The Secret to Building a Routine That Works

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I shared a peek into our daily routine in last week’s “Day in the Life” post, and this is probably the first time in my adult life (and definitely since we began homeschooling) that we have a daily routine that actually works for our family on a consistent basis.

We’ve always had morning routines and the ever-important bedtime routine, but this one actually encompasses our full day, and it’s brought a consistency to our days that had been lacking.

In the past, we’ve tried a variety of routines, but some important detail inevitably gets missed as we struggle to fit everything in and stick to the plan.

So what’s been different this time? It’s simple really: we built our routine one tiny piece at a time rather than trying to overhaul everything at once.

I didn’t do that consciously, but realizing what we’d done — and how much more effective it was — has made it easier to continue to tweak and perfect it.

The Building Blocks of a Routine

It all started with the realization that if the girls don’t do their independent school work first thing in the morning, it just doesn’t happen; they end up distracted by toys, playing outside, the computer or (gasp!) TV and trying to pull their attention back to school results in grumpy children and a frazzled mom.

With that in mind, we began prioritizing independent school work as the very first activity of the day, almost as soon as the girls’ feet hit the ground. These tasks happen to include all of our “school lite” tasks, the schoolwork we try to get done every day, no matter what, even when we have other activities on the schedule.

Once we mastered that part of our routine, we layered other activities over it. We added additional assignments to their independent school work, set an actual wake-up time and included things like getting dressed and brushing hair & teeth (although getting dressed still seems to be optional!).

We continued to add additional things to our daily — and weekly — routines, like a weekly one-on-one library date with Daddy, reading time in the evenings, family game times and more.

Routine vs. Schedule

This routine is just that — a routine, not a schedule

Although we have times written on my paper schedule and the dry erase version on the back door, we don’t follow those to a T, and there are plenty of times that we switch things up for one reason or another.

But having a routine brings a sense of order to our day that is working for our family. The girls know when they need to work and when they get to play, so they don’t fight me nearly as much when it’s school time. As an added bonus, having a bit more structure to our day actually makes for better playtime because they still have an abundance of free time, but not quite so much that they wander about aimlessly.

Do you have a daily routine that works for your family? If not, do you think focusing on one little piece at a time would help?