Fall scheduling angst. (A confessional, of sorts.)

Fall Scheduling Angst

I promised myself I wouldn’t think about school until after Labor Day. (Back when we were in private school, we all liked the rhythm of school starting after Labor Day. That was my excuse.)

So we enjoyed our end-of-summer hurrah last Monday, and Tuesday morning we had a little pow-wow at the dining room table to talk about our school year: my  ten-year-old, my eight-year-old, and me.

We made a list–together–of the subjects we’re studying. We talked about when the kids would prefer to tackle math (early, when they’re fresh) and extended reading time (during rest time, when they’re not).

Wednesday is my day off, so we started school on Thursday.

We began the day with a special breakfast, and then we plunged into a light version of a regular school day: half a math lesson, a short writing lesson, reading with my six-year-old. No Latin, no spelling. I wanted my kids to get a feel for the rhythm of the school day, and honestly, I needed to get a feel for things, too.

Despite the relaxed load, I was hiding in my room with a book by 11:00 a.m.

The day really went fine. (I did manage to put down the book.) The kids did great. Objectively, it was a good day. But I felt really uneasy about the whole thing and couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

That night, when my husband asked me how it went, I surprised myself by getting weepy–not the emotion I was expecting to come bubbling to the surface.

We had our first day of school, and it went fine. But I realized I was melting at the possibility of spending 7 hours a day, four days a week–just like that–for the rest of the school year. I like homeschooling, and I think it’s a good choice for my family right now, but I don’t want it to be the only thing I do all day. Maybe I could survive it, but it wouldn’t be thriving.

Luckily, that weekend I was interviewing candidates for a new mother’s helper, to replace the ones who just left for college. We found someone fabulous, she started this week, and glory hallelujah, what a difference it makes.

This week I realized anew–between my own experience and counseling some friends suffering from Fall Overwhelm–that the family life we’ve carefully constructed relies on a little bit of help to make it work, and definitely doesn’t account for learning curves.

This week we’re a bit more adjusted, and we had help. With help (and only six hours of it, though that will be less than normal) our homeschool days went great (thanks, in no small part, to my improved attitude and reduced stress level). Plus, the laundry was done, the kitchen was clean, and I got my work done.

I think it’s gonna work.

There are definitely still some wrinkles to iron out. I keep losing our schedule. We desperately need a chore chart, and some kind of token system for screen. I’m still figuring out how to teach Latin.

But I think we’re gonna get there.

Tomorrow, I’ll share a more detailed version of our homeschool schedule and the curriculum we’re using this year. (And for those of you who really don’t care, we’ll be back to regular programming with some geeky goodness on Sunday, then it’s Twitterature on Monday. Get your posts ready!)

Am I the only one with fall scheduling angst? (Also, hit me up with workable systems for managing kids’ screen time and chores?)


  1. Carrie says:

    I was feeling this way before the school year started for us (we went back 5 weeks ago, when our county’s public school system started – since my stepdaughter goes to P.S., we try to keep that continuity). Thankfully things went well and I recently wrote about how I’ve relaxed a little. Knowing that the biggies will get done lets me exhale, and insert some fun stuff.

    I have a couple of observations. These are NOT criticisms in any way, just thoughts… SIX hours? That schedule would be untenable to me. Is there any way you can reduce that time? More independent work maybe? What about a co-op or online class for Latin so you aren’t the one doing it? I switched to Life of Fred for math this year (except for oldest, who does Teaching Textbooks – which I also LOVE) because the middle kids were driving me nuts with math. Problem solved. The curriculum actually tells them NOT to run to the parents for help but to email Stanley (Schmidt, the author). My 12 year old is too embarrassed to do so, so he ends up puzzling things out on his own 🙂

    Token systems. I have personally found that charts and token systems complicate my life further. We keep screen time under control around here by relegating it to ONE period of the day. The kids have to have school and chores done first, and the laptops can come out during quiet time. All screens have to be turned off by 7:30 each day, and no screens atall on Sundays. Those boundaries have made setting limits easy. YMMV of course. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Carrie, bring on the observations! You’ve been doing this for a lot longer than me and I’d love the input.

      When you say six hours, do you mean of hands-on school time? Yeah, that’s not feasible for me either (and why I thought I might die after that first day). I’ll post our rough schedule tomorrow, but I’m hoping to get it to under three hours of direct supervision.

      I keep hearing things about Life of Fred math…. (My ten year old sounds a lot like your 12 year old.)

      I completely relate to what you said about charts and systems complicating life. I am terrible about implementing stuff like this. Come to think of it, we only do screens during rest time or the hour before dinner when it’s really hot or really cold out (otherwise, they’re outside). That makes me feel better. 🙂

  2. Carrie says:

    … just noticed your invitation to hit you up with suggestions… so now I don’t feel bad about this next comment. I forgot to say about managing screen time, that one suggestion (from OurMothersDaughters.Blogspot.com – another large family Catholic blog you may love, if you don’t already) that is working very well for us is that we require the children to ASK before using screens. Also, they have to tell us what they’re intending to do. It’s proactive rather than reactive. Hth

  3. Rebecca says:

    So glad you found another helper! Have you ever looked into the Sue Patrick workboxes? Workboxes accommodate any curriculum, even unschooling and work with every age, including pre-schoolers. They allow the students to work quickly and independently, and easily incorporate screen time and chores. I would have struggled without a similar system during the elementary years.

    • Anne says:

      I have read about workboxes before, but I find the idea of actually setting up the system a little overwhelming. Off to check it out….

      • Rebecca says:

        Being a science nerd I’d probably try it with just one child first and see how it works for your family and personality. I used a workbox system K-3, and transitioned out of them in 4th grade.

  4. Angie says:

    HI! Can you go into a little detail as to your reasons of studying Latin? Or maybe point me to another post that does, if I’ve missed it? I know you’ve mentioned it before, and I’m curious. We public school, but I try and supplement that a lot, and am always looking for new ideas and fresh perspectives. 🙂

  5. Jenny says:

    This Fall was definitely a time for angst for me. My oldest son is beginning 9th grade and the panic of, gasp, homeschooling high school, hit me like a ton of bricks! I think it is because I am so comfortable with the plans for my 4th grader (been there, done that before) that the uncertainty of high school surprised me — I have not felt this uncertain since I began hsing 8 years ago.

    So while I have no advice to pass on, I do share your feelings about starting up this Fall. I know we will all settle into a good routine, it just takes a little time and a few deep breaths on my part!

  6. Stacey says:

    Lots of angst here and my children are in school all day long! There is so much transition during this month- I think avoiding the angst in unavoidable… at least that’s what I’m telling myself!

  7. Betsy says:

    Oh I definitely have fall angst, and I’ve been home schooling 12 years. This is the first year I have both in high school doing ALL DIFFERENT SUBJECTS, as in, not one the same! And I thought I’d lose my mind, but week three is easier. And I’m learning again just to take things slow, breathe deep, and work through the school day one thing at a time. Good luck with Latin. When I did it, I kept is short each day! My system for screen time is to use a timer set to one half hour. Anyone sitting at the computer uses it.

    • Anne says:

      When we first started homeschooling, I really underestimated how difficult it would be to have multiple students doing multiple different subjects. But not one the same? Ouch!

  8. Anne says:

    I love your honesty. I wanted to wait until Labor Day, too, but I figured with a new baby joining us in January, it couldn’t hurt to get started. I had ordered Right Start Math A for my Kindergartener and was excited to try it out, too! Glad you found a new helper that you like.

  9. I understand, Anne. I really do. We’ve been back at school since the end of July (it was too hot here to do anything else), but I had to take off about a week to help my mom move. So last week we were getting back into the groove. UGH! I was just so frustrated. Anyway, we are on our way back to rocking and rolling. Enjoy your weekend!

  10. Oh, yeah! We started four weeks ago and it’s both me and the kids going through it. Most of them are coming out of it this week, getting a fire in their bellies and enjoying the free time that fire is bringing. I however am still in the middle of, as you put it “I like homeschooling, and I think it’s a good choice for my family right now, but I don’t want it to be the only thing I do all day. Maybe I could survive it, but it wouldn’t be thriving.” And the occasional meltdown because that is exactly how I have been spending my time. Within the next two weeks we will be hiring a mother’s helper and I. can’t. wait!

    Screen time – We use it as a motivator by implementing a card system. Each day you can earn up to three cards that are worth 20 minutes a piece. Finish school “on time” you get one, finish early and you get one, do your best and choose the right attitudes and you get one. It has worked well for us and doesn’t take a lot of time to keep up on.

  11. Laura says:

    Anne, do you break up your day? I try to plan our schedule/routine so that if I am intensely with them for an hour or so, then I plan for them to do something on their own for a bit. Some people prefer to push and get it done ASAP. I would rather things take a bit longer, but be more pleasant. I noticed this year that it has taken me a bit of time to adjust after a leisurely summer schedule. This is the end of our fourth week. I think things have gone well, but it is an adjustment having less free time. I’m looking forward to reading what others have to say, as well as seeing your new school schedule.

  12. Anjanette says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one having some trouble gearing up for this new homeschooling year– plenty of angst here too!

    If you’re just looking to dip a toe into Latin to start, we’ve had success with Red Hot Word Roots workbooks by Dianne Draze. My older two kids started using it at 11 and 7 after reading Harry Potter (lots of Latin in the spells and names in there!). Once they got going it became a game to find and decode Latin in other things they read and saw, and the next year we did Getting Started with Latin by William E. Linney (short lessons geared to homeschoolers) and Learning Latin through Mythology, which caught their interest since they were reading the Percy Jackson series. We never went any further, but that little bit has been great for their vocabulary skills and also for learning French next.

    I am always very interested to hear how many hours others homeschool, and how they structure their days– we’ve been all over the map since we started nine years ago. Looking forward to reading more!

  13. Gabrielle says:

    I have been really fortunate to have my parents near by for the past couple of years and it has been amazing for my boys (and myself) that they get to spend lots of time with their grandparents. They both retired this year and they are planning to head to warmer climates for the winter, I am so excited that they have the opportunity to travel, but I’m also a bit freaked about not having them around as they are my main support system. I’m an introvert and finding people outside my comfort zone has always been a struggle. I’m reaching out to our local homeschool community this year hoping to find other families that want to get together to do activities and hopefully trade some mom days off here and there.
    One of the things that has helped us the most this year, is throwing all “normalcy” out the window. I work in and out of the house but the schedule is lax and mostly takes place in the afternoon. Everyone in my household are night owls (my husband works as an RN at nights) and we don’t really have a reason to get up early, so we function at a much slower pace in the mornings then most households probably do. We do a lot of reading together in the mornings and evenings and squeeze in focused work time before lunch. I also instituted a 2 hour quiet time each day after lunch. It’s working wonders, and yes even my 4 year old can handle it. We probably do about two hours of focused work per day plus about two hours of reading, either with me reading aloud, or my 7.5yo reading aloud while I’m driving or doing things like prepping dinner. I try to incorporate screen time into our school day by using education videos and games, in the winter our Wii gets pulled out a lot. For my little ones this seems to curb their ever constant appetite for all things screens.
    I did set up a chore chart since it’s easier to do it once then have to give orders out all day. They each have regular chores that are on a laminated list so they can mark them off each day (they do not get paid for these, they live here too) I also left a few spaces blank to write in extra chores that they can do to earn “commission”.
    I really enjoy reading your blog and especially appreciate your honesty and candor.
    Happy homeschooling!

  14. Cindy says:

    Hi, thanks for your post. I enjoy reading your blog. I thought I would let you know about a book I have been using for Latin. It is called Getting Started With Latin: Beginning Latin for Homeschoolers by William Linney. He loves Latin and his sister asked him to teach Latin to her kids. He looked for something to use, but found nothing so he wrote this book. He also has a website that goes with the book that gives pronunciations if you are stuck or need help. My daughter loves it.

  15. Kristin says:

    That sounds exactly how I felt on our first day of school this year. We start in August to allow for a month off in the winter when my husband is off from work. I like homeschooling and I love the subjects we’re tackling this year, but I was weepy on the first day because I was resisting the caged feeling of getting back on a academic schedule. I have other things to do besides teach multiplication, no matter how fulfilling teaching multiplication can be! I don’t really have the option of hiring help, but I have tweaked a few things and set a few boundaries and now I feel like I’m prepared to handle school, laundry, meals, our out-of-the-home activities and still have a few minutes to myself. It’s an accomplishment!!

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