Schedules, Routines, and Real Life

You know those homeschool moms who share their schedules and it looks something like:
4 AM – 5 AM: Bible Study
5 AM – 6 AM: hot breakfast
6 AM – Household chores
7:30 AM – Begin poetry recitations…

Well, anyway, you’ve seen those, right?

You will not find that here.
schedules routines real life

As much as I’d love to be that mom, the one who follows the schedules in The Well-Trained Mind, the one who raises and grinds her own wheat, the one who runs a profitable side business, and the one who has plenty of time for ministry, well, I am not that mom.

Here are some realities in my life:

  • I’m an introvert which means crowds or activities drain my energy, even when I enjoy them.
  • I’ve always required a lot of sleep.
  • I’ve been pregnant or nursing for much of the past 13 years.
  • I have six children. (See above)
  • My husband and I both work from home a lot, which means sharing our space, our computer, etc.
  • We live in a suburb, not on a farm. (And I’m not that crazy about gardening or raising animals anyway.)
  • Breakfast is my least favorite meal of the day, and some of my kids don’t really care about it either.
  • If I planned to study my Bible from 4 to 5 AM, I’d be asleep by 4:02 AM.

So are you wondering how I get all that I need to get done, actually, you know, done? Lean in for the secret: I don’t.

I have never, in the history of my adult life, finished everything I wanted to finish in a day.

I’ve also learned that a schedule that dictates what I’m supposed to be doing each minute of the day will only frustrate me and exasperate my kids. Why? Because when the baby needs nursed, or the toddler needs potty help, or someone gets a splinter during outside time, the schedule is “messed up”. And what if we oversleep after a busy day the day before? We’re behind before we get started. There is just no way to account for all the aspects of very real life on an idealized schedule.

So: dictatorial schedules = not going to work here.

clock stock imageWhat does work when a strict schedule doesn’t?

A general daily routine.

A routine means no matter how late I sleep because the baby had a restless night or someone had an upset stomach or staying up late talking with my husband was more important than going to bed at a specific hour, the day still starts in generally the same manner: I wake up, read my Bible, and then eat a light breakfast while making sure the youngest kids have eaten and meanwhile I check a few blog related things online. The older kids get their own breakfast (generally cereal, oatmeal, toast, fruit, yogurt, or similar easy to prepare items).

2nd Part of our routine

After the first part of our morning is done (whether at 7, 8 or 9 AM or even, on occasion 10), we start school. Usually our oldest has started on her own. We give her an assignment sheet at the beginning of the week so that she can take responsibility for at least starting on her own. I try to read aloud to everyone and do some things with the younger kids first (poems, phonics lesson, start on math) because if I don’t, they might get skipped.

Start with things that have priority

We generally do Math first, no matter what time of day we’re starting. Why? Because Math is nobody’s favorite subject around here and it’s the easiest thing to feel like you’re “behind” on, or at the very least, overwhelmed by. Math is an everyday subject and usually first.

Lunch Break and Early Afternoon

We do as much school as we can before lunch. (Which could be anywhere from 11 AM – 1 PM, depending on the day).

After lunch is naptime for the youngest kids and quiet time for the older kids. If an older kid needs my help with a tricky assignment, this happens while the youngest are napping (or resting quietly). Every once in awhile I lay down or read if no one needs my help just then. Sometimes I do History or Science with the middle girls. Now that my oldest are able to stay home with the littles, I might go to the grocery during quiet time, leaving the oldest in charge. (Having the littlest folk down for nap time means her babysitting responsibilities are minimal.)

After Quiet Time

After quiet time might be time to run errands, or play outside, or finish up work that someone has been dawdling over. My oldest will be sure to finish her high school math (sometimes she starts in the morning and then sets it aside while she does other things) so she can go over it with her dad after supper.

Evening Routines

Bedtime – for the kids – is an hour or two after supper. Unless we’re doing something special or unless we have a church obligation (every Wednesday).

The littles have their bedtime routine and then lights out. The older girls are allowed to read for about an hour, depending on when bedtime started. This means my husband and I have an hour or two to be “alone”. (Read: downstairs, in another part of the house from the children.) We might watch a show, read, or work, but we’re together with no kids around. (Unless we have a new baby. Nursing babies generally hang out with us during this time.)

And this isn’t even describing Mondays, which are our usual homeschool co-op day, or the days we get together with my family so the kids can play with cousins, or the days we visit great-grandparents. Those days have their own routines.

Routines, not schedules. Because you never know when you might just need a nap more than anything else.
paper planning

So how do I fit in what I want to do along with all that really needs to be done?

I try to be mindful of the time I have. Turns out, you can read or write or clean in 15 minute increments. (I’m very grateful to the book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam for this realization.)

So, if you were to spend a day at my house, you might wonder how anything was ever going to get done, whether because I slept late, or because six children seemed to be doing 1500 different things at once, or whatever. But at the end of the day, I’ve generally had at least a few minutes for each of the things I wanted to do (reading, writing, blogging, teaching, piano, baby cuddling, etc.) and the things that had to be done (cleaning, cooking, teaching, blogging, church things, etc. and yes, some things on those lists are the same).

It may not be perfect, but it works for us.

As with homeschooling in general: flexibility is key. (And if you are one of those “rise with the birds” and work all day types, I admire you. If you ever have any extra time on your hands, feel free to come on over and bake us some bread too.)

Do you prefer a routine or a schedule?

Think you’d like some help with your routines and schedules? Mystie has a program for you!
Simplified Organization

You can find more homeschool bloggers talking about their real schedules here (and if you find one that’s perfectly perfect, you can tell her that this less than perfect mama sent you to her):
Also linking up with:
Living and Learning at Home


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  1. We are so alike in our rhythms. So nice to see inside the brain of a fellow INTJ. :-)

    • For a type that’s hard to find in the “wild”, the internet has been a terrific place to find fellow female INTJs. So nice to not be the only one or the odd woman out. ;)

  2. INFJ here. :-) You routine sounds a lot like ours. Somehow, it works. :-)

    • Ooh…INFJ’s are my favorite! ;) Seriously though, INFJs are one of the few types that seem to understand INTJs. (I have an INFJ sister and several friends I depend on.)

      As long as the routine works for the family, that’s what’s important, right?

  3. Ah, routines instead of schedules! This is how I have had to live the majority of my homeschool life with my own 15 children over the last 31 years, only lately, now that my youngest is five and I am chaufeuring around three young adults, that I actually have a schedule.

    • Hats off to you! Always nice to hear from a mom a bit further down the road. I can’t imagine what life will look like when our youngest is five and we have mostly young adults but I hope we’ll continue to adapt.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Routines are the way to go! I love the relaxed flow of your household.