Taking Advantage of the Freedoms of Homeschool - Scheduling
Homeschool isn’t “school”.  Homeschoolers are not bound to use the same techniques, ideas, schedules, or the same anything that schools use.  Though we often have “requirements” to meet that are established by the state, the homeschool situation is generally far more open to the direct needs of the student and teacher.  At least, it can be.

This freedom should be taken full advantage of.  It can be used to do two very important things. 

1) To allow the student and teacher to express creative control over the educational process. 
2) To enhance the student’s own creativity and creative works.  
These two creative functions overlap and become one in many ways, as you’ll see.

You all know what school is about; rigid schedules, homework, activities oriented toward group rather than individual needs, grades, tests, all the rest of the “standard” trappings that have murdered education for over 100 years.  I’ve written a lot about the problems of such methods, all of them tied to the “critical” and “teacher-oriented” approach to education that owns our schools today.  We won’t get much into that here.  But as homeschoolers, you can turn each of these rotten tools on their head to make education actually responsive to your needs and those of your student.

In this article, let’s discuss scheduling.  You may well be obligated to deliver so many days of school to your student.  (Usually in the U.S., it’s 180 days.)  Further, there may be an hour per day requirement.   Fine.  But when in the day you do those hours are up to you as homeschoolers! 

Does your student work and think best getting up late, and studying from noon-five pm?  I’d let him do it.  Some people, myself included, work best later at night.  While a school could never accommodate such a “non-standard” schedule, a homeschool situation most certainly can.  Wouldn’t it be a good idea to allow the student to study at the time of day when he will do his very best work?  Don’t we want his best work?  If allowing the student to work during unusual hours, even hours that change from day to day, gets us his best work, then isn’t that worth developing scheduling flexibility?

More on scheduling.  We are accustomed to thinking of the school day as being broken into subjects, each with about the same amount of time devoted to it.  After all, that’s how schools are organized.  But you’re working with a homeschool situation and are not obligated to follow the herd.  So, let’s say that your student suddenly develops a real passion for a particular subject.  Let’s call it “creative writing”.  He starts writing a play or a novel, and has a fire to do it now.  Isn’t an important goal of education to help the student discover his real interests in life, those areas or activities which he will later make use of to build a life, a career?  Once we discover the student’s interests, isn’t our next job as educators to do everything in our power to help the student develop his skills and understandings in those areas of interest?   And don’t we all learn best when we’re passionate about the things we’re learning about?

When the fire’s hot, the anvil should be struck.  When a student develops a passion for a subject, then he should be encouraged to focus on it even to the temporary exclusion of other subjects – perhaps all other subjects.  There’s no guarantee that, if the student is restricted from diving in, if he is not encouraged to experience his new-found passion while it’s fresh and wondrous, that the student will remain interested for long.  In fact, it’s pretty likely that he will not, once discouraged from jumping in with both feet.  After all, you, his parent or teacher, are the people that the student looks up to.  If you don’t think his interests are important enough to set other activities aside so as to be pursued, after a while neither will he.  

Obviously, a school with 30 or more students per classroom just can’t exhibit this sort of elasticity in scheduling.  You can.  You’re a homeschooler.  You can suspend study of other subjects for a reasonable amount of time so that the student may dive in, and so he sees that you truly support his interests.  You could even make a “deal” with the student.   Let him work exclusively on his new novel for two weeks, or a month, or whatever is needed.  Then he must do his other subjects exclusively for a month or whatever is needed and “catch up” – if catching up to some imaginary target that has little to do with the student’s life and interests is deemed important.

What do we want for our children?  One thing certainly would be for them to discover and pursue their “calling”, whatever it may be.  How much happier the life driven by a love of one’s work, than a life darkened and weighed down by the drudgery of work we detest.  Can a little thing like creative scheduling take us a great step toward providing our children a greater chance at a happy life?  You bet it can! 

 Steven Horwich is an Emmy and Dramalogue award-winning writer/director, who has split his life between the arts and education.  A teacher with over 35 years and over 20,000 hours of experience from elementary school through university-level teaching, he started homeschooling his own children in 2002.  This led him to author over 300 courses since 2002, a complete curricula (excluding math) for ages 5-adult, called Connect The Thoughts.  Over 20,000 people have used CTT since making it available via the Internet in 2007.  His curricula is presented at www.connectthethoughts.com.