What’s Working: A daily routine vs. schedule

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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 tried or trendy app I downloaded to manage my homeschooling days, 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.

Until now.

Last year, my sister-in-law Rosanna Ward wrote a post 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. Consequently, I never nailed down a daily routine we could actually stick to and be successful at.

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 halfway through last fall, when I picked up and switched to Trail Guide to Learning’s Paths of Exploration. 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.

Then I discovered some wonderful free home scheduling printables from designer Amy Bayliss that made it easy to draft new home/schooling/life plans that met our household and family needs alongside our unit study work in Paths of Exploration. Using Amy’s templates, I sat down, thought about the elements that made up our most productive days, and came up with a daily routine we can all strive for. Here’s a glimpse of the girls’ daily routine sheets:


If you’re curious, here’s their complete daily routine.

This has been a huge step in the right direction for my girls. Yes, we’re halfway into February and I still have to remind them of “what’s next,” but 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.

Of course, this daily routine belongs to my three girls. My 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 — not much better than before!

Then I remembered one of my favorite Jesus-following/writer/blogger/homeschooling mamas, One Thousand Gifts author Ann Voskamp, shared a “sanity manifesto” in early January with a free printable daily planner for creating new habits, so I went back and printed it out.

Love it!

Here’s a snapshot of tomorrow’s mama plan: (FYI the “doxology” is blank because it’s for tracking the day’s gifts from God — a must for sanity & peace seekers!)


So I keep these printed out blank on an old clipboard, and each night I fill in tomorrow’s plan — keeping all my areas of life alongside homeschooling in perspective all at once. Whatever doesn’t get done gets circled, and it goes on tomorrow’s list (which is the next blank page under today’s plan). Like I said, I LOVE this: It just works for me. Thank you Ann Voskamp!

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.

19 thoughts on “What’s Working: A daily routine vs. schedule

  1. LOVE this Renee. I’m testing productivity approaches all year and while I’m not a paper person, this looks very appealing! I think I will test it for a week. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    1. Let me know how it goes, Melanie – I have been trying to go all digital but I found I needed to look a paper “to do” that had things segmented for me so I kind of knew what to hit when. I’ll be curious to hear what you find in your search!

  2. I’ve made many a schedule that didn’t last, but the routine is changing my life! I don’t have times to re write each day, and I rarely have time for much more than the daily routine. So I created a routine that would work all. the. time.

    1. Musts (laundry, prep meals, time with children)
    2. Shoulds (dishes, pay 1 bill a day)
    3. Coulds (pick up toys, sweep floor)

    Each day I start at the top and work my way down my list, stopping as needed (take care of children, schoolwork, a trip to town, etc). When I return, I simply resume where I left off.

    I don’t finish the Shoulds every day, and only accomplish the Coulds twice a week or so, but that’s ok.
    I’m much more relaxed and sane with a routine! Love it! 🙂

    1. I really like this approach, too, Paige. I may categorize my evening routine this way. My evening routine takes over 4 hours to complete, but once I get home from work I only have 2.5 hours before bedtime, so, obviously, it doesn’t all get done. I might feel better about it not all getting done if I could tell myself that I at least got all of the musts done and some of the shoulds.

  3. Thank you for posting this. It’s always helpful for me to see what other families are doing. I read Ann’s blog as well and have the same printable, actually I just printed it again yesterday.

    1. Hi Connie! Glad this post was helpful to you. I love Ann’s blog! What I love about her “daily” are the prompts — sometimes I need to see things (almost like someone asking me a question) for me to remember them. I feel like my mind must work a lot like hers because this totally made sense to me. Hope it works for you too!

  4. We do the routine as opposed to schedule thing, too. We enjoy the flexibility that it allows. 🙂

    Thanks for linking up to Inspired Wednesday!

  5. Yes, we use routines instead of schedules–I feel constantly defeated by the time constraints of a schedule. Our days are packed so honestly our routines HAVE a schedule, but I don’t feel so hemmed in by it and that works for us.

    1. Hi Jamie! I am with you that schedules always made me feel defeated. They are perfectly fine for appointments, but so constraining to the natural flow of a homeschooling day. And like you said, when you’re busy with activities, the homeschool routine can flow easily around those scheduled times. Glad it’s working for you too!

  6. Your tendencies sound like ours, and we’ve struggled as well. I’m going to mark this and come back and re-read it again later, and take a good look at your schedule and the printables you linked. Partly we struggle with kiddos who all need different things, one of the most needy who needs things I struggle with giving! (Ahem, early mornings!) Thanks for this post!

    1. I hope some of these printables work for you, DaLynn! New habits are always hard to create, and even more for kids with different personalities. I know we have some work to do still, but these steps have us moving in the right direction. Hope they will prove helpful to you too!

    1. Thanks for sharing your printable, Jeannine! I think punch cards are really helpful, especially for the younger ones so they can see themselves earning points toward their prize with each step.

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