Do your children spend all day working through their courses only to stay up late finishing schoolwork?
Are too many weekends consumed with studying? And are family activities set aside to complete school projects?
School at home promises more freedom and time together, but for many families, the boundaries between school work and family time become increasingly blurred. You can design and implement a thoughtful homeschool plan and still find yourself supervising schoolwork around the clock.
A commonly touted benefit of homeschooling is that you can integrate life and learning. However, there does need to be a beginning and an ending to schoolwork and assignments. Otherwise, the gift of educating your children at home can burden the entire family. What was supposed to bring you together can instead strain your relationships with your children.
A quality education should not have to come at the expense of healthy family relationships and rhythms. It’s possible to nurture a genuine delight in learning while also enjoying treasured time together!
Below, seasoned homeschool moms Shawna Barr and Jessye Wilden share their proven strategies for reclaiming your family time and finding homeschool rhythms that support your family goals.
4 Practical Strategies to Take Back Your Family Time
As parents, we want to give our children the best of everything: an excellent education, extracurricular activities, opportunities to explore their passions and more. But when these good desires come at the cost of rest and family time, the whole family suffers.
In today’s culture that rewards busyness, it requires an active fight to make space for play and rest in our families. You can implement these four strategies for all ages and grade levels to help your children work smarter, not harder, and restore more time for rest in your family schedule.
Audit your children’s school schedule.
What is a reasonable amount of time for students to complete an assignment? That’s the question you need to assess alongside your child. While every child and course is different, a general rule is one hour of schoolwork per hour of class. If your high school students have 15 hours of classes each week, they should spend roughly 15 hours outside of class completing assignments, studying and reading.
If they’re spending double or triple that amount of time (or barely hitting 15 minutes of work per class), it’s time to sit down and identify why there’s a gap. Review each class and each assignment, asking your child how long each will take to complete. Whether their answers are realistic or wildly unrealistic, this will give you a clue about how they think about their work.
Shawna started this practice when her high-achieving daughter stayed up later each night to finish her high school work. Together, they realized her extracurricular activities combined with upper-level class work was too much. Something had to go. Editing her schedule allowed her to finish her homework in a reasonable amount of time and enjoy time with friends and family. Shauna has continued this practice with her other children and helped moms like Jessye do the same with theirs.
Just as you would note how much money you’re earning and spending to make an adequate financial budget, determining where and how your child spends time is the first step in reclaiming your family time.
“A quality education should not have to come at the expense of healthy family relationships and rhythms.”
Audit your children’s work environment.
When you homeschool, your home doubles as a place for learning and rest, work and play. While this blurring of home and school is a beautiful part of your child’s education, it also has its challenges. A child’s environment plays an essential role in focus and productivity, so after you complete a time audit, also consider your student’s work space and create any necessary boundaries to eliminate distractions.
On average, entering deep focus mode takes 20 to 30 minutes after starting a task. So, how can you help your child avoid the temptation to make a snack every 20 minutes or check messages from friends? This will look different for every family and every student. Sitting in her bedroom might help one child concentrate while sitting at the dining room table with screens facing out could benefit a child who needs more accountability.
Create school boundaries—and stick to them.
Once you know how long your children should spend on schoolwork and the environment that best suits their needs, you can create boundaries to hold them accountable to finish their work in a reasonable amount of time.
This will look different for every family. In Shawna’s family, school is finished by 4 p.m. every day, and her children aren’t allowed to complete any assignments past that time or on the weekend. This deadline has forced them to use their time wisely to complete everything on time. It has freed them up as a family to enjoy hobbies, spend time together, serve their community and rest well.
Allow your kids to fail.
While it’s painful in the moment—for both students and parents—failure is a necessary part of learning new rhythms and study habits.
After Jessye’s family implemented a boundary of no school after 5 p.m., it took time for her children to adjust and actually believe in the firmness of their new school schedule. When her daughter ran out of time to take a chemistry test, Jessye held the boundary they had set and encouraged her to email her Wilson Hill teacher explaining why she couldn’t finish the test. It was a painful lesson, but the experience helped her daughter spend her time more wisely and initiated a helpful conversation with her teacher.
Watching your children suffer the consequences of their time-management habits or even fail is difficult. Still, it’s a valuable opportunity to help them say no to distractions in the present to say better yeses to family time and playtime in the future after their schoolwork is complete.
It’s also a chance to empathize with their pain and help them strategize for success in the future: “I’m so sorry you ran out of time to submit your discussion board response. I know you’re stressed about how it will affect your grade. Let’s figure out why you didn’t have enough time and adjust our schedule or environment next week.”
If you want to nurture a true delight in learning, responding with grace and kindness in the face of failure will point your children back to the truth that their identity is not in their grades or academic performance.
Preparing Students for Fruitful Lives
As parents, we want to see our children succeed academically, and we also want to prepare them for a fruitful, balanced life beyond graduation. Helping them establish productive work habits and rhythms of rest now will equip them to be diligent employees, servant-hearted community members and present spouses and parents in the future.
At Wilson Hill, we ultimately want to prepare students to live in service of the Kingdom of God. We want to partner with parents to raise up young women and men who work for the glory of God and will be bright lights wherever they go after graduation.
The best way we can accomplish this is to continually point students back to the truth found in the gospel. Rather than follow the culture around us in worshiping grades, academic success and busyness, we can help our children find ultimate satisfaction and rest in their Creator.