Unscheduled School

Do you have trouble keeping to your school schedule?  We threw out our schedule a long time ago, implementing homeschool routines instead {check out #5 on this list for Karen’s explanation about that}.  But one of the real keys to us making our homeschool work is having unscheduled school.  A lot of moms who see all that we accomplish in a day wonder how on earth we have time for it all.  Unscheduled school is the key!

Scheduling Troubles

I recently spoke with a woman who was having a lot of difficulty teaching her children.  She has three kids and felt torn between them.  Dividing her time up felt impossible (short of creating clones of herself!).  How could she teach three math lessons all at once?  She couldn’t divide her time satisfactorily to teach all of them as much as she felt they needed.  She was trying to cram everything into their “school day” as fast as they could so they could get on with real life.


My Unscheduled School Approach

I approach things quite differently.  We have plenty of unscheduled school.  We make learning happen all the time, not just while school is in session.  Like her, I’m a planner.  I map out what we will learn and do constantly.  I have high goals, hopes, and expectations for my kids and their educations.  The difference is that I don’t try to cram it all into school time.  I read to the kids after lunch and at bedtime.  They read to me at various times of the day.  We go on learning expeditions on weekends.  Art lessons are held in the afternoon (with their friends in attendance) pretty often.  We pass off cub scout requirements while learning about birds, cooking, conservation, and all kinds of other things.  Music lessons are just before dinner.

Harrison was assigned to do a narration page about Ancient China, but he wanted to do a model of a Chinese hut. So we took time to do both. It wasn't planned, but it was even better.
Harrison was assigned to do a narration page about Ancient China, but he wanted to do a model of a Chinese hut. So we took time to do both. It wasn’t planned, but it was even better.

Learning isn’t just for school time at our house.  Learning is just a part of life.  I really believe that learning is lifelong and all the time.  Learning is expanding who we are and understanding the world and people around us.  I don’t have to stress out because we didn’t finish our history lesson.  We’ll discuss it over dinner.

Make learning a part of life, not just a part of school.

Keys To Successful Unscheduled School Time

  • Create routines outside of school time that involve learning.  For example, call out math facts or states and capitals or other memory items you are learning while everyone helps with the dishes every night.  Make it a point to always read a story to everyone before bed.  This is a favorite time of day at our house, with everyone snuggled up and listening to Mom read.  Even Dad likes to come listen!
  • Make sure your phone always has an audio book on it so you can take advantage of listening while you’re driving in the car.  I check out great “read-aloud” books that my whole family enjoys from our library.  We listen while we drive.
  • Visit the library.  It doesn’t “feel” like school time, but everyone naturally learns a lot.
  • Find ways to explore what’s available in your community in your free time, like on weekends.  Parks, museums, art walks, tours, nature preserves and trails, state parks, landmarks – find out what’s available right where you are.  We’ve had some incredible learning opportunities at the fire station, the newspaper printing office, a candy factory, on a library tour, backstage at a play, at a hydroelectric dam, in some caves and some mines, and even in the back section of our local grocery store.
  • Do lessons with your teens after little ones are in bed.  I’m a night owl, so evenings are a perfect time for me to teach an algebra or physics lesson after my littler kids are in bed.  My sister, Karen, teaches a few impromptu lessons first thing in the morning because she’s always up really early.  Get out of the mindset that there’s a specific time for teaching specific subjects.  My teens often do a lot of their work on their own, but then get stuck on one or two things.  We can go through those together outside of school time and everyone wins.

Watch For The Lesson

Most of all, constantly look for opportunities to teach and learn.  You don’t have to have beautifully laid out lesson manuals in front of you to notice a rainbow and tell your kids how it’s formed.  Have them practice making change in real life – at the store.  Encourage them to make a map of your community while you’re driving.  Talk about the river when you drive over its bridge.  If you make learning into a fun, engaging, all-the-time pursuit (not an assignment to be graded), it will free you and your homeschool schedule.

More From Layers of Learning

To make the most of your SCHEDULED school time, you might enjoy these resources from Layers of Learning.



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