Schedules, Routines and Time Management

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It’s challenging to shift gears when everything feels out of sync.


Somehow my life has gotten totally off track this year. I realized long ago that as a stay at home, homeschooling mother married to a small business owner who works nights, that I needed to stay flexible. Whatever “schedule” I may have, it has to be able to bend and flex around my husband’s day and my children’s moods.

But I am a person that does better with structure. I like to know that things get done in a certain order every day or every week. Without this structure, my life just seems to fall apart — and it is very hard to get all the different gears of my life in sync again once they seem to be off track.

Several years ago, I started following, an online organizational coach, and I have learned a lot from Flylady and her tips online. I still can’t seem to get totally in sync, but she has taught me about the importance of routines.

Instead of trying to live by a schedule that is constantly disrupted and needs to be changed, I try to live by a routine. The difference is that a schedule is nailed down to a clock, whereas a routine is more flexible.

Routines aren’t tied to time slots, so they’re easier to keep up.

We all have routines. We get up, brush our teeth, get dressed, etc. — pretty much in the same order every day, out of habit. We do certain things every day or every week. Those are routines. So I try to make a good daily routine that keeps all the areas of my life working together.

However, sometimes my routines get out of whack. And I find that the longer I let them slip, the harder it is for me to get things back on track.

Right now I feel like I have really slipped off the track. I spend most of my days trying to keep up with my 13-month old son Leif, and just the thought of trying to get a routine going again wears me out — so I have put it off day after day. Actually, having my youngest son, our fourth child, is what threw my routine off in the first place, and I haven’t been able to get it back together since.

At first, I was just too busy enjoying having a baby in the house again — and I still do, don’t get me wrong. But now that “baby” is walking and climbing and pulling stuff out of drawers. On top of that, I received a Beagle puppy for my birthday. What was I thinking? Toddler + Puppy = CHAOS. Leif drags stuff out, then the puppy rips it to shreds or chews it up.

As a result, it has been difficult this school year to focus on teaching my first grader, Joel, while Leif and the puppy are having a heyday nearby. But I have finally decided to stop and figure this out. I can either continue to follow behind and repair the damage, or I can be proactive.

So this week, I went out and bought a baby/puppy gate and a couple of baby locks. I can now contain Leif in a room nearby with his toys while I teach Joel — without the puppy nearby. That was the first step.

I must confess another slip in the routine I have made recently: In the mornings when the boys (and puppy) wake up, I bring them all in bed with me and we lay around until 8:30 or 9:00am. My reason for doing this was basically me putting off the inevitable mess to come as long as possible. But it also made me feel lazy the rest of the day.

Routines are like agenda items, so when they take place is more flexible.

Here is the routine I want to establish for my weekdays:

  • I need to get up before the boys, get myself ready (otherwise it is hard to find time to shower), and have a quiet devotion before my day gets going.
  • Then I need to get the boys up and ready — no playing around all morning — dressed, teeth brushed, and breakfast eaten.
  • School needs to start directly after breakfast. This is important, because many times things happen later in the day that distract our focus from schoolwork. Leif will play upstairs while I work with Joel.
  • Then we will have a snack and play time together.
  • After that will be reading time and then lunch.
  • After lunch, Leif takes a nap and Joel does something quiet, with an educational purpose. During this naptime is also when I need to get to the gym (since my husband is home by then).
  • Snack and play time follow Leif’s nap.

At night, I also need to establish a better bedtime routine for the boys. Snack, jammies, teeth brushed, reading, prayers, and lights out. This one is especially hard for me, as I tend to get focused on my own thing in the evening and lose track of time. But I know from previous experience that when I live by a routine, I actually seem to have more time to do the things I want to do than when I do not stick to it.

What kind of routines or schedules do you have for your homeschooling day? Have you found any time management tips to be particularly helpful while homeschooling with toddlers in the house? How are your routines or schedules working? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

To read my sister-in-law Renée’s take on how she uses a daily routine to keep her homeschool on track, check out “What’s Working: A daily routine vs. schedule.