I know lots of people who have awesome and fixed homeschooling schedules. But to be frank, the very phrase Montessori homeschool schedule makes me LOL (at myself) because after one year trying to find a schedule that works for us, I find that we are happiest and most productive in a lack-of one. I would say we are now in a comfortable homeschool rhythm.
What does not work for us
Let me first share a little about what does not work for us. However the thing you need to keep in mind is that what doesn’t work for me might not be the same for you and your family. Each parent, child, number of homeschooling children and family dynamics are different.
I am homeschooling only one child at home. Said child is fairly easy going and low maintenance, however he is a very clingy and lovey-dovey kissy-kissy kind of boy. I am a fairly impatient introvert who crumbles under prolonged routine, however I love just hanging out with children and can usually carry on a pretty decent conversation with even the youngest of kids while doing non-thinking intensive chores.
Previously, I have tried fixed hours — 9am to 12pm were official homeschooling hours. However on our off days, we would basically achieve nothing but frustration during those hours (and it really only takes one person to have an off day). Our off days are caused by any number of things — my monthly visitations, my impatience, his growth spurts, illness, impending illness, insomnia, my boredom, his boredom, routine chores, non-routine chores, the frustration of yesterday being an off day, … the list goes on.
On those days, we could not do anything right for each other and the harder I worked to ensure that we were on schedule, the worse it became, not just during those hours but for the rest of the day too. Off days were so frustrating that it started to impact the next few days even before they arrived — the pressure just increases and the battle of wills ensues.
On top of that, since Z is a clingy boy, I find myself resentful when he does not want to give me my introvert leave-me-alone time after lunch when I have literally given him my life from 9am to 12pm. Pressure + Resentment + Battle of Wills = Disaster.
When this happened in the past, I would often “give up homeschooling” (with capital HMPH!) and take several days/weeks off to recollect myself. But as soon as I was poised enough to resume school, the problems inevitably start again despite some minor edits and iterations as time went on. After a long time, I realized that having “fixed hours” is not the solution for us.
What works for us
You might be wondering how long is a long time for us — the answer is about a year. (Did your jaw just hit the ground?) I am shaking my head, tsk tsk-ing at myself. I promise I will share some tips with you below.
Currently, our homeschooling hours are 9am to bedtime — sometimes school happens between 9am – 12pm, but other times this is late at night just before bedtime, when we are lunching, in the car, doing chores, etc.
How do I manage this? By having nothing scheduled, nothing expected and getting on with life-as-an-ordinary-homemaker. Our day begins by deciding what we should do next. This is the “start of our rhythm”.
He generally has two types of responses (1 and 2), and I generally have two as well (a and b):
(1) “Let’s do homeschooling, mommy.” He wants to do a Montessori activity with me.
(a) Me: “OK”. Whenever he asks homeschooling of me, I will almost always try to join him and there are no expectations as to how long we will be Montessori-ing. Our language and Math activities often last an average of 15-30 minutes, whereas we usually spend 2-3 hours on Geography. He loooooves doing continent work and by the time we finish South America, he wants to do North America again. Frankly I’m a little scared to start the next continent, but he already knows all the country names of South America, and he’s been asking for Asia for the longest time. Sorry, I digress.
(b) Me: “Hmmm ….” This just means I’m not in the mood or most (rarely) or I have something pressing that needs to get done first. I’ll explain myself to him and make some suggestions of what he can do by himself.
If chores are what I need to get done, he gets an invitation to join me since we have child-sized equipment for about 80% of chores that I do — this includes food preparation, sweeping/vacuuming, dusting, and mopping. (Folding laundry requires no equipment, we have a mini iron but have not yet tested it, and for now I have not yet figured out how he can wash the toilets with me without me freaking out every 2 seconds.) Most of the time he chooses to join me since he’s quite clingy, so luckily I have trained him in the many areas of Montessori practical life since he was 1.5 years old! He makes an excellent sous-chef in the kitchen, and can vacuum and mop to my satisfaction (my standards aren’t very high for floor cleanliness.)
Mostly independence. With soft fruit like ripe pear, that I’ve pre-cut into longer pieces, Z can cut them into bite size pieces and serve his own morning snack. Not that I couldn’t do it for him, but I want to let him practise these skills … which also happen to develop his sense of work order, hand eye coordination, motor skills, concentration, independence, self-control (not eating the fruit right away) — all those skills that will come handy in school and life later on.
Posted by Planting Peas on Tuesday, December 15, 2015
If he prefers or is requested to do his own thing, he usually ends up flipping through books or his magazine, playing with his toys, checking out some art cards, painting or doing something creative with his scissors or star hole-puncher or markers, flipping through his SO Awesome cards, playing the keyboard, practising his light saber skills, repeating over and over a clever comment by his brother the day before, or raiding the fridge.
(2) “Let’s play with toys, mommy.” He wants to play. This is anything from wonderful open-ended toys to light saber fights.
(a) Me: “OK”. And I will try my darnedest to encourage him to play with the wonderful open-ended toys as opposed to light saber fights. But make no mistake, we do fight light saber style, use the force and everything. We do silly, we are silly.
(b) Me: “Hmmm …” Same as / See 1(b) above.
When a task ends naturally, (such as once a chore gets done, after we’ve finished 15 minutes of Montessori language work, after lunch, after light saber fights, after I’ve woke up from a nap, etc), we start our “rhythm” again by asking the question — “So what do you want to do next?” And the flow above starts all over again. Sometimes it’s what do I want to do next, and sometimes he gets to choose. We try to be balanced so that both our needs are met.
Our rhythm has many ebbs and flows throughout a day and a “tide” of activity can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours.
Also, keep in mind that Z is now 3.5 years old and this schedule works well for us now. It will evolve as he grows or as our family situation changes.
Tips (or If-I-Knew-Then-What-I-Know-Now)
- Examine yourself and know your style. I should know by now to always examine myself first instead of “going with the norm”. If the norm doesn’t work for you, don’t sweat it, but find out what works for you. It will take some experiments, but hopefully for you it won’t take as long as it did me. I also assume by now you already know your child’s style, which is just as important in the equation but certainly not more important than yours.
- Less is more. When I compare our jam-packed schedule and relatively easy-going homeschooling rhythm now, I realize the amount he is learning with both styles is about the same. Actually, I take that back — for us, the amount of work that we’re doing now is more than ever before. We are essentially doing Montessori practical life all day, with sporadic doses of Language, Math, Sensorial and Culture. Not all areas get done every day, but I can confidently say most areas are covered every week.
- Don’t forget to include “Mothering” in your daily routine. When we were in our fixed rut, the frustration would overcome me so much that I wouldn’t want to do anything else with him — it felt like I had lost the battle of wills and became a sore loser. However now I find we naturally and inevitably include an element of “Mothering” in our rhythm — deep-dive reading, looking and discussing art cards, dancing to Putumayo Kids Latin Playground music, light saber fights, setting the coffee table and lunching in front of the TV while we watch Paw Patrol or Family Feud.
What works for you?
Remember — what works for me might not work for you. I know some folks who stick to a fixed schedule and are thriving. So before you go, check out these other blogs and what rocks their homeschool boat, be inspired, then examine yourself and your family to find a routine you can rock with joy. I hope this has inspired you!
- Our Daily Homeschool Schedule // Natural Beach Living
- What to do today… Our Typical Homeschool Day Schedule // The Natural Homeschool
- Montessori Caregiver Rhythms and Routines (Finding What Works for You) // Living Montessori Now
- Our Montessori Homeschool Schedule // Planting Peas
- The Daily Rhythm in Our Montessori Home // The Kavanaugh Report
- Montessori Inspired Routine at Three // Mama’s Happy Hive
- A Day in the Life: Part-Time Montessori Homeschooling // Study at Home Mama
- A Day in the Life of Montessori Busy Hands // Christian Montessori Network
- A Day in the Life of A Montessori Family with Special Needs // Every Star is Different
- Our Daily Routine // Grace and Green Pastures
- A Day in the Life of a Montessori Homeschool Boy // Montessori Trails