High School Scheduling — Some Non-Traditional Options

When was the last time you thought about the best way to schedule your school days? Six subjects, one hour each per day, five days a week — ho hum. Maybe it’s time to ask some questions about scheduling!

Homeschool high school scheduling; some non-traditional options.

High school scheduling for homeschoolers

Why are high school subjects scheduled in choppy little sections? What do colleges do? And what works best for your family and your students? Here are a few questions to consider as you think about high school scheduling.

  • Does it work well?
  • What does it accomplish?
  • Is an hour enough time for a student to grow interested in a subject, hear a lesson, and do the associated work?
  • Does this format work equally well for all subjects?
  • Is this the best format for your student’s learning style?
  • If this is the best way for students to study a subject, why are college classes not scheduled this way?

Block or college-style scheduling

When we were doing school with the boys, I often chose to use different scheduling styles. We found that while the daily style of scheduling was efficient for repetitive, rote subjects such as math, a college- or block-style schedule was often more interesting and effective for classes in the humanities. As they got older we would often choose to do history and literature on Monday and Wednesday; math and science on Tuesday and Thursday. Friday was for field trips and errands.

One-subject plan

Another option is what a nearby military academy calls the “One Subject Plan.” They divide the school year into five seven-week terms, and during each term the students study only one subject. This intensely focused immersion style of learning is what we have used when we wanted to learn something independently. I have used it for academic, business, and home-centered subjects, and the boys have used it to learn about subjects ranging from the Civil War to classical music, computer programming, HVAC, and con-worlding. I would consider this type of scheduling to be related to delight-directed study or unit study scheduling.

Year-round schooling

Year-round schooling is another scheduling option that works well for many families. They choose to school for ten weeks on, three weeks off, or some variation, and it works quite effectively. This schedule adapts well to frequent travel or other unusual situations, and can help families keep a regular routine going all year, rather letting it all go for three months and having start fresh each fall.

Sabbath scheduling

Inspired by the idea of the sabbath — one day off after every six days of work — some homeschoolers have chosen to do six weeks of school and one week off, creating a one-week sabbath from school all through the year. The week off is a time when you can assess what is working and what isn’t, take special field trips, do creative projects, or just enjoy being off. This may be the most sensible idea of all!

Block scheduling or the one subject plan can allow time for students to immerse in a topic and get some serious work done. By the time students reach high school age, their brains are sufficiently well developed that they can easily skip a day — especially in subjects they enjoy — without forgetting material covered. The one-hour schedule, on the other hand, can be frustratingly short for subjects that would benefit from a longer period of concentration or practice.

The point? Simply a reminder to consider what works best with your family life and your student’s learning needs, rather than just doing what is traditional. Customization is one of the best things about being a homeschooling family. You can create a homeschool that fits. Enjoy!



11 Responses

  1. Dear Janice,
    I am the editor for the OCHEC quarterly newsletter. May we reprint your article on High School Scheduling? It is due out in April.

    Beth Rockwell
    OCHEC administrative assistant

  2. Dear Beth and others,

    If you’d like to reprint one of my articles, please add the following blurb at the bottom, and let me know where you plan to publish it. Thank you for reading the blog!

    Blurb for the end of reprinted articles:

    Janice Campbell, author of Get a Jump Start on College!, Transcripts Made Easy, and a forthcoming high school literature series, has been writing and speaking in central Virginia since the late 1980’s. Her four sons were homeschooled from kindergarten into college, using the principles she shares in her books, workshops, blog, and newsletter. Visit http://www.Janice-Campbell.com and http://www.Everyday-Education.com to read more!

  3. Penny Raine says:

    We have always homeschooled year-round. It gives us flexilbility to pursue whatever the Lord gives us. I have found that everyttime a child is born in our home my daughters get real domestic and want to learn new things. The same thing comes with other experiences. So we really try to keep our schedule “Spirit-led”. That doesn’t mean we do less schoolwork, we probably really do more. God provides lots of opportunities to go down new rabbit trails of learning. The trick is to be able to see them and to seize the moment!
    blessings, Penny Raine

  4. Michelle says:

    Dear Janice, I really like the idea of the “one subject plan” but was wondering a little more about it. I am assuming that the 5 terms are for the core subjects (math,english,history,science,reading) Am I right? How long would you recommend subjects are spent on in a day?
    Thank you for posting these High School options.

  5. Hi, Michelle-

    You’re right– the five terms are for core subjects. Under a normal schedule, you grant one Carnegie unit of credit for 120 hours of guided study (or one textbook completed). With a seven-week unit, you can put in 120 hours in less than four hours a day.

    Your students will usually love the idea, because it leaves a good bit of the day open for electives or other activities if they use their time wisely.


  6. George Dewey Powell says:

    During the 1970’s the “one subject plan” was introduced at Lake Elsinore Military Academy as well.

    The results were rather dramatic, in that while in class (history), the students were not focused on not having their English assignment ready, etc.

    Continuity also plays a large part in the process it seems.

    I know it was extremely well-received by the Corps of Cadets and was reflected in the grades.

    I was the Commandant of Cadets that year and had the Corps for remaining 20 hours a day, and shared thoughts of hope, fear, uncertainty, wars, and any other number of topics at the conclusion of supervised study hall.

    Take care

    • Thank you for that perspective. I think that being able to focus deeply is such a privilege, and a valuable skill to learn. It’s nice to hear how it worked in a military academy setting. Thanks!

  7. Kim says:

    Hi Janice, I would love to know more about the one subject plan. Would the child do lesson after lesson of math each day for seven weeks? then do his electives after those lessons each day? I like the idea but would love to know more detail. thanks!

    • Hi, Kim–
      This was one method we didn’t try in this exact form, but based on what I’ve seen of the

    • military schools
    • http://www.forkunion.com/military-school-info/benefits-one-subject-plan.html that use this, you would do only one subject for the seven weeks; I’m not sure when they’d add electives.

      This method is normally used only for upper grades, and I would feel free to modify it. For our family, for example, I would probably have them continue the normal pattern of two days a week of math, because math is not our strong point, and it seems wise to have it show up throughout the school year. I’d be more likely to do the arts and sciences with this method, which could result in a schedule of math on two days a week, plus several hours on the primary subject for that seven-week period.

  1. February 17, 2008

    […] High School Scheduling- Some Non-Traditional Options by Janice Campbell. While you’re there have a look around Janice’s blog. You’ll find a ton of good and helpful information especially for high schoolers. […]

  2. December 24, 2011

    […] High School Scheduling- Some Non-Traditional Options by Janice Campbell. While you’re there have a look around Janice’s blog. You’ll find a ton of good and helpful information especially for high schoolers. […]

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