Our Homeschool Scheduling Method

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Looking for a homeschooling schedule method or other homeschool resources? Start here! Below I explain how we used offline and online homeschooling tools to educate our kids — both at home and on the road.

Homeschooling schedule COVER

Our Homeschooling Schedule

Interest in homeschool resources spiked during the first few months of 2020, and with it came many searches for homeschooling schedule methods. Once schools closed and kids had to stay in many parents/guardians began researching the benefits of homeschooling and whether it’s right for them. We’ve tried a variety of homeschooling methods over the years, and here I’ll share the homeschool schedule style that worked best for us.

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How to Use Our Homeschooling Schedule

Every family is different. With this in mind, consider the homeschool planning ideas below as a basic template that you adapt to your family’s needs. The main point of our education method is simply to give the kids more responsibility and autonomy in their learning process. 

Our Homeschooling Experience

New to the blog? Here’s a brief introduction to our story and homeschooling experience. From 2013 to 2019, we left our home in Japan and slow-traveled as a family, using Malaysia, Spain, and Mexico as temporary bases to explore various destinations. During that time, we experimented with a variety of homeschooling methods, including unschooling, worldschooling and enrolling our kids in local schools in different countries. You can read more of our story if you like.

In 2019, we returned to Japan, where the kids were born, and enrolled them in academically rigorous, international baccalaureate (IB) schools. We’ve tried a lot of different education methods with our kids. By the same token, we see value in all of them. If you’re looking for the pros and cons of homeschooling, we can discuss those later, but this post is to describe the homeschooling schedule that worked best for us. It took nearly nine months of triumphs and failures to reach a homeschool system that worked for all of us. We used it for nearly two years in Southeast Asia, and then returned to it multiple times while traveling and living in Mexico.

Our Evolving Homeschool Strategy

USA road trip - homeschool scheduling method

When we started out homeschooling, it was literally “school at home.” We had set times for classes and activities, and we tried to keep both kids on roughly the same schedule. For example, when it was math time, both kids worked on math. When it was writing time, they both pulled out their journals. You get the idea. This didn’t work for reasons that seem obvious now: we were not giving enough individualized instruction.

When we started this, we had an eleven-year-old boy and an eight-year-old girl. Each had drastically different personalities, interests and learning styles. It should have been glaringly apparent that trying to keep them on similar tasks for the same amount of time was a bad idea. However, I foolishly plodded along for months doing this. Then we flirted with unschooling — a knee-jerk reaction in the opposite direction. That didn’t work for us either, although it’s quite possible that we didn’t give it enough time.

Basic Homeschool Scheduling

Homeschool Scedule

After months of experiments, we finally hit on a homeschool strategy that worked for us. It seems so basic that I feel odd sharing it, but feel that I should. Our homeschool scheduling system is based on pencil and paper, although it works just as well on a spreadsheet. It’s as simple as this:

  1. Make a chart for each kid with blocks for each subject
  2. Have the kids write in the time they spend on each class every day
  3. Parents then tally up the time spent and make sure that everything is covered

We basically wrote up a weekly chart for each kid. On the top axis are the dates for one week: Sunday through Saturday. Along the side axis are all the topics we want the kids to cover. For example, we covered typical homeschooling subjects like these:

  • Math
  • Science
  • The Arts
  • Health & Fitness
  • English & Reading
  • Second Language
  • Personal Projects

Kids Manage Their Own Schedules

The kids were required to keep the chart updated on their own. They’d fill in how many minutes they spent on whatever subject(s) they chose to work on that day. Twenty (20) minutes was the minimum and there was no maximum. Managing it themselves was the crucial element: let the kids make their own schedule. This helped them learn time management and feel like they had agency over their education. We told them to put in at least three hours of work on weekdays. That’s it. But they had to document it. They could also take breaks when they liked, as long as they didn’t take them too often. Youtube and video games were allowed within reason.

How We Used the Homeschooling Schedule

Reading time in homeschool schedule

Of course, we believe that age, ability and personal interest should play a role in creating your homeschool curriculum. Yet we also believe that some subjects should be covered no matter whether or not our kids wanted them. In our case, our homeschool plan included the following subjects.

  1. Japanese Reading
  2. Japanese Writing: Kanji practice
  3. Math: Japanese workbooks
  4. Math: Khan Academy
  5. Math: Time4Learning
  6. English: Reading Rainbow app
  7. English/Current Events: News-O-Matic
  8. English/Free reading time
  9. Writing: Journal
  10. Spelling: ClicknSpell
  11. Social Studies: Time4Learning
  12. Science: Time4Learning
  13. Guitar Practice
  14. Personal Projects

Homeschooling schedule spreadsheet

Japanese [Language Homeschool Resources]

When we left on our little worldschooling adventure, our kids were more comfortable in Japanese than in English. After all, they attended local schools on Tokyo’s east side and their friends, teachers, and neighbors were all Japanese. Mom too. Our goal was to raise their English skills to an equivalent grade level while maintaining baseline Japanese. It worked until we added a third language, but you get the idea.

Of course, your homeschool curriculum could incorporate whatever language you would like. It helps if there are people around who speak the language. Best of all is if a parent or the child’s friends speak it and they use it when playing. It’s also a bonus if you can find a good bookstore with reading material in your chosen language. In our case, we relied on the materials we brought from Tokyo and Osaka for Japanese reading, writing, and math. The Japanese bookstores we found weren’t great in Penang and other places we stayed for extended periods.

Math & Science

We relied heavily on apps and online programs such as Khan Academy and Time4Learning for math and science. When the kids were younger this was enough, plus the experience of letting them calculate exchange rates at the airport. Years later in Mexico, we paid for online tutors during these homeschooling periods.

Social Studies

We also used field trips for Social Studies and History. For example, we learned about the Vietnam War in Hoi An, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City. We learned about WWII in Taiwan, Malaysia, and Spain. We learned about indigenous cultures in Borneo, Cusco, and Cartagena. We explored Mayan culture in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

English & Reading

For the English component of their homeschool schedule, we used a combination of apps, online and old-school methods. Our goal was to bring up their English reading and writing levels dramatically. Both kids could speak and understand English but hadn’t dealt with the alphabet or vocabulary like similarly-aged peers in the English-speaking world. We used a variety of reading and spelling apps, and I read extensively to the kids every day. Free-reading time was also built into every day, and they could read anything they chose — within reason of course, but we never said “no.”

Journal

For the journal component of their homeschool plan, the point was to get them writing and understanding the mechanics of English. I started slow. At first, they would dictate one or two pages to me, which I wrote down in a notebook. I’d explain the grammar, spelling, and punctuation and then ask them to just copy it into their own notebook. Later on, they started writing on their own — first into a practice notebook. I would look it over and correct it, explaining to them any spelling or grammatical issues. Then they’d rewrite the entire journal entry into the final journal.

Health & Fitness

These were less a set time and something we covered whenever we could. The boy was on soccer teams in Thailand, Malaysia, and Spain and we always sought out classes and clubs for the kids to join. Besides, at this time we were getting plenty of exercise through travel. We went jungle trekking in Sumatra and rock climbing in Thailand. This made the fitness component fairly easy. For health and nutrition, we watched loads of youtube and took cooking classes in Thailand, Mexico, Colombia, and Vietnam, and always make time to discuss the cultural and physical aspects of each country’s diet.

Personal Projects

Personal Projects were just a catch-all place in our homeschool itinerary for things that didn’t fit neatly into the above categories. This included drawing, cooking, photography/videos, and horticulture (we had some vegetables on the veranda). We started this homeschooling schedule while in Penang, Malaysia and the kids had chess, guitar and computer classes around town. We also wanted them to have some downtime.

Monitor the Process

Before you ask, of course, the kids couldn’t cover every subject every day. Instead, they had to make choices and judgment calls on what to study when. They’d have to analyze those choices later. We were there to help them when they needed, but they were responsible for their own homeschool schedule. At the end of the week, Keiko and I would tally up their times on each subject. We’d plug their engagement time into a spreadsheet and track exactly how much time they spent on each subject, steering them toward adjustments we felt were necessary. If one subject or activity seemed ignored, we’d nudge them in that direction.

Post-Homeschool Goals

Colombia rafting family portrait

We used this homeschooling method until we moved to Spain, where we enrolled the kids in local schools for two years. When we moved to Mexico, we went back to our old homeschool routines before mixing it up with a combination of online homeschooling and local schools. After the move back to Japan in 2019, both kids were accepted to rigorous International Baccalaureate programs and seem to be handling the workload quite well. We’re very proud of them.

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Comments

  1. Kate Rudder says

    Hi Jason, how’s the homeschooling schedule these days? That was over a year ago and they’re getting into middle school now, right? We’ve got a 13-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son. They’ve been in an IB school (Harare International School) for a decade. We’re American expats (aid work not missionaries) who are ready to plunge into a “sabbatical” year starting in July. We’ve all got to study Spanish while we’re there (at beginner stage now)…and that’s going to be such a big investment on time that I’m concerned about trying to keep them on track with the rest of schooling. With my son, we’ll hold him back and just try to get him fully ready for IBDP grades 11&12 after the year in MX. With the daughter, we’d like to keep her on track with her peers (so the sabbatical year would be her grade 8). Any advice is welcome!! We like IB… I’m a certified high school English teacher with a master’s in Cultural Anthro and into performing arts, so I’m happy to support journal writing, research, the arts, etc. But math and science…I might need to outsource! I welcome your advice on scheduling, quality affordable online programs, tutoring, etc. Thanks! Kate

    • Wow. Sounds like you have a great year ahead! Thrilled for you. It sounds like you are on the right track. We spent a little more than two years in MX and returned to Japan in summer of 2019. Our kids (13 and 17) are now in IB schools here in Osaka. As for online schools, we were last using International Connections Academy and had a good experience, especially since it had a partnership with the local MX school my son attended. Before that we were using Whitmore, but felt it wasn’t rigorous enough.