Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s working for us, answering the most common questions we get from today’s first-generation homeschooling moms.
What’s Working: Develop a Daily Homeschool Routine
I am one of those list-making/calendar-posting/digital-app-loading recovering perfectionist moms who has tried to keep it all together seven ways ’til Sunday since we started homeschooling. I wouldn’t have expected otherwise from a former editorial manager who once kept an assignments timeline whiteboard up on the office wall and project management spreadsheet open on the laptop at all times.
However, no matter what fabulous system I had tried or trendy app I downloaded to manage my homeschooling days my first two years, I never seemed to get out of the “moment by moment” mode of simply getting through the day — with only the most urgent needs accomplished.
My sister-in-law Rosanna Ward wrote a post for this blog about the idea of keeping a daily routine instead of a schedule. At the time, I thought it was a great idea and vowed to try it. But I never got around to figuring out what ideal “routine” would work for my family.
For starters, we’re not early risers (myself included). We’re all alert and active in the evening: A group of “night owls,” as my mom used to call me when I was just a tween staying up at all hours of the night to read a gripping novel or mystery with a flashlight. Apparently all three of my girls inherited my night-owl tendencies.
Then there were the curriculum changes. I will admit that even a NextGen Homeschooler like myself can have trouble finding the ideal curriculum for my teaching style and my three daughters’ learning styles and current ages. Not having a routine dictated by your curriculum’s lesson plan can make it even more challenging to find your stride.
So what’s working now?
We got the curriculum question answered for our family when we switched to Trail Guide to Learning. The unit study approach made it really easy to create a routine that flowed with my girls’ different learning styles and kept us all engaged throughout the day, while still being flexible.
Previously, I found it challenging to plan for our daily household and family needs alongside our school work. Now that we have curriculum that fits our workflow needs, I found it easier to sit down and think about the elements that made up our most productive days to come up with a daily routine we could all strive for.
Here’s an example of a daily routine plan for my 13-year-old:
- Wake up, pray and read personal devotions.
- Eat breakfast, get dressed.
- Start independent reading and assignments (science or math, grammar, writing).
- Meet with Mom for one-on-one time.
- Group lesson: Biblical Worldview
- Lunch and cleanup
- Group lesson: Unit Study
- Independent assignments (science or math) and review with Mom.
- Afternoon pickup (clean your zone).
- Afternoon enrichment activity / project / library / free time.
This has been a huge step in the right direction for my girls. Overall, we’re moving through the day with purpose. Yet there’s enough flexibility for days when we have homeschool co-ops such as book club, presentation days, and PE. For my two middle schoolers, I’ve also purchased individual Student Daily Planners so they can keep track of their assignments for the week and work them into the daily routine, giving them some flexibility to accomplish their independent work at their own pace.
Of course, much of the daily routine revolves around my three girls. My personal routine has been a little more challenging, mainly because I’m not as much of a creature of habit as I used to be pre-kids. My mornings are very consistent: Personal devotions and prayer, get ready/get coffee/etc, and get the girls up. After that, I tend to react to everything on THEIR routine list — trying to fit my personal to-dos into the nooks and crannies of the day. However, by creating a daily routine, I can move from working with them to working on other responsibilities with more intention and focus than in the past.
Saved by the Planners!
One new planning strategy that has helped me start each day more proactively is the combination of two planners: The On The Go Well Planned Day Planner from HEDUA (to plan out all of my personal/work/family to do items) and the Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia. Because I use these planners very differently, they are not redundant. I use the Ultimate Homeschool Planner for lesson planning, strategizing with my girls individually, tracking school work progress, keeping tabs on field trips and reading lists, etc. I use the On The Go Well Planned Day Planner as my daily to-do journal: Keeping track of everything that I need to personally accomplish and keeping the family appointments and activities in clear view at all times.
Personally, I’ve come to love the idea of a daily routine instead of an hour-by-hour, or subject-by-subject schedule. I feel like we are still getting everything accomplished without feeling forced to switch gears when it’s not natural, and without feeling stressed that I missed checking off every single box on a daily schedule. If you’re struggling with how to schedule your day, you might want to think about trying the routine method too.
What’s working for you in the scheduling/planning/preparation department? Do you have a schedule, a routine, a day planner, or a fabulous “app” that keeps your family running on track? We’d love to know what works for you! Share your favorite planners in the comments below.