I initally wrote this post for a discussion list that I’m on. It was a response to a new homeschooler that was concerned about how to set up a routine and structure. I’m posting it here because it clearly explains how to be structured in what you are doing without losing the freedoms that come with homeschooling.
How structured or not that you want to be will develop with time as you, your kids, and other members of your family find where they are comfortable.
The totally unstructured, seem IMO, to not worry about a routine at all. Some people keep a journal to keep track of what is getting accomplished, and that will give you a feeling of accomplishment when you can look back over it and realize that your kids are learning.
But if you have a desire for some structure, you might want to try my method. First, come up with some ‘long-term’ goals. Where do you want to be at the end of this school year? Since it’s your first year, KEEP IT LOW KEY. You are in a transition period and what you are mostly going for is the emotional growth that you are already starting to see. Taking on too much, WILL short-circuit your success.
Long-term goals might be how many books you want to kids to read by June (perhaps from a reading list, or not). It might be that you want to explore a period of history or get out to a number of field trips around the area. If also could be covering part or all of a textbook or workbook. Goals can include a level of skill in a craft, art, music or sport.
Once you have those goals, the next step is a plan on how to meet them. What works for me is to figure out where (ideally) we should be each month, that will give us the progress needed. If you use a text or workbook, that’s just a matter of determining what page you need to be on. If you are exploring a topic on your own, that means finding a reference for yourself and laying out an order of topics to cover and then dividing them up over the total time period. You now have progress points that will give you a framework.
These monthly progress points can be further broken down into weekly goals. But keep in mind that these are ‘goals’. Depending on the age and interests of your kids, you might find that a few hours everyday will cover the material, but not tax their drive or limit their other interests. Or, as they age, you might find that a couple highly focused days will free up other days. My kids (middle and high school) do about 3 very intensive days, and one light one. It gives them time to socialize with friends and work in a drama workshop program.
What I’m trying to say is that, what we do on any day is very flexible. But because I have monthly goals, I know what we need to cover. And I know that by the end of the year we will have accomplished our goals. I also know that on a particular day we might stop and spend extra time (because they want to explore something further or because they need more time to learn something.), but I can adjust for it.
That all said, I can add that after 7 years; we’ve never had a year go exactly as planned. There is always something that will totally throw any plans out the window. This year has been one of the more extreme examples of that. Boy’s allergies have been terrible here and while we should have been finished with seatwork weeks ago, we are still finishing things up. The beauty of setting monthly goals has been that he’s been free to judge what he’s been up to doing and we’ve adjusted monthly goals to reflect that. (Taking breaks when the allergies were at their worst.)