by Rebecca Kocsis
In our many years of homeschooling, we tried several different schedules. Year by year our family dynamics changed, so every year looked a little different. Still for many years, ours was a pretty dyed-in-the-wool homeschool family with a pretty traditional homeschool schedule. It wasn’t until our oldest daughter got married and I started working that our schedule changed significantly.
Schedule probably isn’t the right term. Because homeschooling is a lifestyle, life can very quickly bring the unexpected that can undermine a schedule in a heartbeat. Our days were governed by routines that could be broken up into portions of the day and also days of the week.
My husband had always needed to be up and out of the house before the sun for his daily commute. It made perfect sense to get up then to do my devotions. Very early on, I trained my children to respect my quiet time. If by chance somebody woke up, they were sent back to bed upon threat of the wrath of Mama if they woke the baby. They could play quietly or look at books as long as they didn’t wake anyone else up. With a busy family of seven, this was the only way that I had a quiet moment to be alone with the Lord.
When it was time to get up, the house became a flurry of activity. We were all about breakfast, dishes, feeding pets … Sometimes I cooked for everyone. Sometimes it was “every man for himself.” Yes, we got dressed—most of the time.
We always began with Bible study, memorization, and prayer—religiously. It was important that we accomplished this first, before other demands of the day could take over. Study of the Word of God was the one eternal subject. The rest—ELA, Science, Social Studies—all would be taught from a biblical perspective, but if the water heater burst or we had to take an unexpected trip to the doctor and those were postponed, at least I knew I had looked after the eternal first.
Those days I reminded myself of Proverbs 16:9 (NASB). “The mind of a person plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” God was on His throne, even though my day might have been going haywire.
These were some of the sweetest times but could also be some of the most challenging. It wouldn’t be uncommon for there to be squabbles about who would sit (or more like recline) where. Then there was the age old, “She touched me with her foot.” And, “He breathed on me!” It was important to see these as fiery darts and quench them with the shield of faith and persevere.
Then the bigs were off to do some independent work while I focused on the little ones. Giving them some undivided attention early in the day helped them to be content when I needed to do focused work with the older kids. Even if the little kids were content, there were still regular interruptions. It helped to routinely expect them.
Once lunch and any remaining lessons were out of the way, we spent a significant amount of time reading aloud. Everyone would gather in the living room, draped across furniture or sprawled on the floor to listen to the latest piece of literature or historical fiction that we were reading. It was not uncommon for Daddy to come home from work and join the kids on the floor to listen in.
Homeschooling done right is messy. I hope that makes you feel a little better about the “evidence” of homeschooling all around your house. At some point during the afternoon, we all would stop whatever we were doing and spend 10-15 minutes straightening up and putting things away. Books and puzzles would go back to their shelves. Stray dishes would be put in the dishwasher. Clothes and shoes found their homes in appropriate closets. Then just as suddenly, we could go on about our business. This way the house was fairly in order as we headed into the late afternoon and evening.
During that time I would also find a minute to run a brush through my hair and put on some lipstick. So many days, I had not even looked at myself in a mirror since I had gotten out of bed. And it showed!
Monday through Thursday
These were the busy days. We focused hard on daily lessons, projects, mastering math facts, vocabulary lists, etc. We went on field trips and out-of-home classes. These days were reserved for piano lessons, park days, and organized sports, plus midweek service and youth groups. We had the opportunity to participate on a swim team that did not practice or compete on weekends. What a blessing that was!
These were also the days the bigs did their laundry, sheets and towels included. Everyone had an assigned laundry day. I know what you are thinking. How could each child possibly have enough laundry of their own? Believe me, they had plenty! Sometimes they would team up, combining whites, or jeans. Sometimes they were on their own. Don’t lose the main point here: They were responsible for their own laundry. I no longer had to do it. Hallelujah!
Fridays were different. This was reserved for tests and finishing up projects or lessons missed during the week. For the very young ones, we only did math and reading. Then the rest of the day was spent doing what became known as “Friday Chores.” Each of the children had assigned household chores to do so that by late afternoon the whole house had been freshly cleaned that day.
I had Friday chores, too. I devoted my time to reviewing and writing lesson plans for the next week. I did laundry for the grown ups and babies. No, I never did entrust any of the bigs with my clothes! Sheets and towels, yes. Clothes? Never! Yes, those babies did eventually get big enough to do their own laundry and take their place in the “Friday Chores” routine.
That was the day that I also planned meals and grocery shopped. Oddly enough after that, I was usually too tired to cook. I say that tongue in cheek. We rewarded ourselves for all of our hard work with pizza for dinner and family movie night. And I bought soda. That was a rare treat in those days. When I became a stay-at-home, working mom, we ate a lot more pizza, and soda was not quite as rare!
It felt so good to go into a busy weekend knowing we had a freshly cleaned house and lessons were done. We had earned our weekend!
This routine served us well for many years. Once the foundational routines had been laid, rather than being a taskmaster, I was more like a ringleader and a guide.
As the bigs started taking college courses and got jobs, it was harder and harder to keep it. “Friday Chores” were scattered throughout the week, as busy schedules allowed. The house was still cleaned, but not all in one day.
Read aloud times we more sparsely attended. I found myself re-reading books that we had read years ago, because the younger ones, no longer babies, didn’t remember hearing them. Even my religiously-held Bible time was not as well-attended as one by one, our children grew up.
Oh, how I missed those days of Bible time, hours of reading aloud, and “Friday Chores.” Still, each season presented itself with new blessings and opportunities and new routines. Sometimes we fell into them quite organically, and sometimes it took no small amount of creativity to make it work. Each transition and new season looked a little different, but with each we had the satisfaction of knowing that we were doing what the Lord had shown us to do, disciple our children at home. As our brood grew older, it just looked different.
Hindsight is 20/20
In retrospect, I realize that the more kids we were homeschooling, the more structured I was in our day. I had to be or we would not accomplish what we needed to. As the children graduated, got jobs, or left the nest, the more relaxed I became. There weren’t as many lessons for me to oversee; not as many busy schedules to juggle.
So if you have a smaller family, your routines could very well be different. You may never need to say things like, “Eat breakfast now or forever hold your peace. It’s almost time for Bible.”
I’ve observed families of night owls who don’t get moving until noon, and they are doing science experiments way past my bedtime. That works for them. I also know families that are much more regimented than mine, who would never dream of allowing pajamas to “school time.”
The important thing to remember is to find a routine that works for your family. It might take awhile. Once you find it, hold onto it loosely as it will morph as your family grows. Each of us has to find our own rhythm. My prayer is that each parent reading this will find their own unique homeschool rhythm and routine; that the Lord will bless you with grace and peace when interruptions come; and grant you the satisfaction of knowing you are doing His will as you disciple your children at home.
What’s your favorite homeschool routine?