Home educating offers a very flexible approach to children’s learning and this also applies to the way we use timetables.
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.
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:
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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. Sometimes children are so engrossed they can continue for hours. 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.
- Your family’s other needs and schedules can also be part of your timetable. The beauty of home educating is that it gives an opportunity to design real life schedules – for living as well as working.
- So involve your children, as they mature, in building their own timetables and organising their time and activities. Help them understand how they can achieve aims and goals, and remain purposeful by organising themselves effectively. This builds essential life skills like taking charge of their own education, motivation and independence.
Whilst we were home schooling 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.