Time Management for Homeschoolers: Making the Minutes Count

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

A note from Jamie: I’m vacationing with family for a few weeks and will be back later in the month. This post was first published on April 5, 2010. If you’re just getting into the groove of a new homeschooling season, time management may be on your mind. Enjoy!

As homeschooling families, we have lots to get done and not always a lot of time in which to do it.

Duties call to us from all sides, competing for our attention. If we don’t intentionally determine our daily rhythm, we may never get around to what we truly value.

But on the other hand, it’s no fun to live life as a drill sergeant–planning every second and living with eyes constantly on the clock.

So what’s a mother to do?

Use the following ideas to come up with a flexible plan that works for your household.

1. Define your non-negotiables.

Brainstorm and contemplate your family’s priorities–both in regards to education as well as home life and culture.

What are the non-negotiables in terms of your children’s education–math, handwriting, science? Make your schedule suit your life, not someone else’s.

Photo by Jimmie

As we all know, education is just one part of “home education”–the other part is the home.

How can we care for it and still have learning time in the day? What level of cleanliness is needed to bless our family? Which is more important to us–cleaning or cooking meals?

Not everything will fit into our day, especially if we have many little ones underfoot.

We have to choose the important, so we don’t get sidetracked by the tyranny of the urgent.

2. What isn’t a priority, but would be nice?

Don’t forget to consider secondary level subjects as well–they’re not the priority, but they would be nice.

Maybe your daughter wants to take a pottery class, or you really want to paint the garage this spring. How can you decide if you should devote time to these activities?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

– Is it the right season?

I recently went through a decluttering binge, in which I completely stressed myself and my family out by taking on a massive project.

Yes, it would be nice to reorganize certain parts of our home. But only too late I came to a realization–it’s just not the right season. What sounded like a good goal in theory actually ended up taking away from our peace and essential priorities.

Not worth it.

This question is also helpful when selecting extracurricular activities for children. Even if it isn’t the right time for a certain activity now, it could work very well in another season.

– Is this really a priority?

If something really is important we’ll find a way to get it done. Therefore it is a priority, and belongs in category number 1 above.

If it isn’t a priority, but you feel (because of guilt or other motives) that it should be–just let it go.

– Is this something I want to do in my free time?

Photo by Darryl Darwent

Our free time as busy homeschooling households is limited. Guard those moments and make sure you choose the activities that most relax you.

So don’t register for a cooking class if you’d rather be reading a novel instead. If a hobby, like gardening, is both productive and refreshing, then go for it. But don’t feel obligated to check off to-do tasks even in your precious spare time.

3. When’s the best time to do what must be done?

After you’ve identified your priorities, the next step is to decide when to do them.

When is your peak time? When is your child’s best time?

Does it work better for the family to start the day off with a fun subject, or does it help the day’s rhythm more to knock out a challenging one and move on to easier subjects or chores later?

Write your priorities on a list and assign a general time to them (morning/afternoon/evening). This will allow you to visualize your day in a more concrete way.

4. Create a flexible rhythm for your day.

If you’d like, you can then take this list and arrange the activities in an ordered sequence for your day.

Do not make this rigid–there’s nothing worse than feeling “behind” at 9 am! So don’t assign specific time slots to your routine unless you know that is the best way for your family to operate.

In most cases, flexibility produces a nicer home atmosphere.

Photo by Travis Isaacs

Make sure there’s a specific time available in your routine for all your essential tasks.

Years ago I could not get into a productive rhythm with laundry in our home. I would get it folded, but it sat in the laundry basket for days. Eventually I realized that I’d never found a good time to put laundry away. Adding that to my routine solved the problem easily, and now 90% of the time it gets put away directly after our daily rest time.

Often what helps most when organizing is seeing how others structure their days. With that in mind, here are some resources to check out as you seek to make the minutes count in your home.

Further Reading:

How does your family keep your homeschooling day organized? If you’ve written about it on your blog, please share your link to help others!

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. Oh, how I needed this. Truly wonderful to read the links on how other homeschooling mamas schedule their days. I feel a bit more encouraged as I take on what is shaping to be a very busy week for us.

  2. There’s actually a time management”challenge” that starts today from author Laura Vanderkam from 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. “Join us as we take a close look at one week of our lives (168 hours!) and learn where the time really goes!” More information can be found on her facebook site http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=100407516688071&index=1 or at Life Simplified http://www.lifesimplifiedforyou.com.
    Holland Saltsman’s latest post: 168 Hours Challenge

  3. “As we all know, education is just one part of “home education”–the other part is the home.”

    I still struggle with this. There are times I feel torn between extending lessons because the kids ask, or get on the dishes piled in the sink. Taking a flylady type approach has helped some, but it still is always something I think needs improving.

  4. I’m a frequent list maker. And I try hard to work on the list and not get distracted by other things. The problem is that important things usually get kicked off the list in favor of the urgent. So I try to add those kinds of things on there too: paint, sew with Sprite, write.

    I was thrilled to see one of our photos in this post! 🙂
    Jimmie’s latest post: Living Math Dropout

  5. I am constantly amazed by how a routine can be like wings to fly on or like chains to hold me down. One of the best things I figured out was that I cannot take a true “flylady” approach to cleaning/routines. Instead I do more of a daily crisis cleaning. I have 7 things that need done each day and I spend 10 minutes on each of them. Then I stop. I try to hit the kitchen for 10 minutes after every meal.

    I am trying to juggle a home business, preschool, and a home remodel along with normal life. Right now I am actually attempting a more rigid daily routine. Even with that, I have space for freedom.

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