Why We Use a Homeschool Routine Instead of a Schedule

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Last year, as I was paging through the teacher’s guide for one of our math curriculums, I came across a sample schedule for a typical homeschool day:

8:15-8:25- Pledges, prayer, songs, devotions, etc.
8:25-9:10- Bible
9:10-9:55- Language Arts
9:55-10:15- Recess (juice break)
10:15-11:00- Mathematics
11:00-11:45- Social Studies
11:45-12:30- Lunch, recess, quiet time
12:30-1:15- Science
1:15- ? – Drill, remedial work, enrichment

I gazed at it for several minutes, astonished that someone might actually conduct their homeschool day like an actual school day. After looking into it, much to my surprise, I found that there are, indeed, families who use- and enjoy- this method.

I realize that every homeschooling household does things differently, but I really felt that I should write about why our family uses a routine instead of a schedule like the one above.

I’d like to start by explaining the difference between a schedule and a routine. A schedule is exactly what you see above. Besides the structured time, a schedule also usually involves a pre-planned agenda determining exactly which pages or assignments are to be completed on which day. A routine is somewhat different in that it incorporates a rhythm throughout the day rather than instituting specific times and activities for each day.

While a formal schedule can certainly be helpful for those families who thrive on this sort of structure, the limitations on time can inhibit learning if a child is interrupted prematurely to move on to the next subject. If your daughter has only five minutes left to complete her math assignment and is just starting to get the hang of it, is it a good thing to end that subject simply to move on to the next one?

I know this often occurs because a parent may worry that if one subject runs late, the whole schedule may be thrown off, or- worst-case scenario- another subject may be missed entirely. And if that happens, then the entire lesson plan for the week will be thrown off. What to do?

I would suggest that you apply the same reasoning to schedules that you (hopefully) do to curriculums: Schedules are a tool. Do not allow yourself to become a slave to them.

In our homeschool routine, we do have very general times that we try to do certain things. Most importantly, we always try to start our “school day” by 10am. We’re usually pretty good with that because I do have a lot of kids to facilitate, so it’s essential that we are diligent about getting started. After that, though, our lessons have no time limitations. Sometimes I may work with the littles until 11am. Other times, we may still be going strong at 11:30, in which case the older kids will only get about thirty minutes in before lunch. Sometimes, though not often, I may have the littles and the older kids finished by lunchtime. Other times we may need to continue on for an hour or two after lunch. And still other times, we may need to wrap things up prematurely for a trip to the library, the grocery store, or a doctor’s appointment.

No matter what, it’s all good, because I realize that there is learning in everything they do.

One thing that largely helps me with this mindset is that although I do write a quick plan of what I hope to accomplish during the week, it’s not set in stone. If we miss an assignment, it’s no big deal. If I feel that it’s important or will be fun for us, I’ll fit it in another day. If not, I’ll toss it completely. This is one of the beauties of homeschooling- flexibility. I am not going to freak out if we miss something and start scheduling make-up days. I’m pretty sure we’ll survive if one grammar worksheet is left undone. 🙂

No matter the method you prefer to use when it comes to coordinating your day, keep in mind that homeschooling is not school at home. Why should we try to imitate something that isn’t working? Learning can be an awesome experience, especially when it happens together as a family. This should be the essence of home education- not frantically trying to recreate a system that has proven itself to be almost utterly futile.

So as you continue in your homeschool journey, remember that this is a journey that will quickly come to an end. What do you want your children to remember? The schedules? Or the time you spent together each day?


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Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

37 thoughts on “Why We Use a Homeschool Routine Instead of a Schedule”

  1. Oh man, I totally agree! When I first started homeschooling, our lives followed a similar “schedule” and it was super stressful. I was constantly watching the clock and measuring our success with how much we accomplished in one day. It was horrible and my daughter and I were constantly at odds.

    I had to sit down and ask myself why this was happening and when I realized we didn’t have to structure our day like this, it was like a boulder-sized weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Schooling in our house is driven a lot by my daughter’s desire, and now that the schedule is gone, she loves schooling – everyday!

    I honestly think that if we had continued with a schedule like that, we wouldn’t be homeschooling today. Everyone is much happier now. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I wholeheartedly agree! I dislike schedules. Routines are so much nicer, especially for family time and that’s how I view homeschooling- as family time. I wrote about how my son has excelled in math this year. Well, there were days of no math and days where he needed extra time with a particular lesson. We sometimes got to math before lunch, sometimes after. In the end he still succeeded. A schedule would’ve driven us nuts!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a classic example of why schools just don’t get it done, most of the time and why homeschools just do. There are some kids who need that kind of regimented progression to their day, some who need a flow/rhythm, some who need complete autonomy. Every kid is just so different. That is something homeschooling really drove home for me. All us humans are so different. No two homeschools are the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. While I don’t homeschool, your last statement about remembering a schedule vs. quality time resonates. I don’t send my kids to preschool for those exact reasons. I’d rather have them stay home, be kids, learn the alphabet, numbers, colors, etc in some fun play-focused way. They will have many (many) years of schedules in their futures. Thanks for linking up with Funtastic Friday.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My children do really well on a schedule actually, however I love how you reminded us that this is not school at home. So many times I need to remind myself of this fact even though I have been homeschooling for a long time. It is easy to get caught up in the systems others are using or get distracted by well-meaning opinions of what we should be doing like Public School. Thank you for this great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We’re a routine and not a schedule type family either… we tried it when we first started homeschooling (seriously I even set a timer!) and it was just a disaster. We love the freedom homeschooling offers and that includes being flexible about our day and how we spend it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Good differentiation between schedule and routine. In my opinion, the sample schedule included way too much work for younger elementary kids. I wonder what age it was designed for. Good for you for doing what best suits your family. Thanks for sharing at the #LMMLinkup.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, I could never stand the rigidity of doing the same thing every day at the same time — as if real life ever works like that! Now that the boys are older, they have to manage their time and get things done.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post! I am not a schedule person and I really don’t have a routine. Well, for one, we school in the afternoons, but not at set time. I’ve tried that and it becomes stressful. Primarily due to the fact that my husband’s schedule is everchanging (or at least, that’s what I blame… always saying if he had a 9-5 job or any “set” hours, my homeschool schedule/routine would be more determinate). But it took me a long time to stop “fretting” that and go with what “works” for us. So when we start, there is a routine in that I do one child’s individual things (math, LA) then they come and do history, science, etc together and then the other child does their individual work. But that may be at 1pm or 3pm to 4pm that we start (or even later).
    As you stated “there is learning in everything they do”. So while we may not open a textbook, I know my kids have learned something.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That was great a encouragement for me as I begin preparing to homeschool in the coming year! Thank you for sharing your rationale… I agree – one grammar sheet is not going to make or break anything, but I needed to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Two of my children homeschool their children. They all follow a routine without getting hung up on a rigid schedule. In fact, they don’t hesitate to deviate, especially if they can take advantage of something that’s fun and educational. Perhaps there are some out there who are concerned that being flexible will hinder their education. So I’ll just share that the oldest just graduated and was accepted into a women’s science program at a university in their state. She has been taking college courses for a couple of years, and most important to me … she has a strong, vibrant faith.

    I’m visiting today from “Our Home of Many Blessings.” I hope you’ll come linkup at Mondays @ Soul Survival sometime. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You must be so proud of your granddaughter. What a great example of a homeschool success story! Thanks for commenting, and I’ll see you at Soul Survival sometime. 🙂


  12. Great post! As homeschoolers we are blessed to be able to do what works for our families. Yes, some families have an almost public school type schedule. Some homeschool families have more flexible routines. Then there are some (like myself) that have more of a rhythm. High five to all the homeschool mom’s! 😆

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great message, Shelly! It sounds like we do homeschool the same. We don’t follow an exact schedule and I don’t put time limits on things either. I’m so glad you shared with #SocialButterflySunday! Hope to see you link up again this week 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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