This article was originally published in Secular Homeschooler's Home-Educator's Magazine | Issue #3 | Fall 2019
What is a Loop Schedule?
A Loop Schedule is an alternative to the traditional scheduling method of assigning lessons, books, or projects to days of the week. For example, a traditional schedule may look like the following:
Monday – History Project
Tuesday – Science Demonstration
Wednesday – Art Project
Thursday – History Documentary
Friday – Nature Study
A loop schedule includes the above list without the corresponding days. With a loop, you do a history project on day one and a science demonstration on day two. But on day three your child isn’t feeling well and needs to rest. By day four she’s well again, so you do an art project. After nature study, you loop to the top and keep going until the next interruption.
Life often interrupts with illnesses, impromptu field trips, low energy, tears, inspiration, and countless other happenings. The beauty of a loop schedule is you can push pause at any point on the loop and jump back in where you left off without feeling the constraints of a fixed schedule. You can work through a loop like an example above — doing one thing from the loop each day.
Set Aside a Window of Time For Your Loops
An alternative way to work through a loop is to set aside a window of time and do as many items on the loop as time permits. This method works well for read-alouds and memory work.
A Read-Aloud Loop Example:
- The Borrowers Afield, by Mary Norton (literature)
- Botanicum, by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis (science)
- Laugh Out Loud Jokes for Kids, by Rob Elliot (something silly)
- MAPS, by Aleksandra Mizielinska (geography/culture)
- Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories, by Micheal Bird (art)
- Joyful Noise, Poems for Two Voices, by Paul Fleischman (poetry)
- Usborne Time Traveler, by Judy Hindley (history)
Following this example, if you set aside 40 minutes for your read-aloud loop and are able to read from the literature, science, and joke books, the following day you start with MAPS.
A Memory Work Loop Example:
- Shakespeare lines
- math facts
- grammar terms
If you set aside 15 minutes for memory work and are able to recite a poem, Shakespeare lines, and the continents, you start with Math facts the next day. The next day you spend all 15 minutes on math facts because that’s what your child needs, and you’ll get to grammar terms the following day. You keep doing the next thing and continue to make forward progress.
What’s included in a loop schedule?
A loop schedule can include anything you value and want to ensure happens in your homeschool that would benefit from a flexible framework. Possible ideas include:
projects (art, history, science, writing)
news broadcasts (like CNN10)
To Loop or Not to Loop (That is the Question)
Certain books, skill work, or activities you want to be done daily may not work well in a loop. My children practice their instruments and dance daily, so those items are not included in our loops. However, even a subject like math can be looped depending on your goals and resources. A possible math loop doing one thing daily:
- Lesson (Math)
- Game (Math)
- Lesson (Math)
- Read-aloud (Math)
- Lesson (Math)
There are times when you may want one item on your loop to happen more frequently than the others. The math loop above is a good example of this, with a math lesson occurring more frequently than a math game or book. The length of loops vary depending on the time you have available for the loop and how frequently you want to do each item. If you typically homeschool four days a week, plan to do one to two items on the loop a day, and want to get to each thing about once a week, you create a loop with four to six components.
How We Use a Loop Schedule in Our Homeschool
Currently, we have three loops — Morning Connection, Language Arts, and Afternoon Projects. Our Morning Connection is a mix of six read-aloud books and short activities, and we loop through as many as the time block permits. We do one thing a day on both our Language Arts and Afternoon Project loops, getting to each activity about once a week. Our Afternoon Project loop has four activities even though we homeschool five days a week to leave space for outside events.
How do I track my loop?
My preferred way to track is a printed or handwritten loop with a paper clip or book dart to mark our place. We’ve also used Evernote notes (with checkboxes) for memory work and independent learning loops. Notecards work well and can be gathered with a magnetic clip and hung on a whiteboard, refrigerator or metal cart. Another favorite method in our home is to gather the loop items in baskets. Then we simply move each book to the back once we’ve read it. When we use a basket and want to include something in our loop that doesn’t go into a basket, like watch CNN10 News or a documentary, we write it on a sheet of paper and add it to our loop items.
Where to Start?
Start simple with one loop of three to five things and use a tracking method that resonates.
Experiment, add or edit until it feels right. Loop scheduling has the potential to bring ease to your days by giving you structure and accountability without the pressure of a rigid schedule or the stress of falling behind.
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