Strict Schedule or Flexible Routine

Do you follow a strict schedule or a flexible routine in your homeschool? Here are some of the pros and cons of both.

We’ve recently started a new calendar year, and for many of us we’re about halfway through our school year, so it’s a time when we’re also considering what we may need to adjust. One aspect I usually take a look at is whether our routine or our schedule needs to be tweaked. If we’re behind in the lesson plans, or realizing that some subjects are being neglected or forgotten, we might be able to solve the problem by adjusting our routines.

We stick to a routine rather than a schedule. Did you know there’s a difference? A schedule has designated time-slots for specific activities, while a routine establishes a specific order for the activities but doesn’t lock in a time. For us, the routine works better for a couple of main reasons – my students are old enough to work independently and manage their own time; and my own preference is the more laid-back and flexible framework of a routine rather than a more rigid schedule.

Which is better for you?

If you lean towards unschooling or child-led learning, you probably also lean towards a flexible routine. If you homeschool following a classical style or using more traditional textbooks, you may need to follow a more detailed schedule. If your children go to a co-op or attend online classes, you’ll need to stick to the schedule for at least those activities.

Personality and preferences play a big role too. People who have that natural desire to keep everything around them organized and are details-oriented tend to prefer schedules, while those who are more laid back and are big picture thinkers manage well with a general routine. It’s seldom that mom (and dad) and all the kids have the same preference, so each homeschool family needs to find the balance and combination that works for them. I believe that we all need some level of routine, but some people really do function better when it’s detailed, and sometimes the tendencies are obvious even when they are babies! The little one that must have their afternoon nap at exactly the same time and place each day, or wakes up on their own at the same time each morning will probably be a student that works well with a schedule. The baby or toddler that adjusts handily to changes and disruptions and can generally fall asleep almost anywhere likely will be just fine with an easy-going routine.

Do we need to change our approach?

Are you or your child anxious and always looking at the clock, or feeling rushed? Perhaps it’s your cue to loosen up on the schedule and lean more to a routine. On the other hand, if you or your child are having trouble staying focused, or feel disorganized and confused by too many options and things to do, a stricter schedule may provide the framework you need to stay on track.

As kids get older, their needs change, and they can gradually take more control over their own time management and experiment with what works best for them. Even if you relied on a schedule when homeschooling preschoolers and elementary grade children, you may find that a more general routine works well to keep everyone coordinated as they gradually work more independently in middle and high school grades.

My own preference is for a routine, but I’ve also learned that I need to set a timer or watch the clock in order to stay on task in some areas and to remember to do the tasks in other areas! The kids are each a little different in how they work best too. Honestly, if I hadn’t made myself follow a schedule when we started homeschooling, I don’t think we would have finished much. A couple years into the adventure, I was perfectly comfortable just studying subjects in whatever order and my oldest son was cool with that too. But my second son was constantly distracted or anxious trying to figure out what was next on the agenda, so I eventually realized we needed a set routine. Good thing, because the third one literally could not focus on a page of a math if he didn’t know what subject was next or how soon it would be lunchtime! With him, I often had to set a timer and assure him that if he worked on the math worksheet until the timer went, then he could have a snack and go on to the next subject. Now that he is in high school, he has established his own balance of schedule and routine. He starts with the same subject every morning and works on it every day, but some of his other subjects he works on some days and not on others. That’s what works for him, and he’s learned to manage his own time fairly efficiently.

As for me, I’m still working on managing my time well. In fact, my timer just went off, which means I need to publish this article and then go on to the next task on my list. Which is probably grading essays or algebra, so I can make the deadline for submitting report cards!

What’s the right balance between strict schedule and flexible routine in your homeschool?


Kym (15 Posts)

Kym is in the middle of her 17th year of homeschooling her four kids, two of whom have graduated. She and her husband of 27 years are Canadians transplanted to Maryland. Kym loves coffee, history, and homeschooling, and you can join her for coffee break at her blog, Homeschool Coffee Break.

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Four Signs That Your Homeschool Schedule Isn’t Working

I really like the month of January. I confess that I don’t love it- because winter really isn’t my thing. But I like it. I love the idea of a new year, a clean slate, a new opportunity. And I really like to use that time to readjust things in our homeschool. When you follow a (sort of) traditional school schedule, January is a great time to make changes when they’re needed because it’s the beginning of a new semester, the second half of the school year.

As January rolls around, I like to use this time to take a look at our homeschool schedule. What’s working? What isn’t working? What do I need to get rid of? What do I need to tweak? Sometimes I take a look and realized things are running smoothly and maybe I don’t need to upset a good thing. Other times, it’s easy to see that I need to make some changes. What are some signs that your homeschool schedule isn’t working and you may need to change things? Here are four that I look for.

homeschool schedule-post

Kids are frustrated.

This is the first and biggest sign. Are the kids constantly frustrated with their school work in a particular area? Yes, kids may complain about school work no matter how well things are working. But, if there’s a constant frustration level, maybe it’s because something really does need to change. If my kids are really unhappy about something in our schedule, I take a closer look. Maybe I’m scheduling a subject too often or not often enough. Maybe I haven’t been consistent with that subject in our schedule. Maybe it’s something we need to schedule more time to complete. If the kids are frustrated, that’s a sign that things may need to change.

I’m frustrated.

There are times throughout our homeschooling that I begin to feel tired and frustrated and burned out. The cause of this is often a problem with our schedule. Are we doing too much? Are we too busy? Do I need to schedule more things that the kids do independently or change up the order in which I’m working on different subjects with different kids? If I’m starting to feel constant frustration, I take a close look at the schedule.

A child is struggling with a school subject.

When a child is beginning to struggle with a particular school subject, I always check to see if our schedule is the culprit. Sometimes I realize that we’ve been so busy that we haven’t spent much time on that subject. Sometimes I realize that I might need more one on one time with that child. Perhaps I need to schedule the subject for a different time in the day when distractions are fewer. A continuing problem with a particular subject can be a sure sign that I need to tweak the schedule.

We aren’t having any fun.

Okay, all school can’t be fun. It just can’t. But one of the joys of homeschooling for me is that we can have fun together. And if we aren’t having any fun, maybe the problem lies in the schedule. Maybe we have too many things scheduled. Maybe I need to leave some space for fun, time that we can just go to the park or take a long walk on a beautiful day. If we aren’t having any time for this, maybe we need an adjustment in our schedule.


These are the warning signs. If any of them are present, I’m reevaluating our schedule. The schedule isn’t always the problem. But, often, it is. And the beauty of homeschooling is that I can then change the schedule to work for us.



Leah (16 Posts)

Leah Courtney is a homeschooling mom of four. Her days are filled with being a mom, homemaker, and teacher. In her (very rare) free time, she enjoys blogging, reading, and reviewing books and curricula. These days she’s learning the joys of being a mom of teens. You can read about her family and homeschooling life at As We Walk Along the Road.

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Being FLEXuled: Balancing Being Flexible and Scheduled

Guest post by Jennifer of Dear Homeschooler.


Dear Homeschooler,

FLEXuldedAre you the hyper-organized type, planning every minute of every school day? Or are you a go-with-the-flow kind of person, harvesting precious teaching moments whenever they arise?

I admit, I tend toward the former. Anyone who knows me at all is not surprised: I like planning, organizing, and assessing, and that comes across in my approach to teaching. However, having been a special education teacher, I also understand the importance of being aware of the needs of my students and adjusting my teaching methodologies (and timetable) if it is in their best interest.

The beauty of homeschooling is that we get to choose how teach. Some of us are super scheduled, and others of us are super flexible, but we have one thing in common: we want what’s best for our students. I believe there is value in both approaches:

Reasons to be Scheduled:

  • Being scheduled helps us to stay on-track during the day to make sure all our daily lessons get completed.
  • Being scheduled provides a well-rounded day, making sure that an appropriate amount of time is devoted to each subject.
  • Being scheduled helps us meet our goals (e.g. finishing curriculum, attendance days, etc.).
  • Being scheduled provides a routine for both students and teachers, so each one knows what lessons are coming and when lessons are finished.
  • Being scheduled ensures that the school work doesn’t drag on, guaranteeing true free time after lessons are completed.

Reasons to be Flexible:

  • Being flexible allows us to take advantage of spontaneous learning opportunities.
  • Being flexible gives us the ability to nurture our student’s interests for the sake of engagement and learning.
  • Being flexible allows us as teachers to devote more time to challenging lessons to ensure skill acquisition.
  • Being flexible with the time-table, adding breaks when needed, may increase our student’s ability to stay more focused in the long run.

So, it is in the best interest of our students to be FLEXuled: both flexible and scheduled in our school day.

How do we do this?

I know it sounds like having a snowball fight in the summer, but it can be done:

  1. Plan: Create and map lessons per your curriculum choices.
  2. Make a schedule: This can be as detailed as delineating every school minute into subject blocks or as informal as having a checklist of tasks or lessons that need to be completed each day.
  3. Watch for the signs: Pay attention to your student’s responses to instruction. Watch for signs of boredom, wiggles, high-engagement, attitude-changes, resistance, and frustration, to name a few.
  4. Be Flexible: STOP and respond to your student’s needs. Take a break. Incorporate a sensory/movement aspect to the lesson. Spend more time on a challenging lesson. Fast-track a lesson that they acquire quickly. Dig deeper into lessons that capture your student’s interest. The list of interventions is endless.
  5. Adjust schedule: Take a moment to readjust the schedule. You may have to have a shorter or longer school day or reschedule certain lessons to later in the week, but it is worth it!

We can be FLEXuled!

As I mentioned earlier, I am a super scheduler. I remember a particular instance last year. I had allotted 10 minutes for our daily spelling drill, which has proven to be an adequate amount of time. My son, “ZooKid”, who is a pretty good speller, was struggling one week completing this activity in 30 minutes. WHAT??? How long does it take to write 10 words? He was distracted and had a bad attitude. After 3 days of this, I realized (finally!) that he was bored. I had to find ways to increase his engagement in spelling. Some of my ideas fit in the time-frame I had allotted (window markers, themed drill pages, etc.), but some (using alphabet beads, letter magnets, stamps, etc.) took longer. Incorporating these activities into spelling was the best solution for ZooKid. He loved spelling class again and was now focused and had a great attitude. I had to make adjustments for this intervention, but we were better off for it.

So, I believe we can be both organized and free-spirited in our teaching, creating the perfect balance between structure and creativity in our attempt to meet all our student’s needs. I’d love to hear about your experiences of being FLEXuled or your plans to be FLEXuled!

Till Next Time,




About the Author

profileJennifer Myers is a wife, mother of two beautiful children, and Christian home educator. She worked for 5 years in the public system as a special education teacher in an intensive program for students with autism. When her own kids started school, she decided to homeschool them, applying her experience in creating personalized education plans, curriculum development, teaching methodologies, and interventions. Realizing not all home educators have the same educational background, Jennifer is dedicated to sharing her experiences and building a community of home educators to grow together through her blog Dear Homeschooler. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


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