every few minutes and redirect them onto task, if that is what is needed.)

Just an idea of a possible schedule below. BEST of luck in finding what best helps you all! Warmest regards, Lori D.

(3 hours -- 2.5 hr.= actual work, 0.5 hr. = prep/breaks)
     9:00-9:05 (5 min) = morning meeting (touch base about the day's schedule, special instructions, etc.)
9:05-9:50 (45 min) = Math
     9:50-10:00 (10 min) = break 1 (bathroom, water/protein snack, stretch/run around the block)
10:00-10:15 (15 min) = Spelling
10:15-10:40 (25 min) = Grammar 
10:40-10:50 (10 min) = Handwriting/Copywork (3rd grader) or Typing (5th grader)
     10:50-11:00 (10 min) = break 2
11:00-11:30 (30 min) = Writing
11:30-11:50 (20 min) = Reading (either solo reading or a Read-Aloud to go with History or Science)
     11:50-12:00 (10 min) = transition/prep to go do car commuting
afternoon (3 hours -- 1.25 hr. = actual work, 1.75 = lunch/driving/breaks)
     12:00-1:15 = lunch / driving
1:15-1:30 (15 min) = together time (transition back into school with logic/critical thinking puzzle, educational game, short read-aloud, etc.)
1:30-1:45 (15 min) = Geography
1:45-2:30 (45 min) = History
     2:30-3:00 = break / reconnect / transition time
3:00-4:00 = "Homework Hour" (if needed) -- done solo (while you take a break): finish up work, reading, practice music, critical thinking activities, kit or other exploration activity

(2 hours -- 1.5 hr.= actual work, 0.5 hr. = prep/breaks)
     9:00-9:05 (5 min) = morning meeting (touch base about the day's schedule, special instructions, etc.)
9:05-9:50 (45 min) = Math
     9:50-10:00 (10 min) = break 1 (bathroom, water/protein snack, stretch/run around the block)
10:00-10:15 (15 min) = Spelling
10:15-10:25 (10 min) = Handwriting/Copywork (3rd grader) or Typing (5th grader)
10:25-10:50 (25 min) = Writing
     10:50-11:00 (10 min) = transition/prep to go do car commuting
afternoon (3 hours -- 2.0 hr. = actual work, 1.5 = lunch/driving/breaks)
     11:00-12:15 = lunch / driving
12:15-12:30 (15 min) = together time (transition back into school with logic/critical thinking puzzle, educational game, short read-aloud, etc.)
12:30-1:15 (45 min) = Science
     1:15-1:35 (15 min) = break
1:30-2:00 (30 min) = "catch-up" time -- whatever needs to be finished from the morning; or, extra period for Science, History, Grammar, Art
2:00-2:30 (30 min) = Reading
     2:30-3:00 = break / reconnect / transition time
3:00-4:00 = "Homework Hour" (if needed) -- done solo (while you take a break): finish up work, reading, practice music, critical thinking activities, kit or other exploration activity

Edited by Lori D.
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We kinda have similar issues.  I think you all need to get up and start your day earlier. Our schedule has everyone up by 6. If you had school starting at 7:30 or 7:45 you would have a solid 3.5 hour block before you need to do the college drop-off T/R.  Your kids are totally capable of making sandwiches for lunch while you are gone and could eat and goof off during that time. If they save you a sandwich, you could eat and be back to doing school at 12:30 and that would give you two more hours until everyone comes home...a solid 5.5 hours is more than enough for kids that age.

As far as your MWF days go, if you start at 7:30 you have 4 hours of working time until lunch at 11:30. If you need more time for them to finish open ended projects, great, but if not, you could just do shorter days.   

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Four of mine are teenagers or almost teenagers.  We are out of the house constantly.  I have 2 in Track & Field, 1 that plays competitive high school football, 3 in ballet, 2 in a small dance company, 2 in Confirmation classes, 1 that takes Theater classes, 1 that takes outsourced science at an enrichment center, 1 that volunteers with an animal rescue and 4 that spend one morning a week working at an equestrian therapy center...oh, and one does that preschool story time thing at the library...


The way I've been coping (besides coffee and eating too many sugary things):

  • We combine activity trips with school tasks...driving to activities = driver's ed.  Library trips while waiting for kids to get out of a sport.  Park time while waiting for a kid to get out of a class.  Younger kids also bring backpacks with their schoolwork in them when we go to an older kid's activity.
  • Our family philosophy: Don't stress if we don't finish everything...we can work on it a little over the weekend when we're not as busy.  We almost always have schoolwork from the previous week that we end up finishing on Saturday or Sunday evening.  
  • Don't over schedule.  I generally do not schedule anything for Fridays other than music and SAT prep.  This gives everyone a buffer.
  • Something new we are trying....this is going to sound really weird.  My teens are making fun of me, but I think it's going to help.  We just bought Bento boxes for each family member for Monday-Thursday.  In the morning, I am going to pack lunches, put them in the fridge and they can pull their lunches out at noon and eat.  No more stopping *everything* to make lunch, have them eat and then clean up a big mess or worse yet, *insert scary music* going through the McDonalds drive-thru in desperation.  They can just pull out their lunchboxes and eat on their own.  I'm estimating this will save me an hour in the middle of the day. 
  • I get up early and start my day.  I used to get up around 5am, but I've pushed it to 6 (I'm a slacker).
  • I make up a checklist for each kid per week.  When they do something, they cross it off.
  • I've got 2 dry erase boards going showing exactly what's happening each day + a big homeschool planner.  The kids always know what to expect and get themselves ready.


And the only reason I was able to sit down and type this is, because I have the flu.  Lol.  And am trapped in the house.

Hope something out of there helps! 

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I like Lori D.'s sample schedule. Since this is a busy time in your life, you can streamline your own personal schedule to have more efficiency in schooling. For e.g. if your kids think that older brother's end of school day should match theirs, you can also start their day when he leaves home, which to them might seem fair enough. So, if they all got up in the morning at 7:00 AM and school started the moment your DH leaves with the oldest, you will have a large chunk of time uninterrupted (90 minutes) to get at least 2 core subjects done by 9:00 AM. That is a very big accomplishment at 9:00 AM in anyone's school day. Most private schools in my area get 2 periods and 1 recess done by 9:30 AM. 

After 9:00 AM, on Tue and Thurs, you can do shorter subjects like spelling, handwriting, geography etc and on the Mon, Wed, Fri schedule, you can do the longer subjects (writing, foreign language etc take longer for us). 

Do prep work for the next day lunch or even cook ahead so that you eat with the kids to save time or you can eat after the kids so that you can read aloud or go through questions they might need your help for when they eat. So, if your lunch break was for 60 minutes, they eat in the first 30 minutes while you sit next to them and read or help answer their questions and then, they get a 30 minute break while you eat your lunch.

If your kids practice music on their own, they can do it when you are away or when their brother returns.

Try to schedule cleaning, cooking, laundry etc after the school day is over or in the weekends. Prep meals ahead so that you don't feel stressed while driving around that you need to go home and throw together a hurried meal for the other kids. Slowly push up your family's waking time by 15 minutes each week until they can get up at a reasonable time to start school when their brother leaves. Good luck.

PS: I am still struggling to do this myself. My DH always tells me that early risers accomplish more and I am a night owl and my scheduling is still a work in process.


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Thanks for the feedback. I think it comes down to I have to start the day running instead of easing into it; we just don't have the time for that this season. I'll try getting up earlier and starting earlier..hopefully that will get us back on track! Or at least get a few days of feeling like *something* got accomplished! 

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When I am in a phase of spending a lot of time in the car, we tend to do subjects during the drive. I have used audio books for science and history and even for things such as state capitals and multiplication tables. Independent reading is also good in the car unless the kids tend to get motion sickness.

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Does your oldest have homework?   I'm sure when he first comes home he doesn't want to do his homework right then, but maybe you could have a break on T/TH for an hour right after your oldest comes home, and then do "homework time" for both him and your other kids at the same time.

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I do think that you're going to have to get up earlier and get started earlier during the day. And I am with you. The broken up days mean that not much is accomplished. Been there done that when my second couldn't drive herself to work and I had to do it. What is possible on paper just doesn't always work in reality.  But if you can get that big chunk of time before lunch I believe it will help you a lot.

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Is there any reason your oldest couldn't stay at the college and do homework or whatever until you or your husband is ready to pick him up?  And by "ready" I mean that homeschooling is done for the day.

Edited by EKS
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I don't have near that much running around to do, but for me it is a busy year. On days we have to go somewhere, I make DD get up and eat with her brothers who are in public school, and we start early. It gives us a good hour of extra time, and for her, time where she does her best work.  We do math first, then language arts and reading. She is pretty worthless after lunch. Has a much harder time concentrating.

so as not fun as it is, I think getting up earlier is your best bet, as well as rearranging lunch as someone mentioned above. I love it when I can move meal prep from the middle of things to times when I actually have the time, either by freezing things ahead, or by using the crockpot (or just plain eating leftovers). I also like breakfasts that can be prepped the night before. I am not a morning person.

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I would take the younger two with you and use an audio book for history or literature during the travel time so it doesn’t feel like school is over.  It may be that doing that means you cover enough they can stop.

alternatively if you all got up when dh and oldest do and do your prep for the day then and start school as soon as they leave you would be done by the time he’s done and everyone would be finished together.

that said I am the last person to give advice because I’m struggling with mornings myself right now and it’s messing our days around.  I completely missed a double swimming lesson ($40 worth) today because it wasn’t on the usual scheduled day and I checked the phone calendar but not the wall calendar and that was because I got up late and was short of time.

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We are out and about almost every day right now.  My kids are pros at 'car school' - we do the things that require being spread out or have heavy books at home if we can, and then do the rest on the road if we need to.  Lit reading and workbook-style work is particularly good for car school time.  One day last week my kids did some of the work (that I usually do orally with each of them) together - one let other do the description while looking at the answer book, and then they got out the books for the 2nd student's level and swapped roles.  Sometimes older will, for instance, read the words for younger's spelling test while we drive.  I've even seen younger 'check' older's math by opening the answer key and letting older read answers.  They can't explain why something is wrong, of course, but at least older knows which problems need fixing.  They consider that win-win - if I need to help both of them when we get home, then one will need to wait.  If one helps the other in the car, I just have to help one once we get home (and, at our house, older usually tries to get everything that needs my help done before we leave in the morning).  They don't always work together - most days they do their own thing independently and I check it when we get home, and I've already done the 'discussion' work with them earlier in the day - but I think they like for us all to be DONE when we get home some days...I'm much more likely to suggest something fun like popcorn and a movie, or stopping for groceries and getting a treat, etc, when I'm not stressed about what we need to get done.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think you need to get up with DH and start school when he leaves.  I also would take the younger kids with me when I did the pickup but that is largely due to NZ law.  Listening to an audio book in the car though may stop then thinking school is over.

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Parking at the college is ridiculously expensive, so hanging out there for 2 hours isn't really an option at this point. My DH and I are continuing to brainstorm...he may start doing both pickups on T & Th (pick up from high school, take to comm college and then pick up from comm college). Then, at least I'd have 2 days at home where we could be more focused. 

I'm also looking at cutting back on the number of subjects we're doing. Audio books just aren't a resource we can use. We're all too kinistetic in our learning style and can't re-read an audio book when our minds start wondering, lol! 

For this semester, I think I'll cut down to just math being done every day and they can do independent reading and the online history class on their own. We'll add in more as the days allow, but I won't define "behind" by the additional subjects. 

Next year should be much better as we won't have to do the high school pick up and drop off as he should be at the community college full time. So, just 3 months to go and then we can all get more on track. 

Truly, thank you for all the responses. It's been very helpful to see different options in one thread as I think through how to make sure everyone is getting what they need this semester. 

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