Monday, August 19, 2013

The benefits and pitfalls of scheduling

Note: I am NOT talking about scheduling young babies in this post. It is my personal preference that a very young child (in our house that is typically under 12-15 months, give or take) should be allowed to eat and sleep on demand. While I do try to have them in a good routine by 2-3 months of age, the pattern for that routine is based upon each individual child, and I just gently encourage their pattern, aligning it with a consistent schedule for the rest of the household. I never allow a young child to be left to cry to learn to soothe themselves to sleep, much less when  they are hungry).

With only one more week left until we start homeschooling again, I have been fine-tuning and honing my daily schedule, and "test-driving" it for the last couple of weeks to see if it had any major flaws. I must say, I am rather pleased with the fact that it has been working out well for the most part. 

Before I share my schedule, I wanted to give a word of caution to new moms, those just starting out homeschooling, those with more young children than older ones to help set the pace and stay on track: PLEASE do not look at this and try to pattern your own day after mine. I am very serious about this. 

I tried to make a schedule like this, using a popular Christian scheduling book/kit, about five or six years ago, when our oldest child was only six years old. The problem was not with the book on scheduling itself, nor was it with my schedule. Rather, at that point in my life as a wife and mother, it simply was not possible to adhere to a schedule broken up into 15-minute increments. I am sure that this system worked well for the authors of the book, and many others in different situations than mine, so I am not trying to criticize the book at all.

When you have only young children (in my experience, this is typically younger than 6), or more young children than older ones, there simply are too many variables to make a rigid schedule. You may have scheduled a half hour to read your Bible, only to find yourself interrupted with true emergencies that cannot wait such as diaper blowouts, someone getting hurt, etc. (truly, I am still learning that the possibilities for these interruptions are endless). 

Instead of the schedule being a tool to help you, it will become a scourge and a master, hanging over your head all the things you are not getting accomplished, rather than having the freedom to delight in your young children. It is far more important to be a joyful mother, than to have a perfect house. The basic, minimal chores and cleaning can be accomplished in windows of opportunity, whenever they arise.

So rather than having a detailed schedule like this one, for years I had a pattern, what we would do each day, in which order: get up, get dressed, have breakfast, clean up, Bible time, run errands, lunch, nap, play time, dinner, bath time, bed. If we got interrupted somewhere along this routine, we would deal with the diversion, and then pick up where we left off. But there was no time frame attached to the whole process.

Over time, as dealing with the kids became easier, the pattern would gradually become more sophisticated, and certain "anchor points" in the day would get their set time: Bible time by 9 am, lunch by noon, kids in bed by 8 PM, and so on.

Having older children is a great asset for many reasons: 
  • They help set a pattern: When you have two parents and four older children all following a consistent schedule, the younger ones simply fall in line themselves, assuming it's just the way things are.
  • They help offset interruptions: While the inevitable emergencies occur just as much as ever, I now have older ones to either help me deal with them, or carry on whatever I am supposed to be doing while I fix the problem. Example: unexpected diaper change during Bible time - one of the older boys can keep reading out loud, while I change the diaper. 
  • They are self-motivated: Allotting a certain time for a certain activity can quickly become a source of frustration with young children. "Hurry up and finish dinner, we got a late start on the meal and you only have 5 minutes left" is just too much to ask of a young child. Older ones, however, will on their own read the clock, assess where they are at vs. where they are supposed to be at, and take pride in being responsible and helpful. 
  • They help get the work done: With only young children, when mom is the one to do the vast majority of work around the house, there are more things that need to get done, than there are hours in the day to do them. Planned neglect has to become a way of life. The areas that need to be neglected on any particular day cannot be scheduled ahead, but rather are based on the necessity of the moment. I remember distinctly that the first time I tried to work out a schedule like this, I struggled for a full week trying to cram everything into the 15 minute slots, only to realize I needed about 26 hours in each day, not counting breaks for myself. Now, I have older children to help shoulder the work load, and I can delegate many of my chores.
I would say that the main benefit of having a great schedule is that it is a tool to keep everyone on track. Like a financial budget, it helps offset guilt: Should I really be sitting around reading or sewing right now? Am I neglecting something important? It also helps stay motivated: I just need to bite the bullet and brush the kids teeth (or whatever other dreaded chore is looming), and then I am done with that for the night. 

All that to say, the schedule below is the result of 13 years of marriage, and 9 years of homeschooling. It is more detailed this year than it was last year, but probably not as sophisticated as it will be one year from now. It is what works for our family, and not anyone else. I am sharing it in hopes it will give you ideas or be of help in some other way.








5 AM

get dressed, groom, read Bible, work o.n computer (emails, online orders, scheduling, meal planning, blog, library book lists, etc.), go over calendar and plan daily activities, feed and care for food starters
(Mon: get deposits ready, Thu: have breakfast ready for Dad and Isaac by 6:45 am)
get ready

read Bible

6 AM

produce co-op

(kids cook breakfast)

make bulletin

7 AM

cook breakfast, get bread/kombucha/dinner/etc. going, dress little kids, fix girls’ hair, keep everyone on track

8 AM

eat breakfast

clean up (dishes, wipe counters, put away leftovers, sweep), brush little kids’ teeth

9 AM

get ready for church, morning chores
Bible time

work with girls
P.E. class at the park
(walk, play w/ babies, computer time)
work with girls

piano lessons
field trip

(or  same schedule as Mon and Wed)

weekly housecleaning

10 AM

work w/ John
work w/ John


work w/ Isaac
work w/ Isaac

11 AM

work w/ Solomon
work w/ Solomon

lunch prep

12 PM

eat lunch

eat lunch
clean up (dishes, wipe counters, put away leftovers, sweep), lay youngest three down for naps

1 PM

clean up
work with Miriam and John as necessary

free time

free time

All Through the Ages with Solomon, Isaac, John, and Miriam
art or other projects
(or errands while kids stay home and do their reading)

2 PM

3 PM

German with Solomon, Isaac, and John

chores, laundry

4 PM

dinner prep

dinner prep

5 PM
 eat dinner

clean up, evening chores

6 PM

clean up (dishes, wipe counters, put away leftovers, sweep), evening chores


practice piano w/ girls
get ready for church
practice piano w/ girls


7 PM

bath time, brush little kids teeth & get them ready for bed
bath time, brush little kids teeth & get them ready for bed

story time
story time

8 PM

put little kids in bed
put little kids in bed

laundry, cleaning, pick up house
laundry, cleaning, pick up house

get kids in bed

9 PM

get ready for bed, brush teeth, shower, school prep, computer time, plan for next day
get kids in bed
get ready for bed, brush teeth, shower, school prep, computer time, plan for next day

pick up house, get ready for bed

10 PM

free time (read, sew, crafts, etc.)

vitamins, water, etc.

Blogger has thrown off the format to have different size boxes for equal time slots, but on my actual schedule all rows are the same height, making the schedule much easier to read:

The only things not included in the above schedule are Solomon's ASL class, which meets every other Sunday afternoon, and my weekly soulwinning time, which for right now is Friday evenings (my husband will carry on with the things I would usually be doing in my absence). Once the days get shorter, I will start going during my free time on Sunday afternoons. 

To those criticizing aspects of my schedule, or saying that I am not spending enough time on this or that: I am not claiming that me or my system are perfect. It's just what works for us, ineffective or ugly as it may be. Feel free to blog your own superior ways on your own blog, to your own audience.

And with that, seeing it is just past 7 AM, my time on the computer is up and I am moving on to breakfast. :)

Have a great week, everyone! :)


  1. As a mom of four with the oldest being six, I so appreaciate this post. Now I understand why it never has gone perfectly...for now we are in routine mode but soon enough we will get to the next stage. Thank you!

  2. Wow thank-you. I have always dreaded brushing teeth for little ones,especially when my 18m old used to become the man possessed by Legion at teeth brushing time lol,its good to know I'm not the only one. Also its nice to realize the whole 15min sections are not possible I've tried to many failing times. Most likely because I have three boys under three....Thanks for the advice and insight. -T.Frederick

  3. Wow, full schedule! How/when do you work in activities like processing and preserving foods that have their own required timings? I'm not canning this year as we are planning a big move this autumn, but last year I was up until all hours of the night processing tomatoes, peaches, pears, apricots etc. I find I just can't do this when the kids are awake (mine are all under 4) because they want to "help" but it's really too dangerous and makes it so much more stressful for me.

    Thank you for sharing,


  4. Love it! Thanks for sharing. My routine is not near as detailed though it doesn't have to be yet as mine aren't old enough to be homeschooled formally yet. I have been wondering when you do your soul winning time? Do you go with another mom? Does Pastor Anderson stay home with the children while you go out? Thanks

  5. Great work Zsuzsa! I think this is amazing and well thought. I bought "Managers" several years ago and quickly figured out that was not for us. I think it is great for some, but not us! I can not live or function that way, personally. I like how you said this works for YOUR is easy to compare ourselves to what other families are doing, but we will not all fit the same mold. I think your schedule is beautiful and you are doing a great job with your children. I am sorry you get so much hate from others. You are a good mother and teacher, your children are blessed. Keep up the good work! Miss you all!


  6. I think a pattern for the day definitely works better when you have little ones, especially first thing in the morning and at bed time. Now that my oldest child is 6 and starting to do more schooling in the day, a rough schedule is very helpful for keeping them all occupied and busy when in the house, but I'm always ready to drop it all when we have a beautiful day to take the children out into the countryside!

  7. Thanks for sharing. I have four kids age six and under, and tried the popular home management scheduler that you mentioned in this post only to find it was too rigid. It's nice to see how families with older kids work it out. I've always wondered how much actual time is spent one-on-one with individual children doing work. I only have one doing formal school work right now, so it seems easy, and often get overwhelmed thinking about having to work with more than one this way. It's nice to see how it is done with other families.

  8. Thanks so much for posting this, Mrs. Anderson. Lately I've been trying to formulate a more structured schedule and think your spreadsheet idea will help tremendously. This is very Titus 2! Thank you for sharing your homemaking knowledge with us. Be blessed. Elle Hansen

  9. Hello. What is the template you used ? Or program? I would love to make one of these, especially for helping my older homeschool children organize their time- school, homework, sports, chores, etc. Thank you!

  10. I have one older child at 9 years old. The other 4 children are 6 and under. I have been so discouraged lately at my lack of a better homeschool schedule. This encouraged me to not sweat the interuptions and to be more joyful in my young ones. And in turn, my 9 year old will be happier too. She seems to reflect my emotions and feel my stress. Thank you for this blog entry, it truly is so encouraging!


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