Neil Shenvi - Apologetics

Homeschool Tip #1 - Have a Schedule

Homeschool Tips
  1. Have a Schedule
  2. Push Reading First
  3. Schedule 1-on-1 Time
  4. Use Technology
  5. Embrace Educational Standards
  6. Teach Outside of School
  7. Relax

No, really. You need a schedule. Really, really, really. By far, the greatest challenge I face in homeschooling is convincing my kids to work. When they are sufficiently motivated, they work quickly and without complaint. But for a long time, it was nearly impossible to motivate them. I tried rewards for hard work. I tried punishments for refusal to work. I tried reasoning with them. I tried pleading with them. All for naught.

What's more, I have no doubt that the resistance I met would not exist if they were in a traditional school. They normally have a natural respect for authority and are perfectly behaved at Sunday School, at their weekly homeschool co-op, or with me in any other setting. But I'd struggle for hours watching my son turn a five-minute handwriting exercise into a meandering, two-hour waste of a morning. My kids would whine and mope and dawdle and daydream.

There was a very simple solution. I now have a daily schedule hanging in their homeschool room. The school day is divided into half-hour blocks from 7:30am to 3pm, with generous allocations of playtime. Moreover, if they finish their work for a given block in less than the allotted time, they may use the remainder of the block to play. The results were outstanding. Not only did they get far more done each day, they did it without complaining.

I think a strict schedule works for several reasons. First, it shows your kids that their work is finite. Before introducing a schedule, they probably felt that work was futile because it never ended. If they finished one assignment quickly, I would give them a new assignment. Even though they had frequent breaks, they had no incentive to work faster, because working faster would only mean getting new work. Using a schedule divided into finite blocks motivates them to work quickly. Second, a schedule shows them that schoolwork is not an arbitrary imposition of Daddy's whims. There is a reason for everything they do. We're doing spelling today not because Daddy woke up in a bad mood, but because spelling is part of our daily lessons. Finally, a schedule shows that resistance is futile. What is assigned by fiat can be unassigned by fiat, so my kids have good reason to think that they can wheedle Daddy into submission. But if the schedule is directing our work, then there's no point in complaining to Daddy; he's just following the schedule.

At the top of this page is the schedule I'm currently using for our school day. Despite its rigorousness, it actually is quite flexible. If a child is sick or sleepy, if we have errands we need to run, or if there is a special event, I adjust it as needed. The key is to have a schedule, posted in a public place, and to emphasize to your children that it will structure your day.

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If anyone reading this essay has questions about it or about Christianity in general, feel free to e-mail me at Neil -AT- I also highly recommend the book The Reason for God by Tim Keller. It is phenomenal. Free sermons treating many of the topics covered by this book can be found here.

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