Home and Family, Homeschooling

Routines vs. schedules

“How did you schedule your day?” seems to be a burning question for many people, and is asked often whenever I teach at a convention or support group, or check my email.

Rule #1- I didn’t have a schedule.  I had a routine.  Having a schedule sounds too much like a public school (9:00- math, 9:30-reading, etc.), and set me up for failure.  That didn’t mean my days were a free-for-all.  I chose to be in charge, rather than the clock calling the shots.

Here is how things often looked when I had four kids at home.  This is a very general idea, and does not take into account appointments or classes that did work on a schedule.  You get the idea.

8:00-9:00: Everyone up and tidying bedrooms (Getting dressed was often optional.  I do some of my best work in my pajamas!).

Breakfast together around 9:30.

Group time for the family came next.  This included our morning devotional, pledge, and any academic studies we could do as a group.  This time together might take as few as 30 minutes, or could last for two to three hours.  It varied by the day and was generally influenced by whether or not a great discussion was started.  (Beware of allowing a “need” to keep to a schedule interfere with addressing those things your children are interested in delving into in greater detail.  If you need to adjust some of your curriculum for a new, burning interest-by all means, adjust!)

Individual school lists were started when group time was over.  Anything on their lists not covered during our time as a group needed to be completed by them individually.  Each child had their own list.  Some would finish before lunch, some after-depending on their ages, and how motivated they were that day.  It was also often determined by how long we took during group time.

School time was scheduled four days a week.  (We would study history two days, and science the other two.  Other subjects were done each day.)We found you could cover a great deal of ground in four good solid days of studies.  I could then use the other days to shop, deal with doctor appointments, work on gardening, canning or other food preservation projects, sort, or catch up on whatever else I needed to do.

That was the daily routine-most of the time.  Some days called for something else.  Wednesday mornings were story time at the local library. Friday was our shopping day.  Sunday involved church, family time, and a complete change of pace.

I found that this routine worked well for us because life is full of changes, twists, turns, and unplanned events.  Having a routine helped to allow for those changes without feeling derailed.  On days when the kids were sick, we read more books and watched a bit more educational television. When it was just too lovely outside to remain indoors, we packed a picnic lunch and had a day of nature study, or worked on the garden, or went to the zoo.  First snowfall of the season?  Time to brush off the shovels, build a snowman, and then learn to make cocoa.  Learning to be flexible helped us accomplish the highest priorities, and still retain a bit of sanity.  Too much rigidity can be maddening!

If life threw a major curve-ball, we tried incorporate it into what we are doing.  As I have schooled my own over the last two decades, we faced unemployment, heart surgeries, military deployments, moves, miscarriages, and other real life events.  When they happened, we went through them as a family.  No job?  We all found ways to save money and contribute (economics and life skills).  Child in the hospital?  We studied the heart, and learned about convalescent care (biology and health).  Grandma and Grandpa moving into a new home allowed us to serve, and to work on our organizational skills.  Remember- life’s challenges are opportunities to show your children how to keep going in spite of what is happening around you.  They are not an excuse to fall apart or derail family goals.  Major emergencies (heart attacks, appendicitis, etc.) may require we drop and run, and then regroup in a few days.  If you can view all of these things as learning experiences and preparation for life, it can enhance your time with your children, rather than overwhelming you.

And on those days when it is all just too much, give yourself permission to break out the games,  bake cookies, and enjoy the day!