It happens every summer as I try to craft a daily schedule for homeschooling my kids: I take out a sheet of paper, I scribble out some lines to mark days of the week and hours of the day, and I squeeze. I take all the glorious things and try to wedge them into every nook and cranny of the week until they all fit just so.

If I’m lucky, I can make them fit. Barely.

But that doesn’t usually happen.

It doesn’t really matter if we have the most beautiful, carefully thought-out plan if there aren’t enough hours in the day to get to it.

Look, if God expected you to get 36 hours worth of work done in a day, he would have given you 36 hours to do it.

If you have more to do than time to do it in, the simple fact is this: some of what you are doing isn’t on His agenda for you.

So how do we simplify the homeschool schedule?

3 Ideas to Simplify Your Schedule

1. Start with a time budget.
2. Insist on margin.
3. Break out of the mold.

1. Start with a time budget.

When you create your family budget, do you begin by listing all the things you’d like to be able to afford? Do you create a master list: a nice mortgage, a new SUV, a family vacation somewhere tropical, a food allowance that allows for eating out every single week, etc?

No? Then why on earth do you do it with your time?

Don’t begin planning out your day by listing all the things you want to pack it with. Begin by looking at what God gave you (I’ll give you a hint: 24 hours, and not all of them are for work).

Now, consider your non-negotiables- you know: sleep, eat, shower, pray. See what’s left? You don’t get any more than that, sister.

I recommend you work through Tell Your Time, a really helpful 30-page ebook based on the principle that time is a budget.

It really wasn’t written for homeschoolers,but I think the system works beautifully when deciding what gets priority status on any kind of schedule, homeschooling or otherwise. (I suspect Amy knows this. She’s a homeschooling mom, after all.)

You have to begin with what you have, and what you have is a fixed amount of time.

Doing it any other way is going to be an exercise in both frustration and anxiety, because we always want to do more than we have time to do.

You can’t base your family budget on your desire to spend Christmas in the Bahamas, and you can’t base your homeschool schedule on your desire to do hands-on history, grow your own vegetable garden, take weekly field trips, and study a new composer and artist every week of the year.

We have to consider reality, and usually it’s helpful to start there. :)


2. Insist on margin

Once you figure out how much time you have in your daily budget of school hours, only schedule schoolwork to fill 80% of it.

I’ll pause while you finish hyperventilating.

(Okay stop it. This is supposed to give you relief, not an anxiety attack!)

Why 80%? Fact: if you plan three hours of schoolwork into three hours of work time, you will never get it done.

You’ll be chasing that list of to-do’s and you’ll never ever catch it. Believe me- I’ve tried.

When time is your master, whatever is gotten through is simply that: gotten through. Not relished. Not enjoyed. Not delighted in.

When school is assigned the same treatment as scrubbing the toilet, we teach our children that it is not something to enliven their hearts and minds, but rather something to be completed as quickly as possible so that “real living” can begin.

If you want to be a peaceful homeschooling mama and you want interested, engaged students, you have to schedule margin right into your day.

This is where it gets tricky, of course, because if you’re only going to fill up 80% of your day, you’re going to have to seriously simplify your curriculum. There’s no way around it.


3. Break out of the mold

God did not give you 9 months a year in which to educate your children. He gave you 12. Break free of the hold the public education system has on the way you think about your calendar, and you may just find you have a lot more time to work with than you thought you did.

One way to rearrange the schedule is called Sabbath Schooling. Angelina Stanford writes beautifully about this concept:

“I went from feeling overwhelmed and burnt-out to truly enjoying my time with my children and my calling to educate them. God desires joy and peace for His people, and when we seek His wisdom and embrace His principles for living we increase our joy and peace—-even in our homeschools.” (You can read more about sabbath schooling from my friend, Mystie, right here.)

Whether you take the 6-weeks-on, 1-week-off model that Angelina proposes or not, consider that you have a full 12 months (indeed, the full hours of the day from dawn to dusk) in which to tend to your work.It does not need to be crammed.


Furthermore, there is no reason why the 6th grade math book must be mastered between September and May during your child’s 12th year of life.

Some bureaucrat somewhere made that up.

You don’t work for the bureaucrat.

You work for God. Funny thing about Him- he doesn’t operate on the school district’s schedule. ;)

You don’t have to hit it all this year. I mean that. Loop subjects within a year, if you need. Loop entire years if that appeals to you (maybe going heavy on history this  year, science next year).

The freedom is there , even if you have to be a little creative with the wording you use to report to your state {cough}. And remember to integrate! Your child is doing more than it “looks” like she is doing.

And at the end of the day, when you begin to despair that still you didn’t manage to hit it all, listen to Edith Stein:

When night comes, and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork and much which one had planned left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as it is, lay it in God’s hands, and offer it up to him. In this way we will be able to rest in him, actually to rest, and to begin the new day like a new life.

Would you like the first 3 chapters of my book,
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace, for free?

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Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace
by Sarah Mackenzie

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P.S. It’s also important to simplify the homeschool curriculum.

And the very best hack I’ve uncovered for my homeschool life is using spiral notebooks to simplifying my homeschool.

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