Why You Should Plan Downtime In Your Homeschool Schedule

It's become so commonplace for adults and kids alike to have packed schedules.  Most kids I know go to school all day, attend an after school program, and still have 3-5 adult led/ planned activities after that!

Throw in a few sleepovers or birthday parties over the weekends and it's no wonder that most kids don't know what they like to do other then play video games or watch TV.

It's no wonder they're looking for adults to show them what to do all the time.  They don't know any other way.

They're often tired, stressed, and on the go.

It's become the new normal.

Talk to parents at any practice or activity and they'll tell you how they can barely keep the whole families schedule straight.  That they're often broken up with one parent shuttling a kid here or there while the other parent is running another kid to a different activity or trying to squeeze in dinner and homework so they can switch off later in the evening.

Family lives have become crazy, packed, full-time jobs packed into part time hours.  

We don't do that.

ANY of that.

With schooling at home I knew I wanted to try a completely different approach.  I was already feeling burnt out and exhausted after just one year of having all three kids in school and each boy participating in one or two after school activities.  It seemed like they never had time to just play explore and be kids.  We were slaves to the clock, homework, and our schedules and we were miserable.  

Since we've started homeschooling, we've found that we only need a few hours to get all of our schoolwork done.  We plan field trips once a week and we often get together with homeschool friends to play and relax during school hours but our schedule is quite flexible.

We have a lot of time to rest, recharge, and figure out what it is that they WANT to do.  Our school day is downsized.

We don't encourage our kids to try out every sport, every activity, or every program we hear about. 

Sometimes I worry that they they might find themselves behind skill-wise if they chose to play a sport later but, to me, that's a weak argument for playing sports they aren't begging to try out.

Our after school activities have been downsized as well.  

If my kids want to participate in an activity that meets during a week night (usually around dinnertime; right?!) they can; but they have to have a pretty good argument about why they want to try it out and if I don't see them falling in love with what they're doing or else have to drag them to practices or events we re-evaluate to see if it's worth the sacrifice in family time & money.

I believe childhood is a great time to try out every sport and activity but kids should be allowed to quit or stop if they aren't enjoying themselves (in the event of a team sport my kids have to finish out the season and the commitment to the team).

I carried over this same laid back attitude into our school day after spending the first year trying to cover all the subjects all the time.  School was lasting until 1 or 2 in the afternoon and I was wiped out by the time we finished.  I had written out a schedule with all the subjects we wanted to cover each day, what I'd be focusing on, how long each lesson should last etc., and I kept a constant eye on the clock.  We were all miserable and learning/ teaching seemed forced.

They wanted to go back to school!

I was failing!

Rather than throw in the towel we looked for alternatives.

I read blog after blog; some about families that only studied a few subjects each day and rotating through all subjects by week's end, some about families who only taught math and reading and left science, geography, history, art, etc. up to each child to explore as they saw fit, I read blogs about covering multiple subjects at once, blogs about schooling year round and only doing three subjects a day, blogs about a four day school week with a day off built in each week.

I realized we had so many options and yet here I was replicating school at home.  So we changed!  We took advantage of being in charge of our own learning.

Focusing on reading and math as our two main subjects each day and leaving the rest of our time open has allowed us plenty of free time for hiking, building, reading, science experiments, art projects, and whatever else we want to do each day.

We still try to have a rough plan by Monday of what types of projects or things we'd like to learn about that particular week so I can make sure we have all the supplies we need but we're flexible and open to change too.

If an activity crops up that they all seem excited about we can drop our plans at a moment's notice and go.  If they hear about a project and we have the supplies to do it we can without worrying about how it will affect the rest of our day or week.

It's so important to have downtime planned into your schedule because:
  • Having lots of downtime in our homeschool schedule allows us to be flexible and have fun with our schooling.  (Think Field trips!)
  • Having downtime allows the boys to be bored occasionally and rediscover old interests or try out new things. 
  • Having downtime allows me to loosen the reigns and spent quality time with my boys rather than planning and implementing lesson after lesson. 
  • Having downtime allows us all to relax and focus on making family memories.
  • Having downtime allows us additional time to work on skills that may be lacking or subjects they may be struggling with. 
  • Having downtime allows us to delve deeply into subjects that they're passionate about for that hour, day, week, month or year. 
  • Having downtime increases creativity and engagement.  My oldest son has discovered a passion for cookie-- he's even shared his waffle recipe on my blog. 

 You may not want to have as much downtime planned into your schedules as we do in ours but that's OK; that's the beauty of homeschooling!

You can adjust your schedule to meet the needs of your family.

But I would argue that we all benefit from downtime so try to plan at least a little.  

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