Structure and Home Education

List of ways to create structure in your home education life.

There are many reasons to incorporate structure in your home education life. Common reasons include:

  • Children who need a framework in order to feel less anxious
  • Parents new to home ed who need reassurance and an element of familiarity
  • Children who need help with executive functioning skills

Many people might think home ed structure would replicate school; timetables, set lesson times, scheduled breaks, but it’s possible to create structure without recreating an environment which has failed for many children.

For many people, having a rhythm to the day helps with focus, and ensures that chores are done and meals happen at around the right time. Home education is not just about school subjects, so starting with the structure of daily life is a good start.

When do you eat meals? Do you do chores after breakfast? Would a quiet time after lunch for reading/rest work well for your family?

Next there’s the weekly structure. Which groups, classes or after school activities do you go to? Are there times when one child is at an activity that you could use to spend focused learning time with a sibling? Do you have a day when you can meet grandparents or do something as a family? Would you like afternoons set aside for creative activities, or outdoor pursuits? For those families where parents work non-standard hours, maybe Family Friday or evening learning would work best?

Then there’s the overlying structure to the month, term or year. Will you travel? Have humanities unit studies for one semester, and science studies for the next? Incorporate one excursion a month? Mark the passing seasons with a nature table and journal? What about following the Classical style four year history rotation, or having a work experience year?

Once you have a plan of how you would like your weeks to flow, you can look at the individual aspects of your child’s education and how they can be incorporated. It’s good to avoid rigid schedules, as being forced to stop reading to do maths (or vice versa) turns something a child does willingly out of interest into a task, which can often diminish its appeal. Break times are important, but many children can only focus for 15-20 minutes, so more regular breaks will be needed. For a young child, 20 minutes reading in the morning could be paired with half an hour of maths games after lunch, then a walk before a humanities/science session.

One common way to help children of all ages is by making a list or checklist. Depending on age, you might give them freedom to fit the required tasks into the day or week as they see fit, or have a sequence of tasks that need to be finished before a certain time. Your checklist could be detailed: music practice, two pages of maths, walk the dog, journal prompt 27, finish diorama. Don’t forget to add fun things to the list! Have a snack, call a friend, do some scrapbooking, play with the dog. A list is a great way to remind children of activities they want to do but sometimes forget, so giving lots of choices is good. You might have a points system, or different categories for essential tasks and those which are free choice. Something that works well for little children is to have a visual list or grid– play a game, go outside, read together, make something.

As children get older, and are moving towards formal study, they need more detailed lists but the best training is for them to be involved in creating a list or timetable, and then responsible for implementing it. After all, once they are studying or working that’s what they will need to do, so the more practice they have the better. This is an opportunity for us to scaffold their learning, to show them the way but allow them the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. If your child is doing courses with deadlines, it’s particularly important to help them ensure they meet them, so reminding them for the first few times is a good idea.

Remember that many of the best learning opportunities in life happen unannounced. If a neighbour is caring for a baby possum, you need to stay up until 2am to view an astronomy event, an excursion is advertised in your local group or your child suddenly becomes fascinated by invertebrates, it’s fine to change your plan.

And we all have bad days, so cut yourself (and your children) some slack. Have a pyjama day, give the kids a bucket of water and a paintbrush and ask them to paint the fence, call a friend and invite them over for coffee. Sometimes we have bad weeks, or as many experienced during the pandemic, bad months. Be kind to yourself. Focus on your relationship with your children and remember that empathy, flexibility, and self-care are at least as important as maths, geography and chemistry.



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Ways to create structure in your home education life:

Anything which occurs regularly can help to create a timetable or rhythm.

Time outside – Time for reflection – Regular home ed group – After school classes – After lunch nap or quiet time – Observe the seasons, create a nature table – Create traditions for the first day of term, the longest day of the year etc – Celebrate annual events and festivals, Holi, Pi Day Solstice, Bastille Day, Christmas – Camps –Weekly, termly or yearly topics – Reading time, either alone or together – Family meet ups like Sunday dinner, or cousins day – Co-ops and activity groups – Online classes or sessions – Family excursion day – Chores – Walks or bike rides – Regular study time – Morning and evening routines – Planting and harvesting

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