“How do you get everything done?” Is an important and valuable question that every homeschool mom receives. It is important because homeschooling does require some major juggling, planning, and a flexible mindset. It is valuable, because it is our God-given mission to manage and organize our domain in a manner that is pleasing to Him, and to train and disciple our children in character, truth, and academics. That’s a-lot. And it is certainly not something I recommend doing on your own strength. Thankfully, we have a pretty awesome God, who is near and open to our prayers.
God worked in an orderly manner, and we are called to do the same. There are many different ways to run a household, and my methods work well for our family, but may not be the best for everyone. A schedule provides good structure and routine, which is really beneficial for children and teaching self-discipline, but it also must be held loosely as seasons and needs adapt and change. That is why, I am always praying that our homeschool would be spirit-led, and not mommy-led. I want the Lord to be our ultimate teacher. I want to follow His plan…which may be a twist and turn from my own.
I love praying this promise over my children each day, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children (Isaiah 54:13).” Did you hear that? The Lord is their ultimate Teacher. He’s in control of all that they need to learn in order to equip them fully for the good work that God has called them to accomplish. It does not depend upon me. There is so much freedom here. So just get rid of that guilt right now. You are going to fail in some way, and that’s okay. He already lived the perfect life for you.
Anyway, back to the schedule. Our daily routine is divided into four blocks: morning duties, independent work, circle time, and tutoring time. These routine blocks are not set to a specific time each day, but do happen approximately at the same time each day, but can be rotated as needed. I like the flexibility this provides for our family, because there are often needs that come up that cause one or more of the blocks to get delayed and need to be moved around. But the ultimate goal is that all four of the blocks get finished by noon each day.
I’ll discuss these four blocks in detail:
7:00am is our morning wake up time for the kids. They are responsible for making their bed, getting dressed, picking up their room after themselves, and coming down for family devotions by 7:30am. After devotions, the goal is to get their morning chores done in 30 minutes before breakfast. Each of my children has 1-2 rotating daily chores that they do to help our home run smoothly. I’ll discuss this more thoroughly in my next post on chores, but for example, my oldest (age 9), sweeps and mops the kitchen one morning each week, cleans the bathroom two different days, and starts washing and rotating laundry every Monday (which is our laundry day). My 7 year old is able to sweep and mop, do a quick bathroom cleanup (wiping down counters and toilet), and vacuum different areas. My 5 year old daily unloads the dishwasher at breakfast and then will either fold her laundry, wipe down chairs, and is just learning to vacuum the living room, or organize the shoe shelf. We start kids on the dishwasher at 3 years of age at our house, so she can really do it fast now!
This block of time follows morning duties, and is the time when the kids work on their independent school subjects. This includes workbooks and assignments that they can accomplish on their own. Mommy is on call as needed to help with a math problem or reading instructions (for my non-readers). I am usually cleaning up the kitchen, doing dinner preparations (pulling out things from freezer, etc), and caring for our toddler (getting her dressed, fed, etc) during this time. Independent work for us is mainly math workbooks, xtramath drills (a great free online service for reviewing and mastering math facts) handwriting or copywork, spelling, independent reading assignments, and instrument practice.
I write out my 4th graders daily assignments in a spiral notebook (pictured above). My 2nd grader just does math, xtramath drill, and handwriting/copywork, so he doesn’t need the assignment list yet. My Kindergartener works on her Rod & Staff workbooks when she is inspired to, but is not required. The goal is to finish these assignments up by around 10:00am, when we start circle time.
I do follow Charlotte Mason’s recommendations of keeping these early elementary years assignments to 5-20 minute chunks per subject. So handwriting is 5 minutes (or approximately 1 page), and math is 15-20 minutes. We stop wherever they make it to, rather than being obsessed about finishing one lesson each day. We use sticky note tabs at the top of our books to mark our places, which has been such a time saver this year. The kids can easily find where they left over and continue their day’s work. One to two pages in each is usually sufficient for making great progress without losing their attention or energy span. It’s a lot more peaceful that way for us. This block of time usually takes 30 minutes for 2nd grader and 45 minutes to an 1 hour for the 4th grader.
Our Circle Time block is a time when we sit down all together to do reading aloud, prayer, memory work, history, geography or science and any other reading we might be doing, rotating through most of these books/subjects, rather than doing every one, every day. It takes roughly 1 hour each day, give or take. We work on memorizing Scripture verses, a poem, and review some old ones. We pray for the nations. Then we read aloud from a history book and a biography or classic storybook. Currently, we are reading A First Book in American History, and With Two Hands. We are primarily using Heart of Dakota’s Bigger Hearts for His Glory, as the foundation for our circle time this year, adapting to our needs and preferences. I usually include 5-10 minutes of reading a picture book aloud to my 5 year old (check out our kindergarten reading list here), and the older ones love listening in too.
Any subjects that we can do together to enrich our homeschool with truth, goodness, and beauty fall into this time. One day a week, we do poetry tea time and picture study instead of the above routine. My baby and Kindergartener usually play together in the pack n play or with play dough in the highchair/counter or eat snacks to keep them busy. My 5 year old participates in circle time for at least the first half and listens nearby for the second half. Some years, it has worked best to do circle time first thing after morning duties, but this year, it seems to work smoothly after independent work. When I have a nursing infant, I always schedule this time when baby is taking morning nap. I love that we can move these blocks around as needed.
Lastly, I do an individual tutoring time with whatever student needs focused reading instructor. Right now, I spend 15-20 minutes minutes with my 7 year old as we work through All About Reading level 2 & 3 this year. I usually fit this time in whenever it works. Sometimes it comes before Circle Time if my older student needs more time on her independent work or sometimes afterwards.
Our goal is to finish our formal studies before noon each day. After that, we have lunch, quiet time, and then play time. We have one afternoon outing a week for ballet lessons and piano lessons. Fridays is primarily a half day schedule where the kids do independent work, spelling tests, and a monthly field trip or grocery shopping trip (twice a month).
At five o’clock daily, everyone is called in for our 10-minute tidy time. This is when we do a quick clean up of the house in preparation for daddy’s return home and dinner. I usually assign the kids to different areas of the house, depending upon where they played that day. This works really well for getting the house in order for a smooth start the next day. After dinner, we usually have family time, daddy reading aloud, playing games, wrestling, watching a movie, or something similar. Bedtime for baby is around 7pm, and for the older kids it is 8:00pm.
For the introduction to this series and the series index, visit here.