If your life is anything like many of the moms I have talked to, you have probably noticed that there is always something ready to keep us from settling into and maintaining a routine. We come off of a busy summer only to see the start of new commitments in the fall. Then the holidays follow closely behind, rolling into the lack of motivation in winter. Every time we seem to get a routine flowing, something jumps in and throws it off.
So, how do we find a rhythm that allows us to stay diligent and steadily moving ahead, even when routine is hard to grasp?
When I started homeschooling nearly twenty years ago, I was juggling newborns, pregnancy, diapers, and phonics. In those early days, school was not the highest of priorities – often it was napping. But as the kids grew, around second grade, a formal schedule was needed.
I started with blocks of time for different activities. A chunk of time was set aside in the morning for getting the day going with cleaning up, breakfast, laundry, and getting the kids dressed. Then another block followed for Bible, phonics, and math.
After lunch, we had naps or quiet time, followed by history and science. When school was done, we’d clean house, fold clothes, and start on dinner.
Looking back, it seemed that staying home was the way to stay on track.
I set aside Friday afternoon for grocery shopping and running errands. We took school breaks throughout the year to spend time on holiday baking, visiting family, or having play dates.
In order to lay a strong foundation for reading, math skills, and a love for learning, it took a conscious decision to say no to the many opportunities that abound on a daily basis and set up strict boundaries for “school time.”
As the kids entered upper middle school and high school and they took more responsibility for their studies, I was able to loosen the schedule and allow for more interruptions, knowing that they too needed to learn how and when to set their own boundaries.
Tips from the Team
Here are a few things the Well Planned Gal team has learned over the years.
I used to think that if we had too many shortened or interrupted weeks in a row, we needed to make up for it by doing school on our typical day off. But, I have learned over the years that the lack of time off only hurts our routine even more. So, we make it a point to take our rest day, no matter what. If we need to catch up, my kids are often willing to double up here and there on light days, knowing they will still get their day off.
Setting specific and concrete goals and referring to them throughout the year helps me stay on track with the things that are important. I write my lesson plans in my planner six weeks at a time, and keeping those goals in mind while planning helps me to make sure that we’re getting the most important things done. It also helps me decide what things we can let go of if we have to simplify our schedule, because I have a list of priorities already laid out.
I used to imagine an ideal homeschool that operated in the same way a school operated: on a rarely changing routine. I made a detailed schedule and attempted to follow it each day. I came to realize that homeschooling mimics real life, which rarely follows a set routine. Instead, I keep a loose schedule, with school and work occurring at roughly the same time each day whenever possible. I make a list of priorities for the day and try to make sure those get done. So, some days we may do three “days” worth of science, while other days we may do one “day” of each subject. I also specifically plan “catch up” days into our school year. If we don’t need them for catching up on schoolwork, they are great for catching up on the housework!
I have found audio books to be very helpful. I loaded some CDs onto an old iPhone, used an online database offered by my local library, and got some Playaways from the library. I feel much better getting some school done even while out and about.