Fitting It All In: The Loop Schedule

Loop Schedule hanging on the bookself

For the past few years I haven't had any problem fitting in our regular subjects - math, grammar, spelling, etc. But I never seemed to find the time for fun things - music and art study, hand-crafts, drawing. Those things only happened sporadically, at best. Enter the loop schedule. I first heard about loop scheduling on The Well-Trained Mind message board and didn't really think twice about it. But this year I rediscovered it and thought we'd give it a try. I thought it might be a way to fit in all those fun things we seemed to be missing.  It's been a month now and I believe we've found something that works really well for us!

If you're still reading, your first question is probably, "What is a loop schedule?" The most basic definition is that it's a repeating (looping) list! Basically, make a list of work that needs to be completed each day. At the beginning of the day you start working through your list and finish wherever or whenever you have decided. The next day you would pick up at that spot (instead of starting at the beginning again) and continue through to the end of the list before going back to the top and repeating through it again.

Now, in true homeschool-tweaking fashion, no two lists will look exactly the same. Some people like a flow chart (I've seen a few neat ones on the message board!), some just make a list, others make an excel form, some have quite a few kids so they make a few loop schedules by subject or child. If you want to find out more about all those different ways of loop scheduling, just do a search on the K-8 homeschooling board for loop schedules and you'll find lots of information.

I divided our schedule up into two parts. The top list is a list of our daily subjects that aren't "looped". We just do them daily. (You can see this in the snapshot on the right. Daily subjects are listed at the top with places to check them off each day). The problem I've seen with this method is that so many things end up on the daily list that there really ends up being no loop to speak of! So, I put the absolute basics on there, things that I regard as daily essentials. For us that is: Bible, drill (math and language drill practice), recitation, and math. Also, technically, reading. TJ has a 30-minute scheduled daily reading time that isn't on the loop. Everything else ends up on our loop, which for us, is really just a long list. (Again, see the snapshot to the right!)

I made a list of things that needed to be completed (some things daily, some a few days a week, some things just once a week). I then typed it out, put it in a 2-column format, printed it, and put it in a dry-erase pocket (so all we need to do is wipe it off at the end of the week. No need to reprint a new schedule).  For our list, I listed everything for the week instead of by day. So, spelling and Latin are on the list four times each, Chemistry is only on their once, grammar is listed three times, etc.

So, each day when we are ready to start school, TJ and I work through the daily subjects first and check them off when they are complete. Then, after a break, we check the clock and work through our loop subjects for two hours a day (1 hour on Wednesday because of co-op). When the time is up we are finished for the day. The next day, TJ does her daily subjects and then we pick up in our loop wherever we left off the day before. That's it. All those little projects and fun things don't get pushed aside because of time constraints. They are on the list and we just do them when they come up on the schedule.

Now, a few notes about how this is working:

  • I still have a weekly lesson planning page on my clipboard so I know what we're doing each day in each subject. The loop doesn't replace lesson planning.
  • I assign homework. I have a basic idea of how much time I want to spend on each subject. If I find that TJ is dawdling over a worksheet, it gets set aside and becomes homework so we can move on to the next thing. Our rule is no screen time before school is complete. So, if she wants to watch PBS or play on the Wii before dinner she knows that homework better be done!
  • When I made the list, I listed each day's work first and then put it into one long list. I put Latin as the first subject of the day for each day, so I always have a reference point for how much we've accomplished (or not accomplished!) each day. If we're working quickly and we get to Latin twice in one day I know that we are ahead of schedule! ;-)
  • We are working on a six weeks on/one week off schedule this year so I use that week off to plan the next six weeks (as well as catch up on housework!).
  • I have to be prepared. Those little subjects (music, hand-crafts, art) need pre-planning! Hence that week off every six weeks. It  gives me time to plan what we're doing and make sure I have the necessary supplies.
  • What happens if you don't finish the loop by the end of the week? I have no idea, it hasn't happened yet. Fridays even end up being light days for us. I'm not sure what we'll do if/when that happens. I'll let you know!

Tonia L

Hey! I'm the owner of Happy Homeschool Nest - a website devoted to helping homeschool moms balance the needs of homeschooling with managing a healthy and happy home.