Homeschooling is a big job, and even when all is going smoothly, there often seems to be more to do than one person can handle. That’s why it is so important you find a way to put parts of your homeschool on autopilot.
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What is autopilot homeschooling?
Autopilot homeschooling is the act of putting certain aspects of your homeschool into a routine that never (or rarely) changes, is predictable, and can be done without planning or even much forethought at all. It is a cycle that requires very little parental involvement to keep it moving in a forward direction. And it is a lifesaver during times when mom cannot fully focus on homeschooling or during family transitions or crises. However, even the average homeschool mom can benefit from having certain subjects on autopilot so she can focus her time and energy on the aspects of homeschooling that she and the children enjoy the most. For instance, a mom who really loves taking nature walks with her children can put her morning on autopilot in order to have afternoons free to take those nature walks.
What subjects should I put on autopilot?
There are a couple of ways to choose what subjects you should put on autopilot. The first is to look for subjects in your homeschool that can be easily taught without you and are what I call “do the next lesson” subjects. These subjects can be accomplished via computer, video, audio, workbooks, or can be taught by someone else, as in a co-op setting. You don’t have to plan these subjects because either someone else is planning it for you or your child is always going to “do the next lesson.”
For us, Math is one of these subjects. We use Teaching Textbooks with our older kids, and workbooks for our younger ones. Teaching Textbooks is computer-based, and requires no planning, teaching, or grading from me. Even our younger kids’ workbooks require very little from me beyond explaining the concepts and circling the problems I want them to do in each lesson.
Another way to choose what subjects you should put on autopilot is to consider which subjects you don’t enjoy teaching, and make those autopilot subjects. That allows you to focus your time and energy on the subjects you really enjoy! For instance, if you don’t really enjoy history, find a good video curriculum or plenty of living books your children can read, and have your kids watch the next video or read the next book. And conversely, if you really like Science, you won’t put that on autopilot so that you can be an active part in the learning and projects. (By the way, Apologia is a great example of a curriculum that can be either autopilot or hands-on, depending on your needs. Read my post on how we do Apologia with multiple ages!)
How do I create a routine that becomes automatic?
When I first started putting parts of our homeschool on autopilot, I would gather the children in the living room and read from our current story Bible and read-aloud, and then dismiss the children to their various individual subjects, which almost always went in this order:
When they were first starting out, I had this written down for them, but eventually, none of us needed the order because we had done it the same way for so long, we did it automatically! That’s when you truly know you have put your homeschool on autopilot!
Related post: How long do homeschool lessons really take?
When you start your own routine, consider what order fits your family’s needs, and then work through that routine over and over until it becomes second-nature. You also do not have to have every child on the same subject rotation. This allows for one child to use a computer while another does a workbook page, and then they can switch. It may take a few days to figure out what routine works best, so watch your children, gently remind them of what comes next, and watch for any hiccups you need to fix.
And don’t forget, whenever you add a subject for a certain child or change up the routine in any way, you will need to check in on your children and remind them of the subjects they are supposed to be doing. A routine takes a few weeks to become autopilot, and any change in that routine takes the plan off of autopilot. Because of this I would caution you to NEVER add in something extra less than a month before a major event that requires you to have an autopilot homeschool. So no changing up the routine a month before you have a baby or a month before you move…got it?
How do I fit in other subjects that aren’t autopilot?
This depends on your current circumstances. When I was in the throes of morning sickness, there were no other subjects. Autopilot Homeschool was the ONLY homeschool. And that was okay. There are going to be times in your life that absolutely do not need to be cluttered up by extra subjects. The basics are enough. You may also need to look into ways to supplement the basics. Video and Audio are a great way to do this! You can change out read-aloud time for audio-book time and use sources like YouTube and Compass Classroom for lessons you are unable to teach.
However, if you are in a season of “normal” then the extras of homeschooling are where the memories are made! The extras are anything that is not on autopilot or anything you choose to take off of autopilot to be more hands-on with your children. In order to fit these in, you have to enough space in your day for the amount of extras you want to accomplish. I know that sounds elementary, but we homeschool moms are VERY good at cramming our days TOO FULL! So, stick with me…
You cannot fit Latin, Math, Music, Art, Science, Grammar, Copywork, Character Study, Handwriting, Phonics, Read-Alouds, Independent Reading, Economics, Logic, Foreign Language, History, Geography, Vocabulary, and Spelling into a single day. You know that, BUT how many homeschool moms still try?! And lest you think, I’ll just loop schedule all of that…you know who you are…cut it out! You will be on that loop for 3 months straight before you ever loop back around! You cannot do it all, all the time. Figure out what goes on autopilot, and then choose a few extras. To give you some ideas on how to make this work, read my post on Making Morning Time Easy.
To learn more about planning a simple homeschool day that utilizes autopilot subjects and looping extras, get my book Flexible Homeschool Planning. It will revolutionize your homeschool!