Why Routines are Superior to Schedules for HomeschoolingLeah Courtney
When I was a young homeschool mom, I tried for a time to follow a strict schedule. I’m an organized, scheduled person, and I had read a great book about organizing my home and homeschool. So I scheduled our days in thirty-minute increments, determined that this was the key to a happy, productive homeschool life. But, for us, it wasn’t.
The strict schedule was just a frustration. If I woke up a little later or got the kids moving a little later than our set start time, the whole day was thrown off, and I spent all day feeling behind. If we began reading a great book during our history time, we didn’t want to stop when our time was up and we were supposed to move on to the next scheduled block. And if we ever left home for errands or appointments, our entire day was completely thrown, and I felt guilty for not sticking to the schedule.
I was frustrated and overwhelmed, and because I felt that way, the kids picked up on it. The strict schedule wasn’t a good thing for any of us.
And then I read about routines. With routines, our days were flexible and fluid. If we started later in the day, we just continued through our set routines. If we were engrossed in reading, and a subject took twice as long to complete, it didn’t matter. We moved along in our routine at our own pace. When we were out somewhere for the day, I could pick up our routine when we came home. Because we weren’t trying to stick to rigid time slots, I felt much less pressure. As a result, there was less pressure and stress throughout my entire home.
Routines Versus Schedules
So what’s the difference between a routine and a schedule? In the schedule we were trying to follow, I had set up time slots in thirty-minute increments. The idea was to stop what we were doing and move to the next thing at the end of that block of time. If I had scheduled an hour for a particular activity, we had to move on at the end of that hour no matter what or the next time block would be disrupted.
With routines, I have an order I want to follow in our day, but we don’t have time periods to stick to. I know that in the mornings I want to begin our day together with devotions. Then I want to do our joint school work. Then I want the kids to move in to the independent part of their school work. Then I want a rest time. And so on.
I have a set pattern that I want our day to flow through, but I don’t have a set amount of time for each thing.
Having a routine instead of a schedule means that we can adapt and adjust as we go along. Some things may take different lengths of time each day. With a flexible routine, we can move on to the next thing when we’re ready without the pressure of disrupting our whole schedule.
Setting Up Routines
To set up our daily routines, I first took a look at what I hoped to accomplish in a normal day: homeschool, housework, fun activities. Then I considered our natural flow. We’re late risers, so we do better starting school work a little later in the day. Some of my children work independently and some need more help. Many of our school subjects involve reading aloud together. So different children and different subjects require varying amounts of time.
After I took all of those things into consideration, I set up a flow for our day. I assigned just a few set times:
- a start time to our day — when we do morning devotions
- a set lunch time
- a set rest time
- a set supper time
These set times were still flexible, meaning the day wouldn’t fall apart if we were later for one; but they were meant to be check-in times, times where we could evaluate how much of our routines we’d accomplished and how we needed to adjust in order to get the most important things accomplished that day. For instance, if we came to lunch time and only had one school subject completed, we knew that after lunch and before rest time, we needed to get knuckle down for more school work.
One of the best things about using routines for our days has been that we can easily adapt them as we move through different seasons of life.
- high school co-op classes
- job schedules
- extracurricular activities
We’ve moved from studying subjects together as a family to doing more independent work. We’ve changed curriculum and had to adapt to the requirements of the curriculum. Because we are used to the flexible flow of our routines, we’ve been able to make these changes without big disruptions every time.
Using routines has been a great way to keep our days focused and help us to get things accomplished without the pressures and frustrations that can come with a strict schedule. Every family is different, and even within your family, different people may need different things when it comes to the ebb and flow of your day. If a strict schedule is working for your family, that’s great. But if you’re trying to work with a schedule and you’re feeling overwhelmed, try flexible routines for accomplishing all you need to do through your day.