Using Time Limits to Tame your Homeschool Day

Several months ago, most school days just seemed to drag on (and on…and on…and on), yet nothing was accomplished. Both DQ and I were getting worn out, and little time was left to dedicate to Hulk. Burnout appeared inevitable, and I knew we needed to make some drastic changes. I gave DQ an unexpected week off of school (we go year-round and normally just take off for holidays and birthdays), and determined that I was going to revamp as much as possible. I made some curriculum switches and started planning a more literature based day, because reading is a love for both DQ and I. However, the most important change I made was setting up daily limits for each subject we do. One little alteration to our plans has impacted our school life in a positive way.

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Each time we start a new subject, I set a timer for the designated time and we work diligently until the timer dings. When time is up, we pack up and get ready for the next subject. Our time frame gives us a solid ending to a subject, and DQ enjoys trying to “beat” the timer, even though I never say “this, this, and this needs to get done today.” I also purposely made my planner blank in both the plans and the dates sections. My Type A personality balks at my empty planner every day, but I have been doing this homeschool thing enough to know that my plans NEVER go the way I want. I have learned to stress less without a solid day-by-day lesson plan and I record what gets done each day as we go. I can also tell you that our productivity has sky-rocketed using a timer, even though our day is much shorter than it used to be.

In order to make sure that we are staying on track for the year, I make a goal sheet at the beginning of each year. I list each subject and what I hope to accomplish for the year. It looks something like this:

  • Math – Complete all CLE Math 2nd Grade units
  • Science – Complete Zoology, Anatomy, and Botany units

Every 3 months, I make another goal sheet for those months, like this:

  • Math – Complete 3 CLE Math Units
  • Science – Complete Anatomy Unit

And the end of the 3 months, I evaluate our progress and make sure we are meeting my goals. If we aren’t, I analyze why we may not be on track and whether I need to make any changes. Say we are only half way through our Anatomy Unit after 3 months, when I wanted it complete. Are we skipping Science when we should be doing it? Does it need to get moved to a different day or done at a different time of day? Or are we just really diving in and doing more projects and reading more books than I intended on completing? If the latter one is the cause, I just allow more time to complete the unit. If the problem lies elsewhere, I make adjustments and reevaluate after the next 3 months.

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Our school day never lasts all day like it did prior to time limits. School starts for us around 10am and is usually done by 2-3pm (including a lunch and snack time), leaving us with plenty of time for other activities and downtime. Afternoons filled with playtime make year-round schooling possible. We don’t get burned out easily because school is just part of our daily routine and is not the sole focus of our lives. On occasion, the timer will go off in the middle of a lesson. Unless it happens to be a hands-on activity that DQ is begging to finish, we go ahead and pack up the lesson and move on to the next one. Sometimes, DQ is just really struggling with a concept. She knows that as long as she has worked diligently and has done as much as she could, moving along in the middle of something is just fine. She normally comes at it much easier the next day after having a break from it.

Setting the time limits per subject is not an exact science. Grade level and maturity will be key factors in determining how long your student can dedicate to each subject. A great resource for a daily schedule with time limits can be found here. Her list is the basis for our times. I adjusted it slightly to fit DQ’s individual needs and made more changes after a few days of working with time frames. Always do what works best for your child, and never be afraid to adjust to meet those needs.

Want to see our schedule in action? Here is a look of one of DQ’s days last week:

Bible (10-15 minutes) – Reading done while eating breakfast. Coloring sheet and memory verses done while I wash up breakfast dishes.

Spelling (10 minutes) – Takes test. Test graded. Study for a few minutes.

Grammar/Writing (30 minutes) – Copywork from Complete Writer while I change diapers of little ones. Complete a lesson from CLE Light Unit 204 while I give snacks to littles. Go over lesson with Mom. Worked on one of the Light Unit Extra Activities for a few minutes.

Snack (not timed)

Literature (30 minutes) – Read Wizard of Oz and complete notebook page while I work with littles on Preschool stuff. Discussed reading with Mom for 5 minutes.

Languages (20 minutes) – Reviewed Latin flashcards and completed Copywork from Greek Alphabet book for one letter while Mom plays with littles. Mom quizzes with flashcards for Latin and goes over Spanish lesson.

Playtime with littles while Mom gets lunch ready. This time usually involves song time.

Lunch (not timed)

Math (60 minutes) – Work on Reflex Math while Mom gets littles ready for nap. Worked on Speed Drill while Mom puts littles down for nap. Completes Lesson 8 from CLE203 book. Did one page from Lollipop Logic and one page from Word Problems book. Did one review page from Math Mammoth. Played math game with Mom from RightStart Card game book.

History (60 minutes) – Listened to Story of the World Vol. 1 Chapter 15 while coloring. Completed Notebook page. Worked on timeline and map with Mom. Read from Ox, House, Stick with Mom on the couch.

Day over!! Read quietly until littles wake up, and then play the rest of the day!!!

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