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A Heart of Dakota Life - Have some structure, or someone will sadly always be on-call!
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Have some structure, or someone will sadly always be on-call!

What reaction do you have when I say the word “structure”? More than likely, you either like the idea of structure or you don’t. In homeschooling, one of the many blessings we have is we determine the structure of our days. Now, structure can look very different from one family to another family. There is not one right way to structure your day. Rather, it is the structure you create yourself that makes your homeschooling days be successful! So, why should you add structure to your days, and how can you best do so?

Having Structure Values Each Person’s Time

When you add structure to your homeschool day, you and your children know what to expect. When everyone knows what is expected, each person knows if expectations are met. Structure ensures each person’s time is valued. No one wants to be ‘on call’ for homeschooling. A person who is ‘on call’ must be ready at any moment to be called upon to work. An on-call person can be summoned at someone else’s command, and the one in command holds all the power. Homeschool homes with no structure do have someone in command who is all powerful, even if the home is disorganized or chaotic. That person in command with all the power might be the homeschool mom, the two-year-old toddler, the child who complains or dawdles the most, the overbearing relative living with you, or whoever demands the most attention with little to no regard for anyone else.

Are you the on-call mom?

If you have no structure to your day, you might be the on-call mom. At any given moment, ‘calls’ come in and you find yourself running from child to child, from thing to thing. There is no structure, and anyone at any given moment may take your time because you don’t have the structure to say your time is planned in another way, with another person, or with another task. There is a reason doctors are not on-call every day. A person can only be on-call occasionally, in a more emergency kind of situation, or burn-out is inevitable.

On-call moms are exhausted. Children are used to having their mom at their beck and call, and as children, they don’t realize they are taking advantage of that. This is why on-call moms are so discouraged. They give and give and give, and yet they don’t feel they are respected. Their time is not valued. Whether they realize it or not, they have created this situation. They have put themselves permanently on-call, and they unfortunately have many “employers.”

Are your children on-call?

If you have no structure to your day, your children might be the ones on-call. At any given moment, ‘calls’ come in and they find themselves running from thing to thing, constantly interrupted with no rhyme or reason. There is no structure, and their time might be taken at any given moment because they have no structure to their day to say their time is planned in another way, with a certain task, school subject, chore, or job to do.

In this unstructured situation, who is in command? Believe it or not, you are! And while parents definitely should be in control of their children, chaotic control is not healthy nor embraced positively by those on-call. On-call children may seem inattentive, lazy, or reluctant. Why? Well, when you are constantly on-call, you really don’t want to start anything. You’ll probably have to stop it halfway into it and leave it incomplete. It’s easier just not to start.

Add structure by having a routine!

So, now that you can see it is not a positive for anyone to always have to be on-call, how can you add structure to your day? Well, one way to add structure is to simply plan a routine way of doing things. Everyone should be aware of the routine, and it should be handwritten or typed. Each person should have a copy, and it should also be posted somewhere. Usually the homeschool mom should make the routine, but if you struggle with structure, you may want to ask an older child, your husband, or another adult for help in making a routine. A routine way of doing things adds structure to the day because each person knows the order in which things are to be done. Each person is only on-call at certain planned and predictable times.

Your routine should have a definite start time and an approximate end time. Start times and end times don’t have to be the same for each person though (older students’ school takes more time; early morning risers start earlier; night owls do school later, etc.). Subjects should be done in a routine order (i.e. Bible first, history reading next, project follow-up, etc.). You should have a routine time to meet with each child (10 AM with Johnny, 11 AM with April, 12 PM with Lucy). Breakfast, lunch, and supper should also be at routine times as much as possible (breakfast at 9 AM, lunch at 1 PM, supper at 6 PM). Routine playtimes with siblings should also be planned (i.e. 9:30 to 10 AM Johnny plays with Lucy, 10 to 10:30 AM April plays with Lucy, 12 PM to 1 PM Johnny plays with April, etc.).

If you prefer to be less structured, try having a routine!

A routine appeals more to moms who prefer to be less structured. Routines just have a ‘routine’ flow to them. Each person always works through his/her tasks in the same order, but the times the tasks are completed might vary from day to day. So, one day when you meet with Johnny at 10 AM, he might have 2 tasks done and another day he might have 3 or even 4 tasks done. No matter what, you’re still meeting with Johnny, correcting/discussing/following up on whatever he’s finished and then teaching your routine things in the same order for the routine time you are with him. No matter how much you get through with Johnny, at 11 AM, you are with April.

This way, you routinely are meeting with each of your children, and everyone knows when. No one is on-call. April doesn’t get to be with you during Johnny’s time. Likewise, you don’t get to call Johnny or Lucy to be with you between 9:30 to 10 AM; that is their playtime.

Routines can be planned in 30 minute increments. They can be quickly handwritten and photocopied. You can probably jot down a routine in about 15 minutes. Routines are not hard to make, and they are easy to follow. As they are more general, school may end earlier or later from day to day. However, though routines are less structured, happily no one is constantly on-call. So, routines are the way to go if you are not usually a fan of structure!

Add structure by having a schedule!

A more detailed way of adding structure to your day is to make a schedule to follow. Schedules take routines a step further by being more specific. Schedules are planned in 15 or 20 minute increments. Each person not only works through his/her tasks in the same order, but he/she also has the same tasks completed at the same times each day. So, using the above example, each day you meet with Johnny at 10 AM, he’ll have 3 tasks done and those 3 tasks will be the same 3 tasks each day. Each day you will get through the same amount of teaching tasks with Johnny, and you will wrap up those teaching tasks by the time you move on to April at 11 AM.

As schedules are more detailed, the homeschool mom should definitely be the one to make them. The mom will usually have a master schedule, which includes her tasks as well as each of her children’s tasks. This master schedule should be posted where all can see. In addition to the master schedule, each child should have his/her own schedule that is more detailed. In this way, each child can focus on his/her specific schedule rather than on everyone else’s schedule too.

If you are more detail-oriented, try making a schedule!

A schedule takes more thought and time to plan, as you need to take into account as many details about how your day best flows as possible. A good schedule maximizes your time and shortens your day. Time is accounted for more carefully, and each person is responsible for sticking to the schedule. When making a schedule, you should plan more teaching times/meeting times with children who are less focused. While less focused children are typically younger, occasionally an older child is the less focused one. For focused children, you might plan to meet with them two times each day for 40 minutes each time. For less focused children, you might plan to meet with them four times a day for 20 minutes each time.

A schedule should also have margin. Margin is basically planning a little wiggle room – or a little extra time – for when things don’t go as expected. A 10-minute margin here or there and ample time for breakfast and lunch add enough margin to a schedule for success.

In Closing

So, if you are on-call or your children are on-call, get “off-call” by adding some structure to your day! Whether you do that by planning a routine or by writing a schedule, you are sure to have a happier homeschool journey. No one wants to be on-call day after day, year after year, decade after decade. On-call relationships are tense and cause division. People turn on one another as they vie for attention or strive to not be ‘on-call.’ Make a change – and you’ll finish this homeschool marathon happily crossing that finish line, arm-in-arm with your children, together, united, valued, and victorious.

In Christ,


PS: Want to read more about this topic? Check out these blog posts below by clicking on them! The first “Let’s Share Our Schedules” post has been viewed over 200,000 times!

Let’s Share Our Schedules

Please Explain How to Set Up a Routine Instead of a Schedule

Have a Written Routine and Provide It to Your Child

Add Margin to Your Day to Receive New Mercy

Does your child have an easy-to-follow schedule that can be seen at a glance?

A Flexible Schedule That Still Has Set Key Times

Carrie’s Past Schedule for High School, MTMM, PHFHG, and LHFHG

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We’re excited you have landed on our blog! We are Carrie and Julie, author and editor of Heart of Dakota homeschool curriculum. Sisters by birth, friends for life, we’ve done most things together for as long as we can remember. Reading, singing, teaching, and raising a house full of boys are just a few of our common interests. So, when it came time to write a curriculum to homeschool our sons, it’s no surprise we worked on it together. These days you’ll find Julie answering your questions at Heart of Dakota, writing the catalog, planning for conventions, blogging, and doing any other creative tasks that need to be done. You’ll find Carrie revising the Heart of Dakota guides, dreaming of new writing projects, and sharing tips with all of you. Our latest venture together is this blog! So, pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee, and join us!




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