“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.
So happy to see you blogging again! Your blog has been one of my very favorites. I have been very encouraged and inspired by the new posts you have done sharing your days/routines!
Thank you Lindsay! This is really helpful I’m in my first official year of homeschooling my 4 and 5 year old kiddos! And I’m happy to see you writing again!! Looking forward to your future posts.
Just wanted to say that I am enjoying this series and glad to see your blog is up and running again! (Though I understand the need to take a break–I did the same thing for about the same amount of time.) Anyway! Yay! I enjoy your blog!
I do the same thing with notebooks as my lesson planner, household schedule etc… SO freeing of the mind when I finally realized the “planners” are here to serve me, not the other way around. Oh I do the check off boxes too. I also divide the day into morning, mid morning and early afternoon sections. And snap pictures of the day and put them on my private blog as a school journal. Glad to see you back on blog land and that the Lord is blessing your growing family.
Hi there! We are one month into Junior Kindergarten with my almost 5 year old. We use Memoria Press. So far we have covered 3 alphabet letters and 1-3 for number work but I don’t know if she’s really grasping the writing on the letters and numbers. If you have time, could you tell me if it’s more important for her to learn them by recognition, by writing, or both? Due to her age and maturity I don’t want this to be high pressure at all. The lessons are designed for 2 days a week but we usually end up doing about 30 minutes a day for 4 days, not including calendar, circle time, etc. thanks!
At this age, I recommend not stressing over teaching the mechanics of writing letters and numbers. That takes time and will come as they get older. I don’t usually start teaching the writing until age 6. I would just focus on helping your child recognize the sounds. I would keep your lessons as short as possible, 15 minutes about…and always stop when your child is starting to show stress or get distracted or tired. But that’s just my two cents, so feel free to take it or leave it.
Hi! I was wondering, do you teach a math lesson for your 9 yr old or does she work through the book independently? If you do a lesson with her how do you go about it, do you teach the lesson one day and she completes the workbook the following day?
The goal is for her to be able to do math independently, so she usually reads the lesson on her own. If she has any questions, then I will sit down with her and go through it together.
I am not homeschooling – mine go to a precious, wonderful church preschool, but wanted to chime in to say that I am thoroughly impressed by your day!
Thank you for this inspiring post, Lindsay. I love the practical advice you give, especially concerning the routines you have in your home. I admire how well trained and busy your kids are!
Maybe you have an advice for working moms how to incorporate your principles in their day? I have to leave the house at 7 am, my husband takes our 2 kids to kindergarten. I am usually pick them up at 2 pm. The whole homemaking thing is difficult for us because the mornings are blocked. I live with a constant bad consciousness because of these circumstances but staying at home is not an option for our family.
Do you have some advice for the many mothers who have a job?
Ada, thanks for your comment. I can’t say I have any great tips, as I have not been in your experience. If I were you though, I would probably block out the rest of the day, the at home hours in one hour chunks, and divide them according to what needs to be done. Rest, cleaning, food prep (dinner & next day breakfast I assume), and family time. I would probably devote the first hour to rest time, allowing you and your kids time to rest, nap, read, and just recoup from your day. I feel its always wise to have a little break to refresh yourselves, especially as you’ve all been around lots of people for most of the day. Then, I would probably devote 30 minutes to housecleaning, and give the kids a few simple chores and work together quickly (maybe a reward if done in 30 min?). Keep to the basics in this season of your life, clean bathrooms, swept floor, and clean kitchen…those are my daily goals. Then I would send them outside to play, while I made dinner and prepared meals for tomorrow in the next hour. Then, eat dinner together, and have some read aloud, board games, or wrestling/tickling time. This may sound too simplistic, and its hard to know your schedule to the minute details, but those are my thoughts. And remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Don’t let that “bad consciousness” destroy your joy. Embrace the life God has give you for this season and don’t let the “what-if’s” cause you to waste the little moments. God bless.
What tips could you offer to help keep your kids focused and not constantly have to remind them to stay on track with each block?
I have found a timer and small reward to be really helpful for getting the kids to stay focused and getting their work done. If they get their chores and independent work done by a designated time each day, I would let them pick out a small candy (xylitol candy, jelly beans, etc). They are still kids though and need a lot of encouragement and reminders, but that just seems reality for awhile. They are really growing in this area though as they’ve gotten familiar with the routine over time and had the daily reward. It’s well worth the effort.
Thank you! As I’ve thought about your comment, I’ve been reminded how just like our kids need that encouragement, how we as mothers need that same encouragement from God daily and desperately! I grow weary of giving the same instructions over and over and “motivating” them, but the verse “Do not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up” has been one of those life verses during this season! I’m so glad God doesn’t grow tired in doing good with me.
I appreciate your blog so much! The Lord bless you.
I’m not a homeschooler, but would like my kids to start doing more housework. This may sound silly, but how do your kids unload the dishwasher at such an early age? I have trouble unloading it myself (cabinets are high and I have to reach). Do you use a step stool and just have them go up and down carrying the dishes? I’m just afraid they’ll break them.
The trick here is to move your dishes down to the lower cupboards!
I am so happy you are blogging again! It was so helpful to read how you structure your days. I’m finding it pretty challenging to juggle everything!
I forgot to post my question! I am currently using All About Spelling but I am finding it too teacher intensive with four kids. For my oldest (age 10), I switched to Phonetic Zoo and love it. However, that won’t work for my 1st and 3rd grader. I noticed that you are using a spelling program from Rod and Staff. I would love to hear your review on the program.
We also used AAS through the first volume before realizing that it was way too teacher intensive for myself as well. So yes, we switched to Rod & Staff Spelling by Sound and Structure curriculum because it could easily be done independently and is also phonetically based. We just do a quick quiz on Fridays to review the words. We both really like it. I did wait till 4th grade to start spelling more consistently with my daughter, so she’s working through volumes 2 & 3 in that series, doing two lessons a week, which is working really well. I have heard great things of Phonetic Zoo and also think we will use that afterwards.
Thanks for the reply! Is it necessary to purchase the teacher book to go with the Rod and Staff spelling?
No, I don’t have it, but I’m not too concerned about checking her answers either.
Thanks for the great post on how you break down your homeschooling day. I do something very similar and it has brought such peace and joy to our homeschool. LOVE spiral notebooks! Your blog has been an encouragement to me.
Another fantastic post! A couple follow-up questions: Your monthly field trips, is this something you plan on your own or do with a co-op? If you plan this yourself, can you share some ideas of field trips you go on as a family? Secondly, would you be interested in sharing tips on how you do a shopping trip only twice a month? Do you purchase your produce and dairy only twice a month as well? I’m currently shopping once a week and it’s killing me. I’d love your tips!
Kay, yes, I plan our monthly field trips with other homeschoolers from our church. We love visiting national historic sites in our area, local art museum, pumpkin patch, children’s museums, zoo, fire station, bakery, etc. We have a children’s theater in our area as well that you can get discounted group tickets too, so we attend an annual performance for a classic book reproduction (such as Robin Hood, Jungle Book, etc). We also like to attend a local adult or youth orchestra production as a group annually or a local ballet production of a classic ballet. I find if you search your area for field trips for schools/groups or find local theater/orchestra companies, they are very willing to accommodate homeschool groups at a great price or often free. I’d be happy to share some of my tips for shopping twice a month, but that would be best in its own post. I do purchase my produce and dairy twice a month as well, and yes, it does last just fine (especially if you eat the more tender veggies/fruits the first week, and more hearty ones the second week. Romaine heads in ziploc bags last both weeks much better than individual heads stored loosely, etc.). We do have a second smaller fridge & standup freezer in our basement, which is kind of essential for this for our size family. It works really well for our family and has for several years now.
Thank you for taking the time to reply and post your field trip ideas. We live in a small town, but there are larger towns an hours drive away. I will definitely be looking into some of these suggestions!
Looking forward to a future shopping post. No rush by any means.
I read the caption and saw their happy faces and declared,”I like this mom!”
Thank you for the help! I’m subscribing -and writing the verse, taping it to my wall, going to cling to it each day!