Last week we talked about five ways to schedule your homeschool year. Today we are going to take that a step further and talk about scheduling all those subjects into your homeschool week. While this is going to look different for everyone, we are going to focus on five popular schedules and discuss the pros and cons of each.
As you begin to work on this homeschool planning step, be sure to consider the following:
- Your homeschool goals
- Your extracurricular activity times
- The requirements or expectations of your curriculum
- Work schedules
- Dual enrollment schedules
- Home maintenance goals
- Anything else that may impact the time you have to homeschool throughout the week
That said, let’s begin by looking at traditional or period scheduling. This is the form of scheduling that has been around the longest both in public school and on the home front. In public schools, period scheduling is when 6 or 7 subjects are taught daily for about 45-minutes. The students take the same classes all year long and the classes are always in the same order making it easy to remember what comes next.
In a homeschool, period scheduling may be truncated as 45-minutes is not always needed for every subject, but a consistent daily schedule is usually followed. Shorter class periods mean that there is less time to become distracted, and consistent classes throughout the year means there is a less chance for students to forget what they have learned.
Those that follow period scheduling in their homeschool are usually the ones who have the beautiful color-coded daily time charts on the internet where every homeschool day looks the same. This kind of scheduling is not always successful in homeschooling mostly because most homeschooler’s days are not exactly the same. Some days include music lessons, sports, co-ops and other activities. Trying to cram the same amount of work on long and short days just becomes a recipe for disaster, if not compensated.
So let’s look at another scheduling option—block scheduling. Some families consider block scheduling traditional schooling because their local school system has used a form of block scheduling for years. However, block scheduling has only been popular in public school systems since the 1970s, making it a relatively new phenomenon in education. That said, it is still a good option to consider on the home front as it is so versatile.
Unlike traditional scheduling, block scheduling gives more time for students to dive deeper into subjects and incorporate more learning mediums such as videos, games, hands-on crafts, picture books, and other activities. The reason for this is that students are only tackling a few subjects in depth per term. Some say that block scheduling most resembles a college schedule as students usually complete a subject in a semester, but blocks can be any length of time—6 weeks, 9 weeks, or the common 18 weeks. For example, in a block schedule, students may complete history and literature in the fall and science and writing in the spring. My daughters and I have experimented a little with block scheduling in our home and the thing we like most about it is the sense of accomplishment that is spread throughout the year as we finish a subject.
Most block schedules also include a 15-20 minute opening, warm-up, circle time, or morning time for families to share in songs, memory verses, poetry and the like. There are generally three types of block scheduling to consider- 4×4, A/B, and Waldorf Block.
In a 4×4 schedule, three to four courses are studied every day for a semester. Then, in the spring, another three to four courses are studied so that students study 6 to 8 courses over the span of a year, but only three to four courses at a time. In the public school setting these courses usually last 90-120 minutes, but in a homeschool they can be adapted to whatever is needed.
A/B block scheduling is very similar to 4×4 scheduling. The only difference is instead of assigning 3 to 4 classes to a semester, the classes alternate in an A/B pattern so that courses are still studied throughout the year, but on an alternate-day schedule. For those that like block scheduling, this option tends to work better with those subjects that build on each other such as math, music, foreign language, and grammar.
However, when we tried this type of scheduling in our homeschool, we were always getting confused with which day we were on. Since most school weeks are made of an odd number of days, the even A/B schedule tended to frustrate my child who thrives on consistency.
Waldorf Main Lesson Block
A Waldorf Main Lesson Block combines some of the pros of block scheduling (the opportunity to dive deep into a subject) with some of the pros of traditional scheduling (daily scheduling for subjects that need consistent repetition for long-term retention). While I won’t get into it much today, Waldorf is a complete immersion and hands-on method of teaching that is worth researching should you be interested in learning more about this type of block scheduling.
That said, in a Waldorf Main Lesson Block, one subject is generally taught for two hours each morning for 3 to 6 weeks and incorporates storytelling, movement, music, speech, drama, painting, drawing, and modeling. In the afternoon, students rotate through other subjects such as math and grammar similar to a loop schedule, which we will be talking about next.
Using this scheduling method, you might study history for 6 weeks, geography for 3 weeks, literature for 6 weeks, nature study for 3 weeks and so on. You would decide the subjects and length of each block based on how and what you wanted your children to learn throughout the year.
While we haven’t given over to a complete Waldorf method of learning in our homeschool, I do like the idea of using the pros of both traditional scheduling and block scheduling to allow more time for in-depth study in some subjects while keeping learning short for several other subjects that need to be repeated more consistently throughout the year.
Since I brought it up, let’s talk about loop scheduling next. Loop scheduling is another flexible scheduling option. To create a loop schedule, you must first determine how many times you want each subject to appear in the loop and then put those subjects in the order you want to tackle them. For example, you may want to complete history lessons three times for every two times you teach science and one time you complete an art project so a simple loop might look like this:
Once you have decided on the subjects or activities you want to loop, determine what days you want to tackle your loop. Daily? Twice a week? Once a week? Each day that you have chosen to tackle your loop during a specified time period, you will tackle the next subject in the loop. If you finish the last subject of your loop, just start over at the beginning and continue to work through the loop until your allotted time ends. The next loop day you will simply pick up where you left off so no subjects are left untouched.
While loop scheduling is often not used for every subject, it does tend to work well with enrichment courses such as art, geography, cooking, poetry, crafts, and music. With this system of scheduling, you never have to skip a subject because you “don’t have time.” There are several different kinds of loops too. Some homeschoolers choose to do a curriculum loop with core subjects such as math, history, science, and language arts. Some do morning-time loops to work through read-alouds, memory verses, songs, poems, and the like. Some do activity or enrichment loops so they can tackle multiple fun activities throughout the week. And, some choose to loop everything they do, especially if they are schooling year-round.
Similar in concept to an A/B block or loop scheduling, spiral scheduling provides yet another way to schedule your curriculum throughout the week. The main difference is, instead of scheduling subjects to repeat every two days, as in an A/B block, you may have a rotating schedule that repeats itself every 3, 4, or 5 days. The subjects studied on those days are always the same, but the daily expectations rotate. For example, day 1 may be math, science, and art; day 2 may be math, history, and handwork; and day 3 may be Spanish, writing, and music. Once day 3 is complete you would then start over again with day 1 by again completing math, science, and art.
If all this talk about blocking, looping, and spiraling has your head spinning, then you may want to consider this last scheduling option which is probably my favorite way to schedule my days. Instead of trying to figure out how many days a week to accomplish a certain subject, just number how many days you have for the year (say 180) and then spread your needed assignments evenly over the course of those days.
I like to use a spreadsheet for this. I number down the side of the spreadsheet 1 to 180 and in the columns next to the number column I fill in assignments for each subject. For example, if science has 90 lessons, I assign a science lesson every other day in the science column next to the numbered days. I do this for every subject, and then when it comes to scheduling, if we are on day 34 of school, I just look at day 34’s assignments, and I know exactly what we need to accomplish. And, if I need to re-adjust our annual calendar, I don’t have to worry about re-adjusting our assignment schedule as well. It remains the same wherever day 34 falls.
As you contemplate how you want to schedule your subjects, don’t stress. Nothing is written in stone. If you choose one method and it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try something else or combine multiple scheduling options. And don’t forget—If you are looking for an online homeschool planner, you’ll want to look at my online planner comparison. Or, for those that prefer FREE, grab my free printable planner and/or download my free Google Sheets/Excel planning template.