Home educating offers a very flexible approach to children’s learning and this also applies to the way we use timetables.

The Main Differences Between School Education and Home Schooling

Home schooling is the definition of child-centred learning. It enables the child and parents to have more family time while also allowing them to work at their own pace without the competitive aspect of keeping up with other kids in a class. Naturally, some children find some subjects easier than others, but in school teachers must move at a steady pace with no time to keep going over tricky content. With home learning, the child can spend the extra time they need on a certain topic before moving on to the next without this impeding their understanding of the next topic.

Home schooled children are more likely to have friends with similar interests, with whom they will enjoy doing their hobbies with as opposed to school children who may simply have a group of friends because they are all thrown into the same environment.

Finally, home schooling offers so much more flexibility: it can take place anywhere and anytime, so even when a family is on holiday during the ordinary 'school term', they can still be learning. Pupils enrolled at school must be present at all time during the school term and all learning is to be done during the hours of 9 to 3.30 with the exception of homework.

Homeschooling has many advantages.
Homeschooling requires your child to study at home, and use your home space and equipment. Photo credit: English106 on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

What Is The Purpose of Using Timetables In Learning?

Although we’re very familiar with a formally timetabled structure in schools, this is not essential to educating, just a tool we can use – or lose – whichever best supports the learning process.

Timetables are something we’re in charge of, instead of us being slaves to. And can be used very flexibly to help us organise our children’s activities, our own time and commitments, or assist in keeping track of topics and concepts we want our children to learn or experience.

How To Use Timetabling Effectively In Your Home Schooling

To use timetabling effectively it helps to firstly; establish and remain clear about what we are using it for – what it’s going to help us achieve. And secondly; remember that we can be flexible with that use, discarding them at any time.

Here are a few tips to illustrate how to use that flexibility:

Custom-make it to suit your child's needs

Plan your timetable to suit how your child learns best rather than a traditional timed day which might start at nine and end at three, for example. After all, you are not a school so you don't have to copy their format  - this is one of the biggest advantages of home schooling: having a flexible routine.

Some children are much more receptive later in the day, or after a period of play or outdoor activity. Some children like complete structure and to know what they’re going to be doing when. Others learn best with a more autonomous approach. It’s fine to plan timetables round how they best achieve.

Allow your child to gain the necessary organisation skills they'll need later in life.
Make sure you get your child's input when creating timetables. Photo on Visualhunt

Keep them focused

Be clear about what your timetable is for. Is it to organise your day? Is it so that cover certain topics every day? Is it for timing how much of a topic a child does? Does a daily one work best for you or following the same weekly structure? You can choose the purpose it is to serve and adjust it accordingly.

Who says a timetable needs to look like a diary entry, defined by hourly slots and following a Monday to Friday pattern? You might decide that you only study in the mornings yet spread the learning across seven days a week, giving you longer periods of the day to have a break and make memories as a family. Moreover, your lessons may not be an hour long at a time. You may follow expert advice to keep lessons to around 20 minutes before having a short break, then picking up again with a new topic to keep interest up and momentum going. It's all up to you and how you work as a teacher-pupil team!

Be flexible

It doesn’t really matter when or for how long a child does something – as in clock time – like it would in a school environment for example.

Sometimes a planned activity needs scrapping or postponing for another day if your child simply isn't up to it. They may feel under the weather or simply lacking in energy. Sometimes children are so engrossed they can continue for hours, while other times they struggle to keep their focus for five minutes alone. So a ‘timed’ table of sessions might not be as valuable as a simple list of topics you want to cover and achieve. Remember you can always abandon timetables if necessary, they are not set in stone and should serve only as a guide. As soon as timetables start to have a negative effect (like if you are constantly chasing your heels trying to get through the timetable, or your child isn't responding well to the way you've planned their day then it's best to rethink your approach).

Timetables should be positive and have positive effects on your teaching strategy.

Do include social events

Your family’s other needs and schedules can also be part of your timetable. In fact, allowing your kids to see some of the other more fun aspects of life mixed up with their daily schoolwork can give them more incentive to get their lessons completed, in the knowledge that they have something fun to look forward to that evening or weekend.

The beauty of home educating is that it gives an opportunity to design real-life schedules – for living as well as working.

And what better lesson is there for your child than the importance of work/life balance?

Don;t forget to include social appointments in your calendar as home schooling is about providing that balance.
Do include social events in your timetable so they have things other than schoolwork to look forward to. Photo on Visualhunt.com

Involve your children in creating them

You should involve your children, as they mature, in building their own timetables and organising their time and activities. Not only does getting their input make sure that you are taking their opinions and suggestions on board (and showing them that you recognise their value in the homeschooling system), it also gives them vital organisation skills.

Help them understand how they can achieve aims and goals, and remain purposeful by organising themselves independently and effectively. This builds essential life skills like taking charge of their own education, motivation and independence.

You might also want to encourage them to set up their own homework timetable, so that they can choose a specific time of day where they will do independent study.

Are Timetables Compulsory for Staying On Track With Learning?

Whilst we were homeschooling, we used timetables at intermittent periods to help us achieve, to keep tabs on what was being achieved and when, and to help us reach certain goals. But it was not a compulsory part of our learning process; we showed the children how it was a valuable tool but at other times learning autonomously without timetables worked just as well.

This flexible attitude did in no way hamper them when they went on to further and higher education. What it did do was to teach them how to organise their own study periods effectively, whereas some of their peers, who’d been in an imposed timetabled learning structure all their previous life, found that more difficult.

So, as you can see, timetables can be great tools for the homeschooling parent however they shouldn't be relied on too heavily, as nobody can realistically live by timetables for extended periods of time. This is why schools often alternate weekly schedules to stop the monotony of lessons and offer students a break during and after each term!

In some ways, it's even more important not to push timetables too much when homeschooling, particularly if they aren't being well-received, because it can lead to negative connotations with their environment and make children tire of being at home.

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.