keep your life sane with this 20 minute homeschool schedule

The 20 minute homeschool schedule

I might have mentioned this once or twice, but we’ve got a kid or two with a bit of ADHD in our house, and a Mom with a lot of ADHD.  So, finding a good homeschooling schedule can be a challenge. But, I’ve found something that has been working for almost a year now: The 20-minute homeschool schedule.

Hi, future Ticia here, after three years of using the 20-minute homeschool schedule, I’ve tweaked it a little bit, and thought that was worth noting the difference between doing this with elementary kids and junior high kids.

20 minute homeschool schedule for all ages

Why a 20-minute homeschool schedule?

Because I was tired of the crying? Not a valid reason, okay but that was one reason. Princess would get frustrated as she dragged her math lessons on forever and ever until the end of time. Problems I knew she could finish in 20 minutes were taking an hour.

I’ll completely admit I came to the 20-minute homeschool schedule primarily to deal with the math fights.

20 minute homeschool schedule

Last year we were covering division. We were okay the first month or so as they learned basic division, but then we got to long division, and it was daunting. Ten minutes would pass and she’d have one problem done, and her brothers were done with the first side.

So I reviewed what I knew had worked in the past, what works for her in other areas, and what works for me.

Future Ticia: All of these points are still valid, also I’ve found if I don’t give my family a chance to move every little bit their focus slips.

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I keep a 20-minute cleaning schedule

20 minute homeschool schedule to keep your kids on track

My phone is filled with 20-minute playlists.  I can do anything for 20 minutes.  I can clean filthy rooms, take walks, any number of things.  The playlists are numbered: 20 minutes 1, 20 minutes 2, it’s not complicated.  I’m listening to 20 minutes 2 right now, When the playlist stops I will stop typing and go to bed.

Or, that’s the theory.  I don’t always follow my own 20-minute schedule. Maybe I should read other people’s time management tips.

Why does the 20-minute homeschool schedule work?

Because I’ve taught my kids to concentrate for that long. They know twenty minutes isn’t that long, and it gives hope. There’s certainly enough brain research which says that’s a good amount of time to work and then take a break.

math in our house
look at how they little they were in this picture. They’re so big now! Also lazy Ticia is not updating this logo

Also, Princess focuses better once she knows it doesn’t matter how much she gets done, but that she’s working hard.

That’s the one catch I added into our 20-minute homeschool schedule, everyone has to be working hard.  If I look over and you’re playing with the ribbon you found on the floor, I start the timer* over or move it back a minute. No one wants that, so they concentrate better.

After the 20 minutes are over they get a 5-minute break. This break is very important, it gives them time to get some of the wiggles out and lets me prep for the next lesson.

Future Ticia: I now also make sure to set the timer for our breaks.I found I was getting distracted and letting time slip away and then our school day was taking much longer.

How I’m modifying the 20-minute schedule for the coming year

keep your life sane with this 20 minute homeschool schedule

This year I’m changing things up a bit.  I’m still going to use the 20-minute timer* (I love this timer and that the kids can SEE how much time is left, again with that bit of hope as the red space gets smaller), and the 5-minute break, but we won’t all be doing the same thing. I have a list of activities they have to finish each day, and they will choose what order they want to work on them in.

I’ve got two reasons for this. First the practical one, I’m upping what I expect of them on the computer, and we have one computer for them to use right now with the programs I want them to learn.

I also have a second sneaky reason, this will teach them responsibility, and self-reliance. At the end of the day, I’ll be checking how they did, and if they got their work done. This is an important first step for them to be self-motivated students, a key skill in college and in life.

Back when the kids were little I was told, “Begin with the end in mind,” and that’s driven my parenting goals all along. I know who I want my kids to be when they graduate high school, and there are a lot of steps to get them there.  This is another small step in that direction.

Future Ticia, the junior high addition to our 20-minute homeschool schedule:

They no longer take 20 minutes to complete math (though Princess sometimes still does), and I was left with lots of time wasted and extra time spent on things that weren’t relevant at the time.

Now, they spend 20 minutes working, if they finish math in those 2o minutes, then they go on to writing. At the end of 20 minutes, they take a break, regardless of how their work is doing.

This also allows time for the projects you can’t easily schedule in, extra projects, long-term, cleaning.

Do you have a homeschool schedule that works for you?

Go check out “How Much Time Does Homeschooling Really Take?” with iHomeschool Network.


36 responses to “The 20 minute homeschool schedule”

  1. I love this post. It is how we do it, but I have never put it together like this before!

    1. I’m doing my usual, “Getting ready for school and thinking through the why and how’s of our homeschool”, which gets me a bit contemplative and in a “teacher mode” I’m afraid.

  2. Love your idea and the reasons behind it. With each year brings small little changes all in the way forward of what we are trying to achieve. Love that you have thought this out so clearly.

    1. Thanks! God willing we’ll all achieve those goals.

  3. This is an excellent post! Interestingly, we do the same thing here – 20 min of focus. I learned about this from Pomodoro technique that I use for myself. Daughter, however, complains that 20 min is too much for boring tasks, so sometimes it’s 15 🙂

    1. It’s 15 minutes for us sometimes too. Especially bad tasks get 10 minutes, that’s mainly cleaning when Princess is in overwhelmed mode.

  4. I don’t have a homeschool schedule for obvious reasons, but I do believe that short bursts of focused energy can be much more useful than long less focused sessions.

    1. They certainly are in our house. Though I can read or sew for hours at a time….. Probably because I enjoy those activities.

  5. We’ve done a half hour schedule for years now, and whilst we are not rigid with it, it does help us to get through everything we want to get through in a day 😉

    1. Probably in a few years we’ll work up to the half hour schedule. Right now I’m figuring out some activities don’t need 20 minutes (spelling), but some might need more (history).

  6. Charlotte Mason would be proud of you. Short lessons keep the children focused.

    1. Ha ha ha ha ha, yes she would.

  7. LOVE this idea! With my ADD I use that for cleaning….I need to use this with my special needs son and maybe even my teen daughter.

    1. I bet it would work really well with your son.

  8. This is such a great reminder that our routine/schedule work for us. They are simply a tool that makes our days work for us. There is no set rule that says kids should be able to concentrate for 30minutes!!

  9. MrsMomof7 Avatar

    Is the photo of that timer with the red bar the actual timer you use? and where can I get one??

    We need this plan in our house too!!

    1. It is. If you look in the “How I’m modifying the 20 minute homeschool schedule” the very first link is to the timer. Ours is a bit tattered and worn, but it still ticking along wonderfully after a few years.

    2. We use this timer, too—you will love it! My son has Asperger’s and is a very visual learner with great difficulty in managing his time. We began using this timer 3 yrs ago and now, despite his being in middle school, we continue to use it with success. Good luck and I hope you can find one, too.

    3. Liz in HR Avatar
      Liz in HR

      This looks a lot like the Time Timer: Good luck!

    4. Okay, I need to now go look up Daily 5, that sounds vaguely familiar, but it’s been so long since I was teaching public school.

  10. Teresa Wylie Avatar
    Teresa Wylie

    I really like this! I am homeschooling my 4 year old and 1 year old (before anyone thinks I am a harsh mom starting that young, it is relaxed homeschooling, and I consider any teaching at home homeschooling, so no, I am not making my one year old do worksheets.. 🙂 ) and I have been thinking about the best way to start building a routine and being consistent while also maintaining the flexibility that I love about homeschooling and letting the littles be little. I think this is a great idea!

    1. And homeschooling a 1 year old mainly looks like lots of book reading and playing in messy things, and doing crafts, all those things you’d be doing with them anyways (I get what you’re saying). I’m so glad this is giving you some more great ideas!

  11. Christina Avatar

    Is the timer quiet or does it do the annoying wind-y click sound many kitchen timers do?

    1. It is quiet until the timer goes off, then the timer beeps several times and is quiet again.

  12. Thanks for the post! My 4 year old has autistic tendencies and I’ve used a timer for all sorts of activities due having a hard time focusing on whatever task it is! At first I could only set the timer for a few min. Then gradually was able to increase the time as he learned that the time was not going to be a negative experience! Now he reminds me to set the timer, it’s exciting for him!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that!

  13. Jahzeel Avatar

    Sounds a lot like Daily 5 which is used around a lot of classrooms in the U.S. Lot works wonders!

  14. Lots of highly distractible people here,too.We do 15 minutes up until age 10 and then it increases- but unless it’s sewing or cooking, or we’re outside, I struggle with the increased time myself!

    1. I hear you, this schedule is just as much for me as for the kids, and I have similar things I can focus on for extended times (being outside, sewing), but cooking is not one of those as I can attest to by my occasional burned meals.

  15. At the end of the 20 minutes, what if all the work isn’t completed? Do you come back after the break for 20 more minutes , or until completed, of the same subject? Do you move on to the next subject until you have moved through all of them and then the rest is “homework”?

    1. When my kids were younger, 3rd grade and below, I would say we were done for the day because emotionally they couldn’t handle coming back to the subject they were struggling with. Now that my kids are older, I have them come back and finish the subject they were working on during the last 20 minutes until they have finished all of their school work.

  16. What a popular post!

    Like you said, this works well for SO MANY THINGS. Cleaning that awful counter…yep. Writing a book…yep.

    Someone named the 25 minutes on 5 minutes off something…but I don’t recall who or what. But I know it’s effective when I use it.

    Does this mean I should go and clean the counter?

  17. As a fellow mom with ADHD teaching a houseful of boys who struggle with focus and attention, I really identify with this. We do a lot of hands on, relaxed “life-schooling” but there are times that I need them to focus and work on a skill that is lagging yet the tears and resistance to any type of traditional “seat work” can be very discouraging! Its helpful to hear from another homeschooling mom who also struggles with this and has come up with a workable solution. A visual timer is something I have wanted for a long time…might be time to invest in one!

    1. Visual timers are amazing! They really were a life-saver as I was working to get this habit down.

  18. Kristin Dunlap Avatar
    Kristin Dunlap

    I am so in love with this idea as I have ADHD and my middle child does too! I always thought we should work on a subject until it was completed before moving onto the next – which, I am discovering, leads to stress, burnout, and everyone being angry – me most especially. My kids are 13, 11, and 9. I apologize, but I don’t quite understand how you revisit a subject “in the last 20 minutes” until it’s complete. Could you please break that down for me?

    1. Okay, so if the subject will take longer than 20 minutes, we work 20 minutes and then stop for 5 minutes. After the five minute break to move around, do something else, the brain is fresh again and ready to get back to it.
      I’ve found lessons actually take less time when we do this because they can focus for that time, so there’s less distraction during that time.

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