Full disclosure: I’m not naturally gifted at structure and organization. But there is nothing more important to a successful homeschooling day than a great morning routine.
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When we first began homeschooling, our kids were 5 and 4, with a toddler and an infant added to the mix. Our mornings were kind of a mess, as you might expect. This mama was tired, with middle of the night feedings, potty training, wonky hormones, and no idea how to do this homeschool thing. I woke when the kids woke, and there were more than a few days when my night wear turned into day wear and then turned back into night wear.
School was something that sometimes got worked into our day and often didn’t. Which was okay, given that my kids were so young. We still read together, made crafts, colored, played outside, watched PBS, and survived.
As the kids aged though, I had trouble moving on from our existing routine. I still woke when they woke, which meant that our mornings were unorganized and late getting started. Sometimes we wouldn’t do schoolwork until afternoon nap time for the babies. Again, it worked okay most days, but I can honestly say that I was not putting my best out there for myself or for my kids.
About 6 years ago, I recognized that I needed to re-think our morning routine by changing myself. I had to create structure so that we could be more successful in our attitudes, in getting our work done, and in making our days more productive for our learning and our family life.
I spent some time assessing what was working and not working for me as an individual, and for the kids. After identifying the areas that needed to change, I made small, manageable alterations little by little, until our new routine took shape. My list looked like this:
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Give myself an hour before the kids get up.
My kids are generally early risers, so my alarm goes off at 6:30. I get right up and head to the shower, counting on the hot water to wake me the rest of the way up. Once I’m clean and dressed, I can do my devotions without falling back asleep.
I know that not all of you share my faith, and that’s totally fine. But for me in my walk with the Lord, I have to have a solid 20-30 minutes of bible reading and prayer at the start of the day, in the quiet of my room. It fixes my eyes on Jesus and gets my attitude in alignment, and if I don’t do it then, it just won’t happen.
Two cups. Dark Roast. Entirely necessary.
We all have one morning household chore to do. Wash dishes, vacuum, dust, collect trash, feed and potty the dog, etc. We rotate these between each person on a weekly basis.
The kids are all old enough now to get their showers, dress, make and eat breakfast, tidy their rooms and do their devotions and chores in time for school. When they were younger, we used an amazing Chore Chart to help. My daughter does her shower and devos before bed at night because that works best for her. My boys tend to be a little sketchy with their quiet times, but with encouragement, they do them on a semi-regular basis.
A Consistent Start Time For Lessons.
At 8:30 every day we gather in the dining room for school. We used to do lessons in the living room, but I find that my kids work better whilst sitting at a table. And quite frankly, we need to be together for the accountability.
For us, everything we do is for the glory of the Lord. At least, in theory. In practice, this means that we start our day by focusing on Jesus. I find that it helps to set the right tone and attitude for our family dynamic and our school work. Sometimes I read a chapter from the bible. Sometimes I read The Zombie Apocalypse Guide For Teenagers devotional. Then we pray together.
I’ve always loved reading aloud to my kids. And even as they’ve gotten older, my kids still enjoy being read to. Each year I try to find a good book series to read through. We’ve done Harry Potter (with accent and voices) twice, The Chronicles of Prydain, Swiss Family Robinson, and a few others. My children would probably tell you this is their favorite part of the school day. Mine too.
History Read Alouds.
Now that I have high schoolers, we don’t do this anymore, and I miss it. But when we used My Father’s World, I would read our history excerpts aloud rather than assigning it individually. Doing this meant that my younger kids could hear the same things, even before they were independent readers.
Individual Instruction and Work.
The rest of our school day entails the kids breaking off into their own work: math, english, co-op homework, reading, etc. Depending on age/grade this will take between 1-3 hours. For me it means helping them to understand their work, giving advice, helping them find info online or in books, checking their completed work, and planning for the next day.
Our days aren’t perfect, but there is a wonderful difference between those early years before I added some discipline to our mornings. You might be reading this and thinking we are not structured enough, or that we are way too rigid. Obviously, each family is wired differently. But if you are struggling with routine, with getting things accomplished, with motivating yourself or your children to get things done, I hope this gives you some helpful ideas.