One of my readers, Martha, asked for help in structuring her daughter’s day. Also, I got a note from a reader that said,

“Our day vacillates from wildly awesome to total chaos and I want to run outside and not come back.”

– Janie

Yep… been there and felt that.

What Would “Coach” Do?

Coach Jim Schottmueller was my baseball coach. Every practice, he had a plan. He knew what would happen and when it would happen. Most importantly, he knew WHY we were practicing. He had a vision of the team he wanted and made steady progress in each practice.

So it must be with us as we teach our kids at home.

Building the Schedule

“Begin with the end in mind.”

Dr. Stephen Covey

Who (not what) do you want your child to be when they grow up? This may seem like a simple question but, just think about it for a moment. If you don’t have clarity about this, then, while your child is at home, you will not be directing your work towards any more significant purpose.

My highest goals are to help my kids become adults with extremely high character and adults who are fully prepared to change this world for the better. In our family, these goals are FAR MORE IMPORTANT than their readiness for college or career. So, we build our home schedule to match these goals — or at least to try to. College and career are secondary.

Only when parents are clear about who they want their children to become can they be clear about what activities should populate their daily schedules.

Character and Purpose over College and Career

I gently encourage you to consider placing character and purpose development at the root of the schedule. For example:

  • Chores are a character issue for me. An individual has high character when they regularly complete their responsibilities. So, when I assign chores, I am doing it to TRAIN the child in owning a responsibility.
  • Reading and discussing current events is about discovering purpose. When we assign reading, we are thinking about how a book, magazine, or newspaper (yes, we still get the paper) can spark curiosity or unlock a passion that motivates the child to go deeper. Once they have identified a passion, it is our job to support greater discovery in that area.

Additional character qualities of being a hard worker, being financially frugal, and being a servant to those in need are also vital qualities for us to develop in our kids. These, too, can be put into your schedule. The point: the schedule should aim to guide the child towards some higher objective.

A Quick Note about Screens

We limited unsupervised use of Youtube, video games, and other screens in our home — especially in the early years. Kids who default to these tools may have too much Freedom. Youtube, videogames, Facebook, and all social media have been engineered to foster addictive behavior in the user. There are dozens of reports that confirm this.

In our experience and conversations with other parents, we have found that it was WAY too difficult for a young child to resist the “siren song” of screens. So we used our schedule to define when Youtube could and could not be used. We also set up clear consequences when use occurred outside of these restrictions.

Also, the kids place their cell phones in a basket near the front door. Video watching is not allowed in the privacy of their rooms, and we have password access to all phones, computers, and tablets. These tools are all privileges that are subject to our oversight. (Send me a note in the comments section if you agree/disagree on this).

The Primacy of Self Control and Responsibility

Did you know self-control was a skill? Well, it is. And it grows — like any skill — with repeated practice. So, as you develop your schedule, intentionally plan ways to build multiple repetitions of self-control into the day.

We will review a schedule below.

Let’s Study a Draft Schedule

  1. Rigidity
    1. Every parent will have to define how rigid they want their child’s schedule. The above is highly structured and similar to the schedule we followed when our kids were 9. Because we had three kids, active lives outside of home, and a bias for structure, we felt it necessary to be much more structured. But I urge you, do whatever feels right to you. You know your child best, and you know what goals for which you are aiming.. And, let’s not forget, you are the Head Coach.
  2. Start Time
    1. This is probably the least important part of the schedule. We had an early start time because, well, I am a farm-boy… and I believe that we should wake with the chickens! But whether your child gets up at 7:30, 8:30 or later, set a time and help them become responsible for meeting the target.
  3. Sleep!!!!
    1. This schedule was built to assure that the child got 11-hours of sleep each night AND A NAP! Our kids were very active and needed a ton of sleep. In America, it is safe to assume that your child is NOT getting enough sleep. This impacts their ability to learn, to control their mood, and to control their impulses. So, if your child is grumpy, forgetful, or is having difficulty regulating themselves, sleep could be the culprit. The Sleep Foundation has a done excellent research on the importance of sleep for kids (and adults!!)
  4. Academic Time
    1. You may notice that the schedule has the child reading for about 1.5 hours and doing math for approximately 1 hour. Many of you might not think that this is not enough but it is plenty… as long as it is done well. (NOTE: Right now — because schools are closed — some school leaders are instructing parents to cram many hours of assignments into the homeschool day. This is a mistake. I have already heard from parents who are simply unable — and unwilling — to turn their home into a full-day school.)
    2. Remember, the schedule above will be repeated more or less for an entire year. That means that, if you held to this schedule, your child would read for 300+/- hours per year! This is FAR MORE than would typically happen in a school… and it would dramatically improve your child’s reading abilities.
  5. Character Practice
    1. The schedule has given the child responsibility for waking on their own, cleaning up, laundry, meal preparation, and preparing for the following day. This gives the child “reps” in managing themselves and being responsible.
  6. Priority
    1. Each schedule should have a few priorities — the activities that you are going to do NO MATTER WHAT. When my daughter was behind in math (remember the “Summer of Tears” I wrote about?) this became our priority. When my son found it difficult to get up in the morning, our priority focused on bedtime. Make sure you’re clear on the priorities for your daily schedule.
  7. The TRUTH about ALL Schedules
    1. Whatever schedule you design, take comfort in knowing that it will work about 50% of the time. THAT IS OK!! The schedule is simply a guide — a framework — to keep you moving in the right direction. DO NOT LOOK AT THE SCHEDULE AS ‘GOSPEL’ and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t accomplish all of the activities on the schedule. Feel free to flex based on how you and your child are feeling. Just keep moving in the general direction you set and, over time, you’ll see the progress!

What’s NOT in the Schedule

A schedule should never replace love. Ideally, it should create the conditions of order and routine that reduces friction in the home while moving the kids toward your higher purpose.

Many of the activities in the schedule should be done WITH the child. Others are intentionally done separate from the child — so the child can develop independence and responsibility. My recommendation is that, as often as possible, read with your child IN YOUR LAP. The bonds of connection are as important as the reading — probably more.

Reading with your child will also produce a common vocabulary and experiences that each of you can discuss later. Consider books-on-tape programs like Audible or free through your public library. Likewise, when you know what your child is working on in math, it allows you to reinforce concepts while cooking, at the store, etc.

Freedom and Responsibility

Lastly, remember that “Freedom follows Responsibility.” Put differently, a child’s Freedoms are earned with their ability to demonstrate Responsibility.

As an example, years ago, I told my kids that they would be responsible for having themselves ready for school on time. No more waking them up… no more making them breakfast. When they were able to consistently meet this responsibility — without my reminders — then they were given the Freedom of setting their own bedtime. When my son started waking up late, he was demonstrating that he was unable to handle this responsibility. So, the Freedom of setting his own bed time was removed. He had to re-earn that Freedom.

Summary

The schedule is a tool that can help grow responsibility in your children.

So, talk with your children about the schedule you develop. See if it is working for them — and you. If it isn’t, adjust it. Just keep your eyes fixed on the long-term objectives you have for them.

I hope this was helpful. Keep the questions coming and I pray much success as you lead your children.

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