I get this question a lot. It is actually a lot easier than it seems, and really I do know how overwhelming a large stack of textbooks and workbooks can be. Letâ€™s take it one step at a time.

First, decide roughly how long your school year is going to be. A good place to start is 36 weeks. It is sort of arbitrary, really, and a bit of a habit from when my son spent a year and a half in a private school. They had 9 week semesters with a week off in between each. If you need to, and really it is a good idea, get a calendar out and literally count off the weeks of the school year. Stick your weeks off wherever you like. I usually take at least two weeks off around Christmas, and one in March like everyone else.

You may have noticed that if you have started the first week of September, 36 weeks plus a few extra weeks for vacation, only brings you to mid-June. Plenty of time! You may even have a couple of â€œextraâ€ weeks as a cushion to help finish up loose ends before summer vacation, if you have it. I have even marked a countdown on each week on the calendar that hangs in my kitchen. You know, the one where you write *everything* on.

Now, it may be 36 days, but it is most likely you will only be doing â€œschoolâ€ on five of those days, not seven. 5 times 36 is 180. Or something we did one year was a four day week, with an extra day to play catch up or do other activities. That would be 144 days and a little extra work each day, as you will see in a minute.

Shuffling through my pile of books, I grabbed an arbitrary science workbook. The format of it is one page of text and a facing page of questions, with an occasional double page spread of end-of-chapter questions (or a test if you want to call it that). Iâ€™ve already looked this book over and decided it was good for a whole yearâ€™s worth of science for one child. The total number of pages in the book is 170. I donâ€™t need to do any math at all to figure out I could do one page a day and finish just before the end of the school year.

Hmm.. That doesnâ€™t seem like enough work to keep this particular child busy, and I already noted that the work was laid out in two page sections, on average. If we divide 170 (pages in the book) by 36 (weeks in the year) we get 4.72. So roughly four or five pages per week need to be done in the book. You can write it down in their weekly schedule as two pages on two days of the week, with the occasional 3 page spread on a day, or however they like.

For a weekly schedule, weâ€™ve tried daytimers, highly organized forms and everything in between, but have found a simple sheet with a list of this weekâ€™s work (or this monthâ€™s) has been working just fine. Make a second copy just for Mom.

Textbooks are a little harder, but not much. It is easier to work out how many pages need to be done in a week, or even better, how many weeks you have to complete a chapter. Our health book has eight chapters. 36 divided by 8 is 4.5, so you have about a month to finish each chapter. Looking over a few at random, I see that is plenty of time. Iâ€™ve let the child in question allocate time for that herself, which is usually a couple of days of heavy reading, and another to do the worksheets and test.

There are other things, like Unit Studies for example, that really canâ€™t be broken down into a â€œhow many pages a dayâ€ format. I like to work backwards to figure out how much time I need to cover the work. It takes a bit of practise to be able to look at a segment of work and have a feel for how long it would take your child to do. For example, I want another child to read a number of books we have on Canadian history. Some of them are hard reading, and may take two whole weeks for them to finish. I can expect her to reasonably finish one a month, given how much other work she has to do.

So I hope that gives you the basic idea. I have found with older children, it is better to involve them as much as possible, especially in figuring out the math. By they time they get to high school, they should be able to figure most of this out themselves. Some kids may prefer to do one subject a day, rather than a bit of every subject every day, or a mix of that.

Some books, like math, have so many questions in them you canâ€™t possibly do them all in a reasonable amount of time. It is perfectly acceptable to skip questions and even some chapters in math textbooks. After all, schools do it all the time. I would only suggest skipping exercises that your child has mastered. Sound obvious I know, but I have seen too many parents, myself included, struggling over try to get their child to do pages and pages of math only to discover they get most of the questions correct in far less time than it took to complain about them. Thatâ€™s a big sign that it is time to move on.

It helps to check in on things at the end of the month, or even at the end of the week, rather than every single day. Thatâ€™s one benefit of a four day week, you can leave Friday for going over the weekâ€™s work. This gives the children more say in how they do their own work, teaches them independence and responsibility, and helps prepare them for college.

Once you lay out on paper how much (or how little) work needs to be done on a daily basis, it is easy to see why it doesnâ€™t take homeschoolers very long to be finished their work. Finishing before lunch is quite common, at least until they reach high school.

The only other thing I would like to mention is that this is only a suggestion for how to figure out guidelines for your own family. Feel free to change and adapt it to your needs and your children’s; which, if they are anything like mine, change often. :biggrin