Strategies for Scheduling High School
Homeschooling High school brings with it many challenges from getting to know the four year outlook for your high schooler to adjusting to the workload. One question I see often is, “How do I schedule high school work?” along with, “How long does your high schooler work each day?” Strategies for Scheduling High School is meant to help discern what is the right amount of academics and extracurricular activities in the high school years.
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There are a few things to get in order before you begin. Make sure your high schooler is involved and you’ll need to have the rough outline of your teen’s academic schedule and other things that belong on the schedule.
Benchmarks for Credit Hours
So, how do you know how much work constitutes a high school credit? The guidelines we are given in New York state are as follows:
- One credit course = three hours a week
- Half credit course = one and a half hours a week
- Quarter credit course = forty five minutes a week
These are our benchmarks for creating their schedules. Once you understand how much time is required for the courses they are taking, you can begin to let the weekly schedule take shape.
You may find that your student needs more time than what is strictly required. For example, my 11th grader knows she cannot finish her math within that time frame, so she adds an extra 45 minutes per week to her schedule.
Expectations for High School Students
Many people wonder what to expect from a high schooler. We also approach our homeschools with varying degrees of independence. So here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Typically, younger students will need more guidance as they learn to manage their time- especially in light of the new workload that high school can demand.
- Older students need to be managing their studies and schedule on their own- that is not to say we never interact with our high schoolers, but micromanaging their time management and assignments is not helping them get ready for what’s next.
- Age may not be the guiding factor if your student has learning issues or other unique circumstances making independence difficult. The key is to keep working with your student giving them coping mechanisms to help them to manage on their own more and more.
- Our goal is to put our high schooler’s in the driver’s seat of their own education. Start working on this before high school!
- High school is the time to transition from direct teacher to the mentor role- making sure they have the tools they need to be successful and having discussions to help them form and own opinions.
Teaching high schoolers is a busy affair, but not in the same way teaching younger children demands. If you find yourself responsible for a lot of instruction, take a step back. If your student is capable of learning the material on his own, then let him own it. Your job is to make yourself available and to lead discussions of the work to help them hone it, if necessary. Help them to make connections and present their best work. This requires knowing the work as they go, reading what they are reading (or skimming to get the general idea), and throwing resources their way to expand what they know on a topic. Be prepared to challenge them with questions and discussion.
Factors Affecting the High School Schedule
It’s important to keep in mind the whole picture when you are working with your high schooler to form their schedule. When it’s time to sit down and hammer out the schedule, we always put these down first. Here are a few we pay attention to:
- Course Work Load– What is the overall load your high schooler will carry this year? How difficult is the work for them?
- Co-op Classes– Any group class will take them out of the house and travel time must be considered.
- Outsourced Classes– Any classes taught online or taken for dual credit, anything that has a set schedule must be put on the schedule first so you can work around it.
- Extracurricular Activities– Make sure these go on the schedule so you have a good understanding of your teen’s overall schedule and availability.
- Volunteer Work– Will your student be interning or helping out at any time? Put it on the grid.
- Part Time Job– Does your teen have a job? Two of our teens have had or do have jobs. Generally speaking, labor laws in your state will dictate working hours for regular work outside your home. Check those out because often homeschooled students are not permitted to work during school hours.
- Work Habits– How fast or slow does your student work? Do they need a lot of time for certain subjects? When do they work best?
This is a good exercise for high schoolers because it gives them a global look at what’s going on in their week, in total, before they even start to put their classes in. You can discuss based on your teen’s disposition whether the schedule without school looks sustainable.
Strategies for Scheduling High School Courses
At the start of each school year, I sit down with my high schoolers one on one to discuss their course work and other activities. Then together we form the template they will use to guide them through the year.
- Make your own weekly schedule or download the one I’ve provided. I generally work on a 9-9 daily schedule, but I made an 8-9 one for you since many folks like to start earlier.
- Use the grid to shade in all the obligations your student has outside of school work which are non-negotiable. Once your student is able, they can fill that piece in themselves.
- This is a good time to take a look at the overall commitments your student has outside of school. Is it a realistic amount? Make sure it is reasonable that academic work can be generously scheduled outside of those things. If not, your high schooler may need to do some rethinking.
- Determine a day or two when the academic schedule may need to be lighter- these are probably days when there is co-op or more outside activities.
- Begin filling in courses based on how much time they require. Most courses will require three hours a week. The choice is three sessions per week or forty five minutes for four days for the most part. You may choose three days in a week or four.
- Half and quarter credit classes will only require one or two days. Fill those in next.
- Make a note of monthly obligations in the bottom margin of the schedule. It doesn’t need to take up space on the weekly grid, but you do need to keep it in mind as you plan.
- Look over the finished schedule. Noting the times of day when your students can work together on coursework is a good idea. For example, if you are planning on doing art with multiple kids you can look at their schedule to determine a common available time. Then add it to the schedules.
- A note on time slots. Sometimes they are important and sometimes they’re not. I’m not concerned when in a day each subject is finished as long as it gets done. As your student gets older, they may even tweak their schedule day to day to adjust to extra activities or opportunities. Having a framework to move things around in is very helpful to make sure nothing gets left behind.
- Now you can both keep a copy of the schedule so it’s easy for the student to follow and for you to have as a guideline for how much they are working on things.
- You may need to adjust the schedule- when obligations change or you see how the level of academics is working out for your student.
Remember to be flexible. For us, the schedule isn’t so much about preciseness but about a routine which allows them to do what they need to do and get where they need to get. If they choose to tweak it to their needs, then wonderful! It’s all about getting them to own their work.
Organizational Tools for High School Schedules
There are a variety of tools out there for your high schooler to use to keep track of their days and their coursework. Have your student help to choose the one that fits them the best. I have high schoolers who do well with technology and prefer it and some who prefer a paper calendar. They certainly don’t have to be the same, so make it a good match.
- Student Planner– We have two kinds. One is a student planner from Mead which has a monthly calendar followed by a week view in a list format for each day. The other is the Homeschooler’s High School Journal which has blank weekly grids which can be used for any year and have a place to record the time you’ve spent working on a subject. This is great for new high schooler still gauging how long to work.
- Online Programs– There are many which can deliver email assignments to students or the student can log in. This is especially handy for high schoolers with mobile devices. Put them to work for you! Over the years, I’ve tried lots of these. My favorites are Homeschool Planet and Homeschool Minder.
- Google Calendar– No membership cost necessary. It only requires a Google account and a shared calendar. This one works well for kids who like to be on their computer.
- Email– Just a simple email from the teacher will do for many kids. The disadvantage with both the calendar and Email is that they are great vehicles for delivering assignments, but they do not offer record keeping.
Whatever method you and your high schooler choose, make sure it is sustainable. I have found long term that electronic methods are harder to keep up with- particularly those which require grades.
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More on Homeschooling High School Schedules
The Myth of Independence– What does independence look like in your homeschool? What is it supposed to look like?
Should My Homeschooled Teen Get a Part Time Job?– Does your teen want to get a job? Here are the pros and cons from our experience.
Creating Opportunities for Your Homeschooled Teen– How do you get your teen involved in the community and reaching goals as a homeschool parent?
Earning Credits with a Project Based High School– What if you want to approach parts of high school differently? How do you count the credits?
Scheduling Time for Creative Pursuits– How to make time for creative activities for your high school student.
Homeschooling High School by Design
I LOVE to teach parents about ways to design and implement a high school program that is perfectly customized for your teen!
You can do that in several ways:
- Homeschooling High School by Design– the full course on planning the framework of homeschooling high school WITH your teen and all the ways to meet your teen’s needs in high school.
- Homeschooling for College by Design– how to take your customized high school and package it for a successful college admission. We’ve done it! And so can you!
- Homeschooling High School by Design Membership– learn about how to navigate the high school years with both full courses and a bonus Goal Conquering course along with having me as a guide and a lovely community of homeschooling moms as your companions.
SaveHomeschooling High School by Design Membership
Ongoing support for homeschooling high school with teens who need a different approach to high school is available through Homeschooling High School by Design Membership.
Membership is open for enrollment twice a year right now. If you are ready for help for your homeschool high school, click and enroll or get on the waiting list.
That link will tell you all about what happens in membership. If you’d like to see the Membership Library of topics, check it out!
Love your suggestions for scheduling in high school! I’ve come to realize that it really does depend on a balance of flexibility and structure. You need structure and discipline to get through a day full of subjects, appointments, jobs, lessons, and meetings, but a certain dose of flexibility helps keep away the burnouts.
Thanks! And yes, there needs to be flexibility and I love when a young high schooler begins that transition to more ownership. That’s when you know all is well!
Exactly! When they start taking more control of their schedules and making sure they are fitting everything in as they need, it’s always a great day!
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