The first part of this school year was glorious. We got busy every morning, were incredibly productive, and we were done with all of our core PLUS enrichment subjects by noon each day with plenty of time to spend our afternoons in leisure or working on other projects. It was awesome.
Why was it so awesome? Because of our mornings. About two weeks before school started I put a new morning routine into place that had us rocking our homeschool days. I eased into it before the school year started, got myself used to the routine, and it made all the difference in the world. For about 2.5 months.
Being human, I have slipped back into my slovenly morning ways and that routine has gone out the window. Bad habits creep up slowly like kudzu on a pine tree and before you even realize it, all your productivity is being choked out of you by poor choices. The days never start well. Attitudes are horrible, and the school work either stretches into the afternoon or gets cut short at the expense of other activities.
But the semester break and the new year hearken, and I am ready! I want to reclaim my mornings, put my good habits back into practice, and revive our homeschool with productivity and peace. This is how I am doing it step-by-step.
Start the Day Before
The best homeschool morning routines actually start the day before. Once school has ended for the day, I take a few minutes to prepare our papers and lessons for the next day. I load the kids’ clipboards with their checklists, math, reading, and handwriting work. Doing this daily allows me to evaluate their progress each afternoon and decide if they are ready to move to the next lesson or if they need more practice.
I check loop schedule lesson plan to see which subject we will be doing the next day and gather supplies and my calendar to see what activities or appointments we have. Once all of this is prepared, I can close the door on that school day knowing I am ready for the next.
Set an Alarm
Everyone knows that, you say? Ahh grasshopper, I am not talking about the morning alarm. I am talking about the evening alarm. One of my biggest hurdles to having a good morning is going to bed on time the night before. I get involved in what I am doing, lose track of time, and before I know, it is midnight or later. That never ends well the next morning.
First use the Sleepy Time Bedtime Calculator to figure out when you need to go to bed. Simply enter the time you want to wake into the website, and it will tell you what time to head to bed, based on the idea that you should wake between sleep cycles instead of during one. I have used this for a few months and am pretty confident that it works — I really do wake easier if I wake at the times it indicates.
For me to wake at 5:30, I need to be asleep by either 10:00 or 11:30. I know 10:00 will make me feel better, so I am going to shoot for that most of the time. Keep in mind that it will take you about 15 minutes to fall asleep and you need about 15 minutes to prepare for bed (brush teeth, check kids, lock doors), so I set my alarm for 30 minutes before I actually want to be sleeping.
When that evening alarm rings, I know to stop what I am doing and head to bed. If you have a hard time stopping in the middle of a task, set the alarm for 40 minutes before bedtime and hit snooze once. That 10-minute warning will give you time to wrap up what you are doing and come to a stopping point.
Just Do It
Next comes the hardest part. When the morning alarm goes off you have simply got to get out of bed. It stinks. It’s tough. It’s much warmer in that bed. I just repeat to myself that the entire day will have an entirely different tone if I can just get moving. Come on, you can do it too.
I try to wake at least a few minutes before my early risers. Once my feet hit the floor my first task is to get dressed. It doesn’t have to be perfectly dressed to go out, but enough so I will not be trying to shower or change later while the kids are starting school. I have found that leaving the main part of the house for more than five minutes once everyone is up and moving about results in kids who are off-task or picking at each other.
Just Enjoy It
There are some morning gurus who tell you that you need to start your day with exercise. There are others who say that you should always begin your day with prayer. I am knocking neither prayer nor exercise, because both are extremely important. If you are one of those people who have a great fitness or prayer habit already established or really look forward to either, then by all means start your day with those.
But for those of us who hate to exercise or struggle with consistent prayer, trying to begin the day with those things only hampers our efforts to get our day off to an early start. We have to learn to walk before we can run. So I am going to share my successful morning secret with you: start your day with something you really enjoy and look forward to. Getting to do that first will be the thing that motivates you to get out of bed early each morning.
Now I must include a caveat — the thing you choose can’t be something you enjoy SO much that it causes you to be undisciplined. I love to work on the blog or other projects on the computer in the morning when my brain is fresh, but if I do that I often will get sucked into the project and fail to stop when I need to. I know this about myself and can plan accordingly.
Instead I like to begin my day with a yummy cup of coffee and a few minutes of a good audio book. I enjoy the quiet and add in a bit of knitting or crochet. I love to work with yarn, but rarely have time once the busy of the day gets started. I also struggle to find time to read. So, if I can start with those enjoyable pastimes, it makes it easier for me to roll out of bed.
I sit and enjoy the smell and the taste of the coffee before my days gets busy. The smell of coffee is just about enough to get me out of bed all by itself.
Once the kids start to stir and my peaceful quiet is over, I have to move to keep the morning going. The first thing I do is to encourage everyone to fix their own breakfast. While I am at the store, I grab a selection of breakfast foods that the kids enjoy — cereal, frozen waffles, oatmeal packets (made with the Keurig!), and fresh fruit are a few easy food items they can make themselves while I start laundry, do a few chores, or get things set out for a lesson.
After breakfast I encourage the kids to move quickly through our “Morning Chore Boogie” by playing music and being close by as they work. The more we work on this routine and the closer I am to supervise, the easier it is to get them to finish quickly and move to the table. We always begin the school day with independent work, so that everyone does not have to be present for the day to begin. You know, just in case there is a chore dawdler. (You have one of those too, right?)
Once I can get everyone to that point then the day is usually home-free. The good start means that the rest of the day is more likely to follow suit. Now, you tell me, what are your tips and secrets for a peaceful homeschool morning?