“Rest, therefore, is not the absence of work or a failure to consider and carry out a plan. It is work and leisure, properly ordered.”
– Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching From Rest
“Rhythm calms and secures children, grounding them in the earth of family so they can branch out and grow.”
“Where well-established rhythms exist, there is much less parental verbiage, less effort, and fewer problems around transitions.”
“Yes, rhythm makes children feel more secure. Absolutely. But a sense of rhythm makes adults calmer too, and less plagued by parental craziness. With consistent structures in place, you’ll feel less like a Border collie, constantly nipping at your children’s heels.”
– Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting
“Young children thrive on predictable routines, and yours will be calmer and happier if you keep your schedule uncluttered.”
– Jennifer Pepito, The Peaceful Preschool
I hesitate to share this for the same reason I often pause before sharing what curriculum I use or how what we do regarding vaccinations… because it seems there’s always someone who jumps to copy precisely what we do without researching the possibilities, without talking to the Lord about it, without taking the uniqueness of their own family into account.
So in sharing our school day rhythm that has worked for us many years now, I’m in no way proclaiming, “Copy this!” My hope is that this helps you in some way, even if it’s just to tweak one part of your day or to stir up your own ideas about what might work for you and yours in this season of life. You’ll notice our schedule flows from one harder thing to an easier, all day long. My Quinn especially, with his focusing issues, thrives with this routine, though I’ve found spacing out school throughout the day rather than cramming it all into the morning has benefited all of us. We can all enjoy it and absorb it more fully.
We start our days pretty early. I am far from a morning person, and over the years this has been a slow transition and takes all the self-motivation I can muster to get up early, but we’ve learned that the quality of our school day and therefore the quality of our lives is significantly better when we start early. We aren’t rushed to complete things.
Other than when we start our day and our mealtimes, I don’t pay attention to the clock. What I’ve laid out for you is the order in which we do things on a typical school day. Being a slave to the clock only multiplies my anxiety, because life happens.
One more thing before I share our day.. this is not a suggested day for those with only littles! (That would look far simpler… something like this: breakfast, chores, morning time on the sofa together with stories and songs, snack and play break, hands-on learning such as painting/playdough/sand tracing/puzzles/scooping and sorting, tidy and lunch, books and rest, outside play).
6:30 a.m. My alarm goes off – the swell of piano music softly grows in volume. I slowly rise, blurry-eyed and hazy all over, head to the bathroom, wash my face, and throw on the clothes I set out the night before.
I head to the kitchen at the other end of the house and make my coffee as I talk to God. I curl up with my coffee on the sofa, read any newsletters in my inbox from Sally Clarkson, scroll my favorites on Instagram for a few minutes. No, this is not my quiet time; that comes after breakfast when I’m fully awake. I discovered after years of struggle, that a screen and coffee is required for me at this point to stimulate my mind and wake, or else I’m back asleep within minutes!
7ish a.m. Ellie (13) naturally wakes up about this time (always my early bird) and after visiting for a few minutes we start working on breakfast together.
7:30ish a.m. Willow is usually up by this time, and once breakfast is ready I wake the boys and we gather around the table. We may talk about our day, the weather, what we dreamed about, etc, and then I read a passage from Acts (currently) for us to discuss.
8ish a.m. God Time. We all head to our corners and spend 20-30 minutes in peaceful quiet, alone with God. One of the big kids takes Willow (a different one each day) and they have special one on one time with her. This guarantees I will have this much-needed time connecting to the Lord and trains the kids to also begin their days with this moment of calm, handing over their concerns to God, allowing His word to strengthen them.
8:30ish a.m. Morning Chores. I ring the bell to alert everyone to begin. (Our house is about 90 feet long, so I prefer this over yelling)! We tackle the kitchen altogether, then make our beds, brush teeth, get dressed and put away PJs, take our vitamins. Loud music pulses through the house to get our bodies moving. 🙂
9:00ish a.m. Math. Gavin (17) heads to his dual credit college classes. As Ellie and Quinn need little assistance with their Teaching Textbooks Math, I use this time to do some fun preschool projects with Willow (4) or read picture books with her. I use The Peaceful Preschool for playful ideas. Willow declares that ‘school’ is her favorite part of her day.
Nature walk on Fridays before math. (no copywork or spelling Fridays).
10:00ish a.m. Snack and Break
10:30ish a.m. Willow plays on her own while I spend time with Quinn (10) in either grammar, writing, poetry, spelling, art study, or geography. Ellie (13) works on the same subjects independently for the most part.
11:15ish a.m. Outside (if possible) free play until lunch.
12:00 p.m. Lunchtime. I cherish this time. After we’ve talked for a while and laughed over various things (oh potty talk… do boys ever outgrow)?! I read aloud from either our current nature or literature read aloud, then the kids verbally narrate the reading.
1:00ish p.m. Lunchtime Chores. This may be one of the best ideas that I implemented many years ago. While I clean the kitchen, the big kids tackle one chore. On Monday one child may dust the living room while another wipes the mirrors and another cleans the toilets. They do a different chore each day and it takes them 5-10 minutes. Just taking care of a little at a time has worked beautifully for us. Many folks take Fridays as a cleaning day, but that not only overwhelms my kids, but me as well. Our house is never perfect, not even close, but this certainly helps to keep it (mostly) decent. And I don’t carry the weight of trying to figure out when the bathrooms will be cleaned and the plants watered, etc.
1:20ish p.m. Quiet Reading Time. Oh sweet glory. Without this time I’m a drained mess come 4:00. The kids find a cozy spot and read. Quinn has a difficult time focusing on reading for long, so after 20 minutes he practices his ukulele. As Willow has never been a napper, I turn on a show for her and then for the remainder of the time she rests and looks at picture books. I spend about a half-hour reading from my current stack and then I may scroll Instagram or check email.
2:00ish p.m. Snacktime and History/Nature Study. We alternate between The Kind Kingdom’s history and nature study. The curriculum includes a long list of excellent books and the kids record what they’re learning through artwork and written narrations in their notebooks. We burn candles, enjoy a snack, play my Pride and Prejudice pandora station and thoroughly enjoy this rich time learning together. Willow plays closeby (often in my lap). Once every two weeks we have a poetry tea time (with a treat) instead.
3:00ish p.m. Tidy and Free Play! While the kids are tidying around the house, this is usually when I throw in another load of laundry and pull out a drier full. We then quickly fold the towels together and everyone collects their clothing and puts it away. Then they enjoy free time until dinner, and I grab my kombucha and put my feet up (often on the back porch) for a little while.
4:00ish p.m. Dan arrives home by 4 most days (he leaves in the morning by 6!), and we take some time to catch up and relax, walking around the property or on the sofa, before we start dinner together.
This is my job. It’s the most important one I could ever have, and I’ve learned that when I lean into it wholeheartedly, there is abundant joy in it for all of us. Sure, once in a while we just need to sleep in and simply bake or enjoy books together. But when we regularly slept in, lacked a healthy predictability to our days, and I didn’t invest energy into learning together, we walked around dazed and struggled just to get the ‘basics’ taken care of. There wasn’t time or energy for the beautiful, life-giving education that weaves richness into our days.