Part of having an effective homeschool is having an efficient home, and great routines make the difference between chaos and efficiency.
Help! We Need A Morning Routine
A good morning routine will get your kids ready for learning more quickly and gently than the constant repetitious mom-directions we tend to engage in. How often do you repeat yourself OVER and OVER and OVER?
Put your shoes away.
Brush your teeth.
Did you brush your teeth?
Please go take a shower.
Put your clothes in the laundry.
Have you brushed your teeth yet?
Is your bed made?
Why are your clothes on the floor? I told you to put them in the laundry.
GO BRUSH YOUR TEETH!
If this sounds at all like you, this article is for you.
Talking Until I’m Blue In The Face Doesn’t Work
When I got tired of feeling like I said the very same words to my kids a hundred times a day, I decided it was time for a change. I sat down with my sweet children and told them they were giving me a sore throat and a headache. We needed to come up with a signal phrase that would remind them of all those things they already knew they were supposed to be doing.
First, we talked about all the things they needed to do before we could start school together. I served as scribe while they told me their ideas.
Things We Need To Do Before School
- Make bed
- Get dressed and put pjs away
- Eat breakfast and clear dishes
- Brush teeth, comb hair, deodorant for older ones
- Take care of animals (we have a little homestead with chickens, dogs, pigs, and fish…taking care of them all is no small task)
After we had lots of ideas, combined some (like getting dressed AND putting pjs away), and solidified our list, we ran through it a few times, having everyone practice saying the things they needed to do before school. Then we came up with a name for our morning routine – “Getting Ready for our Day.”
If Mom says, “It’s time to get ready for your day,” we all know exactly what that means. We don’t need a chart. They have been hearing these same requests every single day of their lives over many years. But to save me from losing my voice (and my patience), now I just have to say, “Good morning kids! It’s time to get ready for your day.” And they know what to do. Even better, they do it!
Building Good Habits
It took a little practice, so don’t lose hope if it doesn’t work like clockwork the first day. The first time I direct my kids a lot. I walk them through the process of exactly what I expect. Keep at it. After one week they’ll probably start getting it, and after a month the habits should be natural.
DO NOT REPEAT YOURSELF. Ask them once, using your signal word. After that, if they don’t do it, just get down on their level and look them directly in the eye with a smile and that twinkle in your eye that only a parent with high expectations has.
Then wait. Wait for them to come to it on their own. If they can’t figure out the expectation, simply ask, “What should you be doing right now?” If they still don’t know, walk to where you’ve posted the routine (ours was on the fridge) and just point at it. Whatever you do, don’t repeat yourself. It may take a bit, but they will get it. After a week or so you can chuck the list. . . they’ll have it down in no time.
Consistency is the Key
In the beginning you have to commit to being SUPER consistent. As they get better at it, it requires less reminding from me. It’s one of those things that takes a whole bunch of work, but has big enough pay-offs to make it worth it.
Let’s Add Some More Routines!
When I saw how well our morning routine was working I decided it was time to add a few more sanity-saving routines to our day. We added these one by one so they were completely mastered before expecting the kids to get a new one. Surprisingly, the kids actually seemed happy to have more routines. They know what’s expected, work quickly, and don’t have to wait for me to give directions.
The Routines We Added
- Morning Meeting – in which we gather to say prayers, do gospel or character instruction, work on memorization, fill out our planners and calendars, and do a little review. We created a chart and they all rotate through the assignments.
- Written Work Time – during which the kids complete their math, writing, and reading. They each have their own assignments in their planners and know how to get started. If they need help and I can’t get to them right away, they know the things they can do independently while they wait.
- Layers of Learning Time – This is when we all meet at the big table in the middle and bring our binders. The learning during this is collective and varied, but the routine tells us it’s time to gather our supplies and meet Mom at the big table.
- Chore Time – While I fix dinner they all have chores that they complete. It takes them about 20 minutes to get everything done, and they all have charts on the fridge to track their chores.
- Bedtime – This happens an hour and half or so before their actual bedtime and involves showering, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, and reading in bed until Mom comes around to tuck you in. Even my teens get tucked in. Tuck in takes me almost an hour because I read with the little ones, talk about our day, check in with how everyone is doing, and have heart-to-hearts with my kids. This could be quick, but it’s part of my day that I like to stretch out a little.
Benefits Of Building Family Routines
Routines have become my ROCK! They make all the difference in how our day goes. It’s like putting your day on cruise control – everybody knows what to do so it doesn’t take constant direction and nagging from Mom to get things done.
Ways They Benefit Me
- They cut down on planning time. I no longer have to plan out every minute of my kids’ day, because for the most part, they know what they should be doing.
- Make it easier for me to teach all of my kids even though their age range is big (7 to 15 right now, but they’ve had routines since they were much smaller. (When my kids are 6 they get their first school routines. We start with one – morning meeting, and then build up.)
- Things keep running. If I have to go switch the laundry or put dinner in the crock pot, my kids know what they should be doing. Even when I’m sick or have to be away for awhile, my kids carry on better on their own.
Ways They Benefit My Kids
- They save us time. Because we are more efficient, we have more free time to do other things.
- We get a lot accomplished. When everyone is independently doing what they should at the same time the efficiency is amazing to watch. (Contrast that with a scenario where Mom has to individually coerce/remind//nag/repeat herself with each kid one by one in order to accomplish anything.
- They let our minds REST. As we learn automaticity, our brains are actually allowed extra rest. Have you ever driven somewhere that you go all the time, pulled in, and then realized that you are hardly aware of how you got there? I’m not suggesting that you don’t pay attention on the road, but this is an example of a routine allowing your mind to rest. You are actually very aware, but your brain knows the routine so well that it doesn’t create a stress response. It creates a rest response. Routines equal relaxation once they have become automatic.
- It makes things extra fun when we throw the routine out the window! Sometimes I free my kids from routines on their birthdays for example, and let them sleep in and have breakfast in bed. We also have days where I surprise them by making their beds or taking care of the animals. We have Pajama Days sometimes. Once a routine is well established, it’s okay to throw it out sometimes and just have FUN.
Tips For Implementing Routines
- Decide what is the most important to you and start there. Start with ONE. Don’t try to start an entire day of routines all at once because they will be too much to process and remember. Keep on with one until the kiddos have it down pat. Once it’s automatic, then you can begin to add in another one.
- Give each routine a name. When I say “It’s time for morning meeting,” my kids know what to do. They plop themselves down on the couches in front of our whiteboard and get ready with their part in our morning routine. When I say, “Get started on your written work,” they know what to do. They head to their desks and check their planners. Have names for the parts of your school day that are routines so they can be a signal to your kids.
- Offer choices even within a routine. I don’t actually dictate every assignment my kids do. They each have a planner or a OneNote notebook that has ideas and resources. If it’s computer time, they have a big list of learning websites they can choose from. If it’s time for spelling, they have a big list of spelling activities they can peruse. They have a writer’s workshop tab in their notebooks full of writing genres and ideas. They choose many of their own assignments, all within the framework of our routine.
More From Layers of Learning
Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart! Visiting our Homeschool Helps page for lots more ideas to help you have a happy homeschool. You might also like our school planners for kids (super helpful when it comes to creating school routines!). Our catalog is full of engaging units to get your whole family learning together. Karen also has an excellent homeschooling guide for newbies and Michelle has one for homeschool veterans to help you feel inspired and always striving for a better homeschool.
We also have lots of fun and free lessons for homeschool families. Try some of these out in your homeschool this week. You’ll find all of these and SO much more in our curriculum. Bring the joy back to your homeschool!