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We’re in the home stretch! We’ve talked about planning the Big Picture, Your Year, Your Term, and Your Week. (If you’ve miss any of the first four steps, you can read them on our blog.) Planning your day is the final step of the simple 5-step process.

Before you ever put pencil to paper, take a minute to find your comfort zone. Are you the type of person who likes to run her day according to the clock? Are you most comfortable knowing exactly what time you should move on to the next item of the day? Then your comfort zone is using a timetable to schedule your day. A timetable looks something like this: 8:30 Math, 8:45 History, 9:00 Geography, etc. Charlotte Mason used a timetable approach in her schools’ classrooms.

If, however, running your day by the clock stresses you out, your comfort zone is probably using a time-box approach instead. (Don’t feel guilty; Charlotte didn’t have to deal with new babies, laundry, and preschoolers disrupting her school day.) With a time-box approach, you simply divide your day into blocks of time (called time boxes) and determine which Subjects you want to accomplish during each block. For example, you might have a “Before Breakfast” time box in which you want to have the children do their morning chores; a “Between Breakfast and Lunch” time box in which you want to accomplish History, Math, Picture Study, Copywork, and Typing; an “After Lunch” time box, etc.

(In case you’re wondering, yes, you can still do short lessons with a time-box approach. Simply start the timer when you’re ready to begin the lesson within that time box. When the timer dings, that lesson is done. The main difference is that it doesn’t matter whether you start that lesson at 9:30 or 10:08; you simply make sure you do it some time during that time box.)

Once you have found your comfort zone, make a simple chart with your students’ names across the top and your timetable or time boxes down the side. Then look at your Weekly Schedule that you created last time. All you have to do is transfer the Subjects listed under Monday to a Monday Daily Schedule, then transfer Tuesday’s Subjects to a Tuesday Daily Schedule, and so on until you have a Daily Schedule for each day of your school week. It’s up to you whether that schedule is laid out in 15-minute increments or flexible time boxes. Do what works best at this season of your family’s life.

If you would like to see some examples of Daily Schedules, you’ll find some in our Planning section here on the site. The schedules given there use the time box approach, but you could easily adapt them to a timetable approach.

So what’s your comfort zone at this season of life: timetable or time boxes? Leave us a comment and let us know.

1. Tonya April 24, 2008 at 10:38 am #

I’m just excited to find there is a name for the way we do things! We tried, really, really tried to do timetable as that is what my dh would prefer, but it just never worked practically for us. Over time our schedule became a case of “start school at x time and complete a, b, and c before breakfast. Between breakfast and lunch do d, e, and f and finish everything else before y time.” I think it’s great that there is a name for it. Time-boxes. I like it!

2. Amber April 24, 2008 at 12:10 pm #

I really like the idea of time-boxes and short lessons, but I find it challening to make that work well in certain subjects (copywork and math, mostly) because a lot of the time is spent staring into space rather than doing the lesson. I know it is an issue of cultivating the habit of attention, but I’m not sure how to do that other than staring at her for the entire time and refocusing her attention each time it wanders… which is quite frustrating for both of us. I’ve tried setting the timer for, say, 25 minutes when I know it should take 15 to do a task and telling her she can have the extra for play, but generally it doesn’t work (unless I sit and stare at her the whole time and constantly refocus her attention) and she just shrugs it off, saying that she’ll have plenty of time to play in the afternoon.

Anyways, this has been an interesting series and it has given me some things to think about. I think I do pretty well planning on a yearly basis and even for the next couple of years ahead, but I break down somewhat in planning out my semesters and weeks. We do manage to get done what I’d like to get done, but I think more planning would make it go more smoothly. I know what my overall goals are, but perhaps I should spend some more time thinking about what the rest of our homeschool time is going to look like rather than just looking ahead a 2-3 years.

3. Diane April 24, 2008 at 7:48 pm #

Thank you so much for your series on planning. I’m a second year homeschooling mom to a 3-,6-, and 8-year old, and with our current situation, I see the benefit of the time box approach. Thank you for your resources, and making the CM method so “user-friendly”.

4. AmyVG April 25, 2008 at 2:48 pm #

Great series! Thanks so much for your wonderful, resourceful website! We’re in our first year of homeschooling our SK-grade son (plus our two other adorable pre-school grade daughters), all I do at this point is schedule what needs to get done that day and we, together, do each lesson in short 15min (or so) time periods in the morning. We go through all the subjects in the morning, with-in a hour or two. From fun stuff, like fingerplays and singing to (more fun stuff!) our Saxon math program and phonics (Phonic Pathways).

5. Mary in KY April 26, 2008 at 4:59 pm #

I use a modified time-box method. I really wanted to do the scheduled thing but it just did not work for us.

We start our school day no later than 9:30 (I would prefer earlier, but it is me and not the kids that just can’t get ready to go before that). We have Bible followed by math (3rd grader predominantly independent, 1st grader with me to maintiain focus) and then set the timer for a 10 min break. I put away Bible/Math and get out Phonics, Grammar, Lang Arts, Spelling. We work on these for however long it takes to get completed. Timer set for another 10 min break while I tidy up and mark off the day’s accomplishments.

We then relocate for reading/narration. If there is still time before lunch we go ahead with these things. If everyone is STARVED (as is almost always the case even if it is only 10:15) I will put on a Librivox chapter while I fix lunch. After lunch we complete the History/Literature/Science/Composer/Artist readings and activities. We usually wrap up no later than 2:30. The rest of the day is outdoor play and extracurricular activities (piano lessons, judo) and chores.

I am really excited about looking more at the big picture of planning. We will be participating in co-op next year where we will be doing body science and state history. I was afraid we might be overdoing for science and history. This way, I can lay it all out and make sure things don’t get too heavy or skipped.

My previous planning method (after selecting the resources for the year) was to print out a blank weekly schedule with subjects down the side – days across the top. As each seatwork item was completed on Monday I would plot out the next several days (up to 2 weeks) onto the blank sheets. I hope to be a bit better than that next year. I tried laying out the entire year in a spreadsheet once – what a disaster! If we had to drop or add a resource or an unexpected field trip disrupts the schedule it was a nightmare. I still like the old pen and ink method for day to day.

Thanks for this great series!

Mary in KY

6. Katie August 28, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

I will probably go with the time table approach and see how it goes. But it is good to know that if I can’t make that work that there is another option.

7. Rebekah King December 20, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

Thank you for dissecting your strategies for us. I have found it very helpful.

One of my goals is for my kids to be responsible and self sufficient. We use a checklist approach where they have a list of what needs to be done (including school work) and milestones they must meet- like you must do this much before breakfast, or play time, etc. The kids come to me when they are ready for a lesson, materials in hand and as soon as I am free, we sit down and do that lesson. I keep myself available during the times I would LIKE to see the work done. If they are running behind, they will have to wait until I can get to them.

8. Catie August 3, 2013 at 6:46 am #

This series is so helpful! Thank you! I’ll be starting Year 0 with my daughter this fall so we’ll keep things really light, but it’s nice to know how to plan so I can be tweaking things this year and *hopefully* be more prepared next year.