“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.
~This article can also be found on http://www.cohesivehome.com – an inspiring community of intentional families ~
We were living the only way we knew. Our schedule was overwhelming. Our 6 year old, Gavin, was in baseball and Tae Kwon Do a couple nights a week, and we often brought our younger kids along. There was also heavy involvement in church activities and many responsibilities we had taken on there. With all of this piled on top of the time Gavin was away at school, there was little time remaining for us to be a family. There was an emptiness in all the busyness, and a hurt in all the hurry.
My husband, Dan, was the first to challenge the way we were living. I recall us arriving home late one school night, his hands full carrying Ellie (lying limp over his shoulder) and my hands full with Gavin’s baseball gear. Gavin was exhausted, walking alongside his father as he held on to him, his head bobbing against Dan’s side. Dan paused, released a troubled sigh, and very seriously said to me, “Why do we feel the need to live like this?” Truth be told, we were drained, but until that moment I assumed that was the only acceptable way to live. A lifestyle free from hurry seemed scandalous. We had felt the worldly obligation to over schedule and rush and had jumped in without questioning it. Life wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was a life in which we were not truly connected as a couple, nor in tune with our children’s hearts, nor grounded with purpose. We were spread a mile wide and felt an inch deep.
When Dan questioned the way we were living, I was reluctant to change initially. There were fears of our kids ‘missing out.’ After much thought and prayer a sense of relief began to wash over me as my eyes were opened to the fact that we were already missing out on what mattered, and that whether we lived in the 21st century or not, we could choose a different path.
This marked the beginning of a shift in our thoughts and a pivotal change in our lives as we began to disregard the messages of our culture and instead uncover the longings God had placed deep in our hearts. Little did we fathom then that this would eventually lead us to homeschooling, moving 100 miles from the city and everything we knew, buying a little house on 11 acres and adding chickens as well as a milk cow!
Now we were on the course to simplify our lives and to guard our time. For the first time we dared to dream of a life rich in simplicity, a life that would give our children a strong foundation and tie us together as family. A life lived open enough that we could spontaneously bake a batch of cookies together, venture on wildflower hunts, identify the constellations while lying on the grass, grab our kayaks and head to the lake on a whim, learn to build a barn and our home together, linger long over dinner as we read aloud another chapter, worship alongside each other in our home and our country church, open our home to share hearts with others, create trails on our land for exploring and go cart driving. And by the grace of God, this is our life. A life in which there is time enough for the kids to explore their interests, whether it’s learning to build a magnetic generator and reading all the great books, taking his kayak out on the lake or playing his guitar (Gavin), writing the story of our family since we’ve moved to the country, floating in her kayak, taking painting lessons from her aunt or playing the piano (Ellie), climbing yet another tree, figuring out how to build what’s in his head with his Legos as well as wood, and completing his Wild Explorer Club assignments (Quinn), or all of us out on our land playing around.
It’s often messy with all this togetherness and we screw up more than I like, but that gives us opportunities to learn to love well and practice forgiveness. Our children’s relationships with each other go deep. They truly enjoy each other as they have ample time and space to do so free from the pull of screens and distractions. There is time and space to hug, create, play, laugh, explore, share hopes, discover passions, thoroughly deal with heart issues, and be. To just be. It’s vital for our soul’s nourishment and growth, but is the most rejected activity today.
Throughout the years we’ve realized that anytime we gravitate toward a busy lifestyle (even recently) we begin to deal with our children as tasks, moving through our days giving them orders and going through the motions of family life. However, when we are living intentionally and slowly, rather than merely dealing with our children, we have found that we truly see them. At those times we have the capacity to hear their hearts and share ours. We’ve also seen a strong correlation between an over-scheduled life and negative, disrespectful attitudes in our children (and us). When our lives are cluttered it can be difficult for me to even recognize that there is an issue in my child’s heart, and even harder to take the time to get to the root of it and address it.
“It’s easy, given the times we live in and the implicit messages we absorb each day, to equate a good life with having a lot and doing a lot. So it’s also easy to fall into believing that our children, if they are to succeed in life, need to be terrific at everything, and that it’s up to us to make sure they are – to keep them on track through tougher course loads, more activities, more competitive sports, more summer programs. But in all our well-intentioned efforts to do the right thing for our children, we may be failing to provide them with something that is truly essential – the time and space they need to wake up to themselves, to grow acquainted with their own innate gifts, to dream their dreams and discover their true natures.” Katrina Kenison
We realized in order to maintain this kind of life in our hyper-scheduled world we would need to have a game plan. I personally love to plan and this has often been my downfall, even after we resolved to live simply and drop unnecessary commitments. I have been far too eager to fill up our calendar. This has led to no less than me crumpling under a panic attack, and bickering among the whole family as we race around attempting to keep up.
So the decision was made several years back that before we commit to anything from an extracurricular activity to hosting friends for dinner we are to pray through what we are giving a ‘yes’ to and especially what we are therefore saying no to. We question whether this commitment will be beneficial to the child 10 years from now more than time spent curled up with an inspiring book, or in the quiet schooling of nature, or time spent in lessons from a neighbor or family member. Is it a more valuable use of their time than time with siblings or “the time and space they need to wake up to themselves, to grow acquainted with their own innate gifts, to dream their dreams and discover their true natures,” as Kenison stated. What are the influences in the environment? Do I want to put them in an event to see them perform or to win a medal? Am I longing to see them accomplish something because I wish I had? How will it affect the whole family? Is it more important that they learn to do a back handspring in a gym on a beautiful day, or hike in the outdoors where perspective is renewed, where they are refreshed, and learn to reverence God and grow a respect for all living things?
Seven years ago after our marriage had taken a devastating turn for the worse, Dan and I developed the habit of praying together each evening after we put the kids to bed (and this has done no less than transform our marriage in amazing and surprising ways). The more we have sought the Lord together, the easier it has become to hear His voice on the matter. Early in our marriage we prayed together occasionally wrapping it up with a quick Amen, but never taking the time to listen. To be still and expectant together. This has turned into my most anticipated part of each day. When we take the time to seek Him, He doesn’t leave us in the dark. And when we turn down a commitment because God is leading us to, we carry freedom rather than guilt. We’ve never regretted a decision we made after seeking God on the matter, but I’ve uttered a thousand ‘thank you’s’ to the Lord for steering us clear of the ‘too much’ I would most certainly have signed us up for otherwise. God has led us to a life that is not void of challenges, but a life in which we can focus on what matters at the end of the day, rich in simplicity and deepening joy.