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Please Explain How to Set Up a Routine Instead of a Schedule

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Dear Carrie
If I need a routine instead of a schedule, how do I go about setting that up?

I am having trouble trying to stick to my homeschool schedule. Part of my problem is I think I need more of a routine instead of a schedule. The times are driving me up a wall. I don’t like my schedule telling me I have to do such and such at 10:15. Sometimes at 10:10, the baby wakes early, the toddler needs a diaper change, and the 4 year has a tantrum!!! But, that is the way my scheduling book says to do it. So, that is what I’ve been trying to do it. It isn’t working! I am wondering if I should try more of a routine instead of a set schedule? What do you think? If I do prefer a routine to a schedule, how do I go about setting it up?

“Please Explain Setting Up a Routine Versus a Schedule”

Dear “Please Explain Setting Up a Routine Versus a Schedule,”

What a great question! I agree that I begin with a schedule and move to a routine. Making the schedule helps me be sure I will be available for the teaching times I have planned during the day. It also helps me make sure not everyone will need me at once (which can quickly descend into chaos)! During the first several weeks, I make sure I pay attention to how much time each subject really takes. Then, I can know I’m allowing enough time for subjects (or not allowing too much time, which leads to dawdling). Knowing how much time each subject SHOULD take, helps me know what I’m asking my kiddos to do is reasonable.

Schedule independent things back-to-back last in the day.

Scheduling several independent things back-to-back for my older kiddos last in the day has been so helpful! This gives them independent things they can work on if they finish early or if they have to wait a bit for me. For more information about the independent things in Heart of Dakota, check out last week’s post Are you having your child work toward the suggested level of independence in Heart of Dakota? Scheduling independent things last (after lunch) still allows my boys to follow their morning routine or schedule as planned. This way, they don’t interrupt my flow to the day. It allows their after lunch subjects to be done whenever they finish early with something in the morning. So, they might not finish that particular after lunch subject in one sitting. Rather, they might do it in bits throughout the morning as time allows. Many times, my boys have finished those after lunch subjects earlier in the day to be done by lunch. This way they don’t have any wasted time, if I’m not available.

Make sure the little ones are engaged during bigger teaching blocks.

I also make sure when designing my original schedule that the little ones are engaged during my bigger teaching blocks. I don’t mind interruptions so much when we’re doing things like handwriting, spelling, grammar, and math in the younger years. However, when I’m setting aside time for something like the left side of Beyond, I want to teach without interruptions. Or, when we’re doing phonics or any subject that is tough for a certain child, I don’t want any interruptions. So, I guard my uninterrupted teaching time carefully. This means the flow to everyone’s day must stay the same throughout the year. If my older kiddos jump around in any order in their schedule, then my uninterrupted teaching time is gone too. Hope that makes sense!

Make the schedule, but follow the order to have a routine.

So, I make the schedule and follow the order. I use the times as a gauge of whether we need to move along a bit more quickly or not. We do follow the same start-time everyday and try to have lunch at a similar time each day. Then, we just move through the rest of the items on the schedule in order, finishing when we do. Below, I’ll post the links on our Heart of Dakota Message Board for some of my past schedules and/or routines.

Here are links for some of our past schedules/routines and our “Let’s Share Our Schedules” thread.


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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Suanna Sears

    This is what we do. I plan a schedule and stick to it for a week or so and adjust if needed. Then we let the routine fall into place and we just try to do everything in the same order each day. We have set start and lunch/break times. If we find that we are struggling to get everything done we use the schedule again and evaluate what we need to do to get back on track. If I know we only have a set amount of time to work on something then we will set a timer to help us remember to set it aside and come back to it later or at the next class.

  2. Suanna, you make a good point about revisiting the schedule if it seems you are struggling. The timer is a wonderful tool as well. Thanks for sharing!

    In Christ,

  3. Audrey

    I need a better routine. My 2 year old and 4 year old often cause total chaos in our school day. They are not good with playing independently and demand my attention at almost all times. I’ve not figured out how to work around them very well yet.

    1. Oh Audrey, those little ones are a blessing, but they sure do keep us mamas busy, don’t they?!? One of my favorite posts of Carrie’s on our message board was what she was having her toddlers do during homeschooling. We talked about many of these ideas as sisters both homeschooling with toddlers, but I still printed the post myself and tried out my favorite ideas with my little ones. I’ve been asked this so often on the phone lately, I just reposted Carrie’s ideas here (in case you might find something helpful)…

      Keep up the good work you are doing homeschooling your family! There are stages of homeschooling, each with unique challenges. But no matter what, blessed is the mama who purposes to homeschool her family to know the Lord! Have a great Wednesday, Audrey!!!

      In Christ,

  4. Meg

    This was such a helpful blog post. I think the most helpful part was about sticking to a schedule and not changing. I am always thinking of ways that our school day could be more efficient, better managed, etc. so I have been changing our schedule frequently (once a month.) I will make a goal of sticking with our current schedule through the end of the school year, even if I have ideas of how to improve it. 🙂

    Also, a few questions I have for future blog posts …
    -what do you do with your weekly routine when you have older children with 4-day plans and younger children with 4-day plans? Do you spread out the younger kids’ school over more than 1 school year?

    Also, do you have any ideas for teaching little ones (ages 6 and younger) to respect 1:1 teaching time with older kids?

    1. Hi Meg! Watch for our next “Dear Carrie” blog post, which features a question with Carrie’s answer about homeschooling with Bigger Hearts… on a 4-day plan instead of a 5-day plan. (Isn’t it amazing how the Lord connects all the dots for us as a community of HOD users?!? This was the question and answer I chose for the next “Dear Carrie” blog post just prior to you posting this question here!!!) As far as respecting 1:1 teaching time with older kids, I have found logistics of where we do our teaching in our house makes a big difference. So, for my teaching time I prize the most and long to keep private (i.e. especially for devotionals we are doing, difficult math lessons I am teaching, oral narrations being given, Scripture memorization being said aloud to me, phonics lessons, etc.), I choose a quieter, private place, where I can shut the door. I also choose an amount of time I can truly ‘get away.’ So, for example, I meet with Wyatt in the addition at the table or on the couch or on the chairs for our private times. I limit this to 30 minutes. I shut the doors, and if someone bursts in, I remind them this is my time with Wyatt, and I am unavailable. I don’t answer their question unless it is an emergency. It also helps to have one of my private teaching times be early in the morning, while some of the kiddos are still sleeping. Or, vice versa, at night, while some of the kids are doing something else. Hope some of these ideas can help!

      In Christ,

  5. Julie

    I really like the advice on saving some of the older children’s independent work for later. I’ve been letting my youngest (5th) do her independent work in the morning, but as my olders (9th and 8th) are so very independent, I basically have nothing to do for a couple of hours in the morning. Sounds like a dream, right? Not really. 🙂 Youngest still needs time with me, and I would rather get her one-on-one time done in the morning and turn her loose on her independent work later. Then the olders will be ready for me to discuss and go over anything they need. I’m not sure if I’m making sense!

    1. Hi Julie! You’re making total sense! We have similar aged children (my sons are in 5th, 9th, 12th). I think you will love having your teaching time first with your 5th grader, and then have your teaching time later with your older children. That will give your older children time to get more work done, so by the time you meet with them, they will have more to share. It will also give you a chance to pop in and help your 5th grader if she needs some help with her independent work (or at least my 5th grade son still needs me to check on him). Great thoughts you’ve shared here, and I hope you enjoy the change!

  6. Julie

    I’m trying to click on the links at the end of this, but I keep getting an internal error message?

    1. Hi Julie! Thanks for letting us know, and we hope to have this resolved soon. So sorry for the inconvenience!

      In Christ,

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