[Note from 2023]: This blog post was originally written in 2017 when my two oldest children were ages 3 & 4 years old and we were not doing formal lessons yet. Our rhythms and routines have changed over the years as we have added children and our now "preschool-aged" children don't follow this rhythm because we are also homeschooling older children. If you're interested in seeing what our different rhythms have been like with multiple ranges of ages, through many different seasons, I've shared those below.
Related: 5 Intentions for the Early Years
Our Family Rhythm Through the Years
- Our Family Daily Rhythm (2023)
- Our Homeschool Morning Time (2023)
- Homeschooling Year Round & Summer Daily Rhythm (2022)
- Our Homeschool Daily Rhythm with Two Toddlers (2021)
- Our Homeschool Daily Rhythm With a Toddler and Baby (2020)
- Homeschooling with a Baby in Tow (2019)
Rather than trying to stick to a rigid schedule, I have found that creating a general rhythm for our days helps us all feel more in control and at peace, without feeling like a failure if things don’t happen at exact times. I do like to have general times in mind for our days, but I try to keep our days open with a lot of margin so that when things don’t go as planned, there is room to shift things around.
We rely heavily on a visual schedule using the Daily Rhythm Cards from the Daily Rhythm Bundle. It is especially helpful for me to look at throughout the day to recall what we have going on and for my children that do best knowing what to expect. Honestly, all of us use and love having it. I set it up in such a way that I can put the cards in order for each day and move them around when things shift and change. I do this by using an adhesive-backed velcro strip on my wall and then cutting pieces of the soft side of the velcro on the back of each card.
Shop: Daily Rhythm Bundle
I am passionate about giving children structure, as well as room to explore and play with no strings attached. We say “no” a lot and have zero regrets about that. Fridays are reserved for Auditory Verbal Therapy and time at my mom’s house or a field trip that relates to what we are learning. We guard our dinner times and weekend mornings for family togetherness. Sundays are reserved for worship and extended family meals and playtime with cousins. I am equally passionate about giving myself rest by creating margins in our routine for nature, reading, and sipping coffee.
I wanted to share with you our entire schedule, not just the "school" part because I want you to see it in light of the big picture, in hopes of helping you discover what works best for your family. At the bottom of this post, I give you ten tips to help create your own family rhythm!
Here is a look into our weekday rhythm. Scroll down to read each section in more detail.
Now I will go into detail about each segment of our day.
Related: 100 Living Books for the Early Years
My husband and I are awake an hour or two before the children wake up. We spend that time reading, journaling, praying, preparing for the day, working out, or just sitting and sipping coffee. At 7:00 I begin to make breakfast as the children come out of their rooms. They look at books, color, play in our sensory space, or work with the trays on our tray shelf. These trays have simple hands-on activities like puzzles and fine motor skills. We get dressed, eat breakfast together, and send my husband off to work. I clean up breakfast and set up for our school time while the children go back to their playing until I call us together for Together Time.
To take a look at what our together time looks like now with family style learning across all ages, read about Our Homeschool Morning Time.
On our big chalkboard in the main area of the house, I write a short list of chores for the morning that we will all do together. “Get Dressed” is the only one that is always there. I add in different ones each day according to what needs to be done or a skill I want them to learn. Some other examples are wash windows, feed the pet fish, and sort laundry. All of these chores are done together at this point. We check off each chore and celebrate as they are accomplished.
This is my favorite part of our day. Titus and Josie grab their floor mats from our homeschool shelf and unroll them onto the living room rug to sit on. This gives them a reminder of personal space boundaries and keeps them from getting in front of each other while I am reading a story or leading them in a song. We start with prayer, inviting God to come into our day and to open our minds to learn and understand. We thank Him for anything that comes to mind and pray for any needs going on around us. The children usually take turns praying aloud after I do. It’s often a jumbled mix of sweet words repeating some line I prayed, but it is a priority and habit I want to instill in them.
Then we sing a few songs that correlate with our theme. Usually our songs include hand/body motions, visuals, and/or instruments and rhythm sticks. If I have a felt board activity or story, I will do it then and let them take turns retelling it after me. At this point we often move to the cozy reading chair, and we read our books for the day. If they want to continue reading other books that are not part of the weekly theme, we do that as well. We transition to our other activities by pulling out some of the trays for the week and working with them on the living room floor. We wrap this time up based on their interest and involvement.
Sometimes one of the children is still engaged with books, tray work, and the other is ready for something else. I usually follow their lead and invite them onto the next planned activities when they are ready. Sometimes that means I am bouncing back and forth between them. These activities include arts and crafts, sensory play, letter recognition & formation, and basic math skills. We typically do these activities at the kitchen table, but sometimes they require movement, cooking, or adventuring which causes us to take our lesson elsewhere. I do not force any activity on them, but I do encourage them to try each thing at least one time. My son is often resistant to anything he has never tried before, so having learning invitations available to him all throughout the day and following his lead is the key to success.
If you're looking for quality, living books to read with your preschool-aged children, I compiled this free book list: 100 Living Books for the Early Years. Download yours for free!
Outing / Outdoor Play
The children typically will have their snack outside on the patio and listen to some audiobooks while I clean up from schooling. From then until rest time, I try to schedule things ahead of time that foster relationship and exploration. Sometimes that means we all go outside and make mud pies. Other days we walk a trail or have a picnic. Often we have playdates with friends, at our home or meet up at a park. One day a week my sister-in-law and niece come over and we all bake a treat together that correlates with what we are learning. Another day each week we go to the library to get the next unit’s books and attend preschool storytime.
Lunch / Rest Time
We often pack a picnic lunch for our morning adventure or eat outside if it is a nice day. Around 1:00 both of my children go into their rooms for rest time. They don’t always sleep, but they play quietly in their rooms until around 3:00. They usually ask to take books in their room or for me to get down some blocks or puzzles from their closets. During this time, I do household chores, lesson planning, and dinner prep.
This time is typically spent outside in our backyard. We have a trampoline, slide, swings, and a playhouse. But usually you can find them playing with sticks, mud, and rocks. Sometimes they want to stay inside and continue exploring something we did that morning in school time, so sometimes afternoons are filled with more painting or sensory play. We have basic arts and crafts supplies out for them to use anytime they would like. They also often ask for me to read to them again or sing some of the songs from the morning. Around 5:00 I typically allow them to watch a show while I prep dinner.
Dinner / Nighttime Routine
After dinner, my husband usually bathes them while I clean up and then we play or read books together in the living room until their bedtime around 7 or 7:30, depending on how worn out they are or if they napped or not.
Our days are both full and calm. It took a lot of trial and error to get to this place, and my hope for you is that you can glean from this to create the rhythm that suits your family’s unique needs and desires.
How to Create a Family Rhythm
- Keep the whole family in mind - Don't forget to keep in mind baby's fussy hour and what your toddler needs as well.
- Focus on the order of events, not so much the times - It's fine to write down times, but focus more on the order and rhythm of events than the actual times.
- Use a loop schedule - Don't try to do every subject or every house chore every single day, loop some!
- Include home care and meal prep - Think about what it takes to keep your home running and plan it in!
- Implement a quiet time - All ages (including mom) benefit from a set rest time every afternoon.
- Have a visual schedule - Having the rhythm on cards for everyone to see the order for each day helps with staying on track. Make sure they’re easy to move around.
- Include personal care for Mama - Don't forget you need time in your day to eat, get dressed, and maybe even read a book or exercise!
- Be honest with yourself - Don't fall into the trap of creating a daily rhythm that is ideal, but is unrealistic.
- Leave margins in your day for play, rest, and the extra things that come up - Be generous in your time blocks to throw in the extras that inevitably happen.
- Hold it all with open hands - As needs change or you simply have an "off day," be ready to throw the whole thing out and start from scratch.
You can also shop our Daily Rhythm Bundle below in hard copy and digital download: