Friday, August 28, 2015

Routines, Part One: Our Daily Routine

I spend some time each summer tweaking and updating our weekly routine, and this year was no different. In fact, this year we need to be more structured than usual because we have so much going on. I have come to the conclusion that we really need to have everything written out, and that we must be organized and purposeful about how we approach our day. I feel a bit misty-eyed for the days when we could just roll out of bed and go about the day haphazardly, but that is just not our reality right now, so routine it is! We actually have three sets of routines. This post is about our general routine, you can see our chore routine and our homeschooling routine by clicking on those links.

Obviously no single routine will work for all families, because every family is so different. This is what works for us right now, but next month or next year it will need tweaking again. We did not need this level of organization when the kids were younger, and we did not need it when the kids were less busy.

This year, I have four homeschoolers...second grade, fifth grade, seventh grade, and ninth grade. The kids have one activity each, but most of their activities meet twice a week. We usually participate in a weekly homeschool group, and probably get together with friends outside of the activities about twice a  month. We have a house and good-sized yard to maintain (or not), and we have goats, chickens, ducks, a cat, a dog, and a new puppy. We also live about 25 minutes away from pretty much everything, so that is a factor in how much time we (don't) have.

There are lots of things I do, but there are plenty of things I don't do, and that is what makes life manageable more than anything else.  I don't do much gardening right now and my vegetable garden is a total wreck. I don't do much yardwork or lawn husband cuts the grass and we try to have one or two weekends a year where everyone works to clean things up, but other than that we pretty much let things go. I generally take care of errands while the kids are at activities, but I don't do the grocery shopping (dh does). I don't spend any time on social media (I know, I'm weird, but it's just one of those things I chose to let go when time became an issue...I don't miss it at all.). I don't throw fancy birthday parties for my kids, and we often decline invitations if they don't fit in easily with the rest of our life, if we don't know the family well, or if they only include one child. We aren't big "playdate" people. We all enjoy cooking, but we save fancy things for special occasions.

 There are plenty of other things I don't do; those are just some off the top of my head. I would love to do some of the things on my "don't" list, but I need to be careful about how I spend my time. My tendency is to take on too much and wind up totally frazzled. I make time for homeschooling the kids, exercise and sleep, driving the kids around, my writing, basic household chores, and my own reading (which I do at night or during odd moments). I knit if we watch a movie, otherwise I don't. I try to keep meals as simple as I can, but we use a lot of fresh vegetables, which take time to prepare.  The older kids each have one night a week to cook dinner for us all, which helps a bit. 

Writing up this routine was a real eye-opener for me, because it forced me to consider how much time I really have in a day and how I want to use that time. It can actually be very freeing to realize that you don't have time for certain things! Having my routine to refer to keeps me on track throughout the day, but if we have an invitation to meet a friend or the weather is really nice, I am definitely okay with it getting messed up! While I enjoy having a routine, I have no intention of being a slave to it.

I use Excel for making up this routine; days of the week went across the top and half-hour time slots went down the left hand side. I used color coding to shade the boxes and to add a little interest.

The color coding doesn't really show up in the photo, but I used:

  • Gray for chores, personal care, exercise, meal prep, and meals.... the backbone of our routine
  • Light blue for time set aside for homeschooling
  • Green for classes and outside commitments - green for go! The text for outside commitments is bright red so I can't miss it
  • Purple for writing time

First I plugged in the green - all of our classes, lessons, group meetings, picking up the farm share...stuff that is fixed every week. Some of these are still a bit up in the air right now, but I just did the best I could. We have a busy year planned, but I am hoping that all of the kids' lessons will fit on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, with Friday for homeschool group and/or library trips. I am trying very hard to keep Monday and Wednesday free, because I find that I really need a couple of days each week to just stay home! I have also started trying to schedule any appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to protect my two free days.

Next I plugged in the gray - the backbone of our routine. I usually exercise, shower, and do a few chores before starting lessons, and the kids have chores as well. Around noon we have another chore time to take care of animals, switch over laundry, sort the mail, make lunch, and do a quick clean up. We also have an evening chore time to do more animal care, clean up the house, finish laundry, get dinner going, etc. Our chore routines are not simple with so many people helping and so many animals, so I made a separate chart just for chores. My hope is that this master list of chores will encourage everyone to work more independently and more quickly, without constantly asking what to do next.  Chore routines will be in a separate post.

Next up the blue - our lesson times. This year I have 8:30-2:30 set aside for our lessons, though Friday will be a shorter day, ending around 11:30. Our lesson time has it's own routine, which I will share another day. I listed "corrections" under our homeschool slot to remind myself to work on correcting the kids' papers as I have free time between lessons. Much better than having to deal with a pile at the end of the day.

And finally the purple - my writing time.  I try to set aside a few hours to write each week - sometimes for this blog, sometimes for other projects. My goal is ten hours per week; so far I have seven hours plugged in between our free afternoons and evenings when we are home - the kids play video games with their Dad some evenings and I use that time to write.Update: I had to cut back on this. I still write in the evenings whenever possible, but anything beyond that just depends on the day. So really, I am spending more like 5 hours a week on this. As the kids get older, I hope I will be able to fit more in.

I'm going to share our general routine here, because I always find it helpful to see how other people set up their day...but please know that the times are very approximate...we are not slaves to the clock here. I do find it helpful to attach times to the routine at first, so I can judge how long things might take. It also helps me be more realistic about how much we can fit into each day.

General Routine

  • 6:30 a.m. Up, dress, walk dogs, breakfast, shower & dress, start chores when done (kids up by 7:30 for breakfast & chores).
  • 8:30 a.m. School starts with our math block - James will do his math on the computer first (I have three kids using Teaching Textbooks), while I finish up some basic chores and help Rose get ready. Minimizing distractions is key!
  • 12:00 p.m. - Time for noon chores...primarily making lunch.  As the kids reach a good stopping place, they are expected to help out. We usually have a lunchtime subject too; this year it will be Art of Argument.
  • 1:00-2:30 p.m.- Finish up homeschooling for the day, everyone help tidy up.
  • 3:00-4:30 p.m. - Outside activities or a bit of yoga for me, followed by either some office time to take care of phone calls, emails, research, etc. or time for housework (usually on Wednesday)
  • 4:30 -5:45 p.m. - Dinner prep and evening chores if we are home, otherwise this gets pushed to later. The kids are expected to  help until the bulk of the work is done, and if it's not their night to cook they then have free time while I finish making dinner.
  • 6:00 p.m. - Dinner, followed by cleanup, video games with Dad, writing time for me, then dessert & bed for the kids. Two days a week dinner is at 7, because of activities. The kids are usually in their rooms by 9 at the latest, then we have an hour or so to read or watch television in relative peace. The older kids stay up and read in their room for awhile, but Rose is usually asleep by 9.

Of course, this all looks nice and tidy on paper; the reality will be different! But I try to think of the routine as something to strive towards, a way to make sure we are organizing our day efficiently for both work and play, and most importantly, an honest assessment of what can actually fit into each day.

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