A Winter Schedule for Life & Learning

Homeschoolers love to share their schedules and routines. We love to swap notes about what works and what doesn't in terms of managing and directing our days. But of course schedules/routines/rhythms, whatever you want to call them - are so unique to each person and family.

I look at some people's schedules and I get immediately anxious about the amount of activity they are able to pack into their days. I feel anxiety for them trying to rush through all that and I feel my own anxiety about not being that productive.

Our schedule is fairly busy, our days are absolutely full but part of that full is sheduled downtime. Reading, resting, exercising, etc.

I honor my need and my family's need for these activities by planning for them. Making space for them in our lives. Scheduling not just the activity but the apparent "inactivity".

I love the direction and discipline a schedule provides to actually implement ideas - homeschooling, earning an income, healthy eating, exercise, outdoors, reading, play, projects, etc. They all have a place in our days and on the schedule.

But as much as I love a good schedule - a routine for our days that meets our family needs - I tire of them and need flexibility in my life. If I feel bound by a schedule I get cranky and uninspired. Humans after all are wired for novel and challenging experiences, even those of us who love routine.

I go back and forth between these two realities - my love for structure and my need to break out of it to keep things fresh. My next post on schedules is full of practical ways I've learned to balance these two realities to foster joy and freedom in our home, while still getting things done.

But first, our usually, not always winter schedule.

What I love about this winter so far is that our days are really varied. Monday through Wednesday has one groove and Thursday through Sunday has an entirely different feel. So by the time you get to Thursday morning and you're ready for a change - ba-bing! you get one.

My whole family seems to really like this variety to our days.

For explanations of blocks see this post.

Monday through Wednesday:

Early Morning Block

  • I usually wake up around 6am. I don't use an alarm clock. I get up when my body tells me to do so. Once I wake up I do the following in no particular order: a bit of housekeeping, personal care, e-mail, make breakfast, Bible reading, poetry, prayer, and making plans for the day. I recently joined an online spiritual accountability and support group of four women - real life friends of mine from Maine - and we connect in the morning and encourage each other throughout the day. I love this.
  • Writing. This is when I do almost all my blog writing. I fit in other blog work at different points in the day. I aim for 2 hours of writing but usually do a bit less with interruptions, breakfast eating, etc.
  • 8:00 am (ish) I wake the kids up, they eat breakfast and do their chores.
  • Damien does his own thing in the early morning - e-mail, writing, and tending the fire. Technically he's on parental duty when I'm writing but the kids rarely need our help anymore during this time and we both can be fairly focused in our work while they do their morning routine.

Morning Block - School

  • Starts around 9:30. Céline does her own thing with supervision from Damien or me. I connect with Céline as needed but mostly I oversee and engage with the younger two around their needs and interests. Next week (or the next) I plan to publish a post about their current homeschool curriculum. I do easy house tidy and kitchen clean up during this time also.
  • Damien is available during this block for questions and interaction while he does his own thing - writing, webwork for our sites, and never ending e-mail with clients. He also exercises during this time, right now that means skiing.

Lunch Block

  • Starts at 12:00pm. I tend to e-mail or other computer stuff and then the kids and I make lunch together.
  • While we eat, and sometimes while we're cooking together, we listen to stories. In the past we've listened to the Bible while eating, currently we're listening to The Hobbit and Erak's Ransom (all my kids have loved the whole Ranger's Apprentice series - to read and to listen to). Our lunch time activities are currently in flux as we try to find time in our days for family Bible education and discussion and regular meetings for Céline's learning.

Afternoon Block

  • Starts around 2:00pm. The dishes get done at some point, either kids alone or with my help, depends on the day. Right after lunch is a time of quiet and rest from our other activities. I might read, knit, or nap. The kids might play a video game. This is a definite breathe in time of our day, before the afternoon activities get underway.
  • Damien starts his billable computer work during this time. I don't plan his schedule. We plan our own schedules around our personal, familial and work responsibilities, scheduling as much as possible according to our own body rhythms. It's learn-as-we go, always figuring out how to work together to earn an income and raise our family.
  • My afternoons still look a lot like this with a few changes. No taekwondo for the kids this season (skiing instead) and I don't try to exercise every day. Instead I ski Friday morning, all day Sunday and do something outdoors Tuesday afternoons.
  • The kids direct their own afternoons. Céline and Damien go to town once a week to work (for a change of scenery). They do the bulk of the week's grocery shopping on their way home.

Supper Block

  • Sometime around 5:00 or 5:30 (6:00 or 6:30 if I'm not as disciplined that day) supper is started and the kids clean up the day's messes - mostly.
  • We eat, we talk, and after supper the kids and Damien clean up. We try to have this all wrapped up by 7:30 but some days clean up isn't done till 8pm or later if I didn't make supper on time.
  • Céline makes supper on Wednesdays which frees up my time for home or work related tasks. I also try to work on Wednesday evenings.

Evening Block

  • Around 8pm we shift to our evening routine. Damien works during this time. My brain is done for the day and I start my slow and delicious descent to bed.
  • I read to Brienne and Laurent. Shower if I need to, tuck Brienne into bed and go to bed myself around 9:30 and I usually read before going to sleep.
  • The other members of our family all go to bed on their own accord. Laurent and Céline set their own bedtimes, sometime after I'm in bed.

Thursday through Sunday

This where things get interesting. On Thursday and Friday we still have similar blocks in terms of time but what we do is different.


In the morning my family goes skiing. I work. The kids and I have a modified school schedule in the afternoon. I'm experimenting with this. I'm thinking this is a good time for family freewrite and history with Brienne and Laurent. Library visits (to pick up our fill of graphic novels) are a possibility also for this time.

Thursday night is family RPG night.


Friday morning we all go skiing together. Lunch time is made easier with pre-washed salad mixes and then all we need to do is make a dressing.

Friday afternoon is totally unscheduled. It may look like project time, along the lines of Project-Based Homeschooling but I also like to leave this block unscheduled and go with whatever is happening in the week. I need that margin in my life.

Friday afternoon, right before supper, we might clean the house. It takes the kids and I one hour, if that, all working together to vacuum, clean toilets and wash the floors if and where needed. Friday night is easy supper and family movie or gaming night.

Saturday & Sunday

Saturday morning we sometimes have individual ski lessons. The new piece this winter is French lessons all afternoon for myself and maybe Céline (she's still uncommitted at this point).

We're currently taking a break from scheduled hospitality on Saturday nights. Five hours of French lessons and driving on Saturday afternoon knocks it out of me.

Sunday is our family day outdoors, as always. We aim to ski in the mountains but somedays we only make it as far as the ski hill in our backyard. And this last week we didn't even make it that far as Damien was resting from a knee injury earlier in the week.

Sharing my schedule is not about saying "here, this is how to homeschool, or this is how to work from home together".

The beauty of homeschooling and working at home is finding your own routines that work for you. And after a year and half of blending the two, each season we find a new groove that fits for where are right now. And often the new routines seems better than the last.

Our kids are at the age when they need more out-of-home activity and engagement. The good news is that they are also at the age when they can help with a significant amount of food and home care responsibilities. Not to mention that Damien is very engaged with family life and homeschooling. And so life feels full and active, but generally not stressed or hurried. And this is good.

That's it (ha, ha!) for today. Next up in my mini-scheduling series this winter are specifics tips to help you make your own schedule for learning and life.

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Taking some time to write »
  • Ashley

    Ashley on Jan. 31, 2013, 10:58 p.m.

    Rene, I am amazed at how helpful it is to see how someone else schedules their days. I realize we all approach things differently, and obviously I have a house full of littles right now that puts me in a very different place, despite the similarity in OUR ages. And as structured/yet loose as I feel I am, I benefit from seeing specifically how others make things work. I often find inspiration from you. I really really value your sharing and practicality. You give me much to consider.


    • renee

      renee on Jan. 31, 2013, 11:12 p.m.

      Thanks! And you're welcome. I spend a lot of time putting together posts like these so I can portray our lives honestly and still not "tell every single detail of every day". I'm glad you find it useful. I do love reading how other homeschoolers schedule their days.


  • Rana

    Rana on Feb. 1, 2013, 4:14 a.m.

    I kind of followed your blocking idea, but tweaked it to our families needs. I have been doing a block of project based homeschooling in the afternoons. The kids and I have been enjoying that. We also do after dinner family reading time for about a half hour. My husband reads some of our bible based literature for that time. I love being able to schedule down time in our week it just makes our days flow better and less hectic. I'm looking forward to seeing what other tips and tricks you have up your sleeve.


  • Sarah M

    Sarah M on Feb. 1, 2013, 4:48 a.m.

    I also really like to see how other people 'schedule' their lives, and it's mostly helpful to me as a more beginner homeschooler, to see how much time older kids spend doing more formal school and...not! :) This is a good reminder with really how little I do need to structure school time, or if I'm pushing things to hard, when to take a step back and see what is/isn't working. This month we are pretty much completely taking off, because we are moving Feb. 18th back to up BC/WA (just on the US border until my immigration goes through), and...all our books are packed! I am definitely loving the idea of year-round homeschooling because it just seems more natural, bumps (like months being taken off) don't derail plans, and because my kids seem to get restless without at least a little bit of structure during the week during summer. That, and outside time as much as possible. It's just too darn cold with a windchill of --20! Sarah M


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 1, 2013, 12:50 p.m.

      I love the freedom of year round schooling for the exact same reasons. Life happens - moving, major changes, etc. and you can go with it and my kids get antsy and restless in the summer or during any other long stretch of unstructured time.  And I visited your blog to comment but BC - oh! Lucky you. We love BC! Hello skiing!


  • Sarah M

    Sarah M on Feb. 1, 2013, 1:29 p.m.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting--we are thrilled to finally be making this goal a reality. We have literally planned and worked toward this for our entire marriage (almost to 8 years now) and so it just feels...unreal.

    We are very blessed, too, to be walking into an already- waiting large group of support including best friends (my husbands few best friends, it's amazing the relationship that has continued while him living 1500 miles away from them for almost 9-10 years), and now their families, and my husband's extended family. It makes the transition a little less overwhelming to know we have so much support out there, friends and family 'at the ready' to invite us over for dinner and help us get acclimated.

    Living in Nebraska (think: flat, and corn), I have only had the chance to ski/snowboard 2 times in my life. I tried snowboarding once (what a disaster...I made the instructor fall along with me!) and skiing was...okay, but discouraging with all those wee kids zooming past. Hah. Stefan, however, is so excited to be back on the hills from where he grew up!

    Sarah M


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 1, 2013, 1:36 p.m.

      I'm excited for you also! How a BC boy like your husband managed in Nebraska, well, it must have been his love for you! And I visit your blog often, I just don't comment very much (smile).


  • Aimee

    Aimee on Feb. 1, 2013, 3:07 p.m.

    I am seeing that we really need to tweak our routine every semester...it doesn't "work" for a whole year...seasons of the year change and so must our routine to allow for the differences in fall, winter, spring and summer. Tweaking ours now!


  • Brynn Dahlquist

    Brynn Dahlquist on Feb. 2, 2013, 10:37 a.m.

    I so very jealous of your loose routine. I feel like I'm homeschooling Alex P. Keaton. He would have an aneurism. We tried this route when he was 5 and 6, until he came to me completely anxiety ridden and said, "I.need.a.schedule.Please!" It is much harder for me, but has really upped the ease of transitions in during the day.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 2, 2013, 12:55 p.m.

      That's funny Brynn. I think this is a "schedule". If my kids wanted more structure I'm sure I could come up with something for them, as long as I didn't have to be so structured myself! "Every day at 10am we do this" doesn't work as well for me as "usually every morning we do this list of activities". I've actually changed a lot in this regard. When Celine was a baby I was super structured. I scheduled her feedings, all that jazz (in a desperate attempt to have her sleep through the night - didn't work). Over the course of mothering three infants I did a 180 in that regard and my tight grip on super scheduling our life loosed up, significantly. And I feel I keep moving more and more in that direction. Who knows by the time I'm an old woman I might even be "laid back".


  • Leigh

    Leigh on Feb. 2, 2013, 4:14 p.m.

    Thank you for this, Renee. My husband and I have undergone a lot of life changes in the past year - mostly related to our move from a house to a 45' sailboat. One of my biggest struggles transitioning to living aboard has been getting into a routine while leaving enough flexibility to enjoy the places to which we travel and the people we meet. There are never-ending chores aboard a boat, and we are both self-employed (new for me, but not to my hubs) and need to carve out time to earn income. Yet we undertook this lifestyle, in part, so that we could do things like take naps when we need to and enjoy the outdoors as much as we can. It's been hard for me to balance industry with rest and recreation, and to deal with feelings of guilt over the fact that we get to structure our lives like this at all (and that's a whole new 'ball of wax').

    Net/net, it's hugely refreshing to read what you've shared about your family schedule, and to realize that I don't have to have my whole day broken down into 15-minute increments of busyness from sun-up to sun-down. I've realized I've sort-of already broken my days into blocks, which makes me feel like I am already doing something right in my quest for a schedule. I also love that your family doesn't do the exact same things every day, and that you openly admit that sometimes the schedule just doesn't work for the day, or there's something special to focus on or celebrate instead, and that's OK.

    Thank you for reminding me that my routines don't need to look like anyone else's (even yours!), and that it's OK - no, GOOD - for my routines to include plenty of flexibility for me to get things done but also enjoy life as I go along.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 2, 2013, 5:11 p.m.

      Leigh, I totally hear you on the guilt thing. I struggle with that also. That I get to live this life. Nap when I need, work when I need, let the kids grow and learn as they need. My life is not "easy" and struggle free, but I get to choose so much of how I spend my time and not everyone can say the same. And I struggle with how to write from that perspective also. 


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Feb. 4, 2013, 7:55 p.m.

    That looks great!

    I'm a routine person, but I have to find the balance between needing that routine and needing the flexibility of life. I get frustrated when there is no routine, and I get frustrated when there is one. :)

    I'm in the still-trying-to-move-in-and-settle plus 3 young kids life stage right now, so that dictates a lot of my routine.

    Question: what do your kids wear to make their face warm enough in the cold? We currently have "neck warmers" that get pulled up over the bottom part of the face but they fall down...this is just for playing outside/walks. But we were talking about some sort of balaclava type thing, my husband has one, but we need them for little kids. I really want to get outside even more with the kids, but we've had weeks of -20s C to -30s C and lower and the wind is so chilling. We need to figure out a solution so we can get more air and outdoor time even when its so cold, even if its just 10 minutes.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 9, 2013, 3:34 a.m.

      We use balaclavas in really cold weather and Buffs in "normal" cold weather (down to -15/-20C). We each have a Buff, they are incredibly useful as neck warmers, face warmers, headbands, hats, etc. You'll see them in a lot of my outdoor photos. Here's Brienne wearing hers on a recent walk.

      Buffs stay up on the head much better than simple neckwarmers. They are long can stretchy and can be pulled up over hats and toques and still over the face and neck. We recommend them.


  • Sarah Park

    Sarah Park on Feb. 5, 2013, 12:32 p.m.

    Looks like you are really good with time management. Wish I could do the same.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 5, 2013, 12:38 p.m.

      I'm actually wired to be a manager. My personality type is ESTJ and in another life, according to that analysis, I'd be a great middle manager. I guess I channel those management tendencies into my home. Scatch that, I know pour those management tendencies into my home. Management is a strength of mine but I struggle in other areas (smile).


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