Overhaul your ineffective homeschooling routine for confident, happy kids

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The homeschooling routine we use has important lessons for our children. If you are struggling after summer break or HOMESCHOOLING THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS, don’t worry. With these tips, you can overhaul your ineffective homeschooling routine and be on your way to confident happy kids in no time at all! 

Perhaps you are new to homeschooling and working through your DECOMPRESSION PHASE. Establishing a clear, consistent routine is an important element to have outlined before officially beginning the academic portion of homeschooling.

Whatever the case, it’s important to make a key distinction right from the start. A schedule is NOT a routine. 

Schedule vs. Routine – Who will win? 

The thing is public school operates on a schedule. The bell rings at 7:50 to let teachers know it’s time to start class. The bells continue all day to keep everyone on track. 

Work operates the same way.. On some level – life operates on a schedule because Target doesn’t open until 9 am. 

A schedule is a time plan. The Dictionary defines schedule in this way: A plan for carrying out a process or procedure, giving lists of intended events and times. 

A routine, on the other hand,  is a set of procedures to get things done. The dictionary defines procedure in this way: A sequence of actions regularly followed. 

kids playing tug of war
Schedule and routine work in harmony, rather than against one another.

Here are how routines and schedules work in harmony but are not synonyms: 

You can follow your routines using a schedule if that suits you, but do not let a schedule be binding and sabotage your routines. 

 Let that sink in – Schedule and routine are not synonyms. There is no winner. 

When you arrive at work (according to the schedule) you have a routine you follow. Perhaps it is to put on your apron, check the message board, wash your hands, then begin the first batch of cookies for the day. 

Keys to a well established Homeschool routine

graphic explaining the keys to homeschool routine: Consistent, Predictable, Reinforce
By implementing these keys to your homeschooling routine you will make a big impact on the atmosphere of your home.

When you reflect upon the routine you are currently using, you may find the reason it is out of alignment is due to one of the 3 critical keys to a well-established homeschooling routine. 

  1. Routines should be CONSISTENT. We do the same things, in pretty much the same way, every time. 
  1. Routines should be PREDICTABLE. Kids should know what is going to happen when, and why. 
  2. Routines are REINFORCED. Use praise when the routines are accomplished, and give redirection (or consequences.

Routine is also not a static thing, it is a living-breathing part of your home, family and school life. In addition to the 3 critical keys, when establishing the actual procedures for your routines some things to keep in mind are: 

  • Each child should have their own routine. 
  • Posted routines help make things PREDICTABLE. 
  • Relationships are essential to routine
  • Routine and schedules are not synonyms, but should work in harmony. 

Establishing Consistent Routines

Consistency means we accomplish the homeschooling routine in the same way – it does not mean it has to be the same for every child! Your relationships and knowing the strengths of each member of the household are important to establishing consistent routines. Does your child wake happy (regardless of the amount of sleep)? Or do they need time to get up gently? Some kids will love getting dressed right away while others may prefer to eat in their pajamas. Involving the kids in the decision-making process of routines helps them feel connected and committed. 

Another facet of allowing kids to have control over their routine is the order tasks get completed. Obviously, it defeats the purpose of brushing your teeth, then eating breakfast, however for other aspects of the routine, let kids decide the order. This gives kids decision-making and time management practice. 

Routine is happening all throughout the day. Common times for formal routine tend to be:

  • Morning Routine
  • School Time Routine
  • Mealtime Routine
  • Bedtime Routine

Because these are ROUTINES and not schedules, even if you “get home late” because of a field trip, you will still follow your bedtime routine. The visual chart showing brush teeth, change into pajamas, story, prayers will help! 

Making Homeschooling Routines Predictable

One of the most important factors to making routines predictable is to have them visual. Using a family command center with a large wall calendar is a great way for kids to see school days, vs non-school days. They can also see when appointments and field trips are planned. 

Additionally, using chore charts or checklists help with individualizing homeschool routines. While the 7-year-old may be tall enough and strong enough to make their own bed, the 4-year-old may not be. “Make your bed” can be different for different ages.  Your 7-year-old can complete the task from start to finish and perhaps the 4-year-old completes the bed making with help, but does the pillows or stuffed animals by themselves. 

“That’s not fair” is not a statement that should be tolerated, because we all know fairness is not equal. 

The more interactive your visual routine is, the more engaging. Cookie sheets and magnets are an easy way to move task cards from “need to do” to “done”, even for the smallest of hands. This action also lets parents see the routines have been completed so appropriate feedback can be given.   

Reinforcing your routines

There is positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement – both are reinforcements. These are often referred to as consequences and rewards. The issue is, the world is not reward-based, it is reinforcement-based.

. Consequences are not punishments (though they sure can feel that way sometimes). Consequences are simply the natural outcomes of events. Driving over a nail produces a flat tire, that’s the consequence. Your reward is a trip to the repair shop! 

When you reinforce the routines in your home with natural reinforcements, you build confident, happy kids. Completing routines gets praise, earns additional responsibilities (staying up an extra 10 minutes to read), and trains children to be part of society.  A paycheck isn’t a reward, it is earned. 

girl and mom hugging
Your children need your attention while they accomplish their routines. Notice what they are doing and reinforce with praise.

In order to properly reinforce the homeschooling routines, you must make relationships a central aspect of each “routine time”. It’s best if your routines are completed on a different schedule so you can be present and available to assist in decision making and the overall flow of what’s going on. I made it a habit to wake an hour early to get my morning routine complete before waking the first child. Our bedtime schedule was also established so that all the kids were settled in enough time for my bedtime routine to be completed after they were in bed. 

Mealtime routines were completed together with a unique system I called “Kid of the Day”. The kid of the day was my special helper (along with other privileges like choosing the afternoon television program) during mealtimes. This allowed for one-on-one engagement 2 X per week with each of my children. (I did not use a kid of the day on Sundays). The kid of the day was posted on our family wall calendar in the command center, so there were no arguments and I didn’t have to remember who came next! 

Give yourself, and the kids GRACE

Routines do not get established, fixed, polished, etc. overnight. It takes time for any level of homeschooling routine to take hold. While you are getting into the swing of things, give yourself, and the kids grace. It’s okay to make establishing the routine school and set aside the other lessons for a little while. You won’t regret it. If something isn’t working, take a step back and look at how your schedule and your routine are working (or not working) in harmony. 

A few things to consider in conclusion

  • Consistent bedtime makes mornings easier
  • You don’t have to be a slave to the clock, but school should start at the same time every day. 
  • Meals should also be consistent times. This is part of knowing what to expect. Hungry kids are not learning. 
  • Consider keeping bedtime the same on weekends, holidays and vacations (even SUMMER!) 
  • Prepare for those pesky time changes about 2 weeks in advance by shifting bedtime 10 minutes or so at a time.

Thanks for stopping by Happy Hive Homeschooling to establish your homeschooling routine

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I can’t wait to share my homeschool expertise and mindset-shifting superpowers with you each edition of THE BUZZ. We’ll also chat about the methods I used to organize, schedule, and lesson plan in my homeschool with the hopes it will help you have a happy hive too. In the meantime, “Bee” sure to check out the different methods of homeschooling as well as our 3 easy strategies for burnout.

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