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Have you ever slept through an alarm?
When I was teaching high school math at a public school, I used to get to school by 7 am to prepare for my day. My first class started at 7:45. One morning, I woke up at looked at the clock. 7:25.
I flew out of bed, got dressed, brushed my teeth and raced out to the car, shaking the sleep away while I drove. As I ran into school at exactly 7:45, I thought, “What will I say to the kids? How can I transition into the lesson? What IS the lesson?” I knew I had planned the lesson, I had all the materials prepared a few days ago, but I couldn’t shake the panicked feeling I had.
In fact, I can still feel the panic even now, years later, as I write this.
I was prepared for that day. I had my lesson plans written out weeks in advance, materials prepped days in advance.
But because I didn’t start the day right, I felt behind ALL day. I was off my game. I’m not sure the students could tell, but I could tell. I could tell I wasn’t at my best because my day didn’t start the best.
I was never late for school again.
Fast forward nine years to when my daughter was in 1st grade, and I was educating her. I had lesson plans & materials prepared, but I still felt like I was always behind. Suddenly, I realized the problem.
As a home educator, I was “showing up late” every morning.
Something had to change. If we wanted to change our day, we had to change the way we STARTED the day.
Over our years of home education, I’ve realized that how we start the day matters. How we start the day sets the tone for the entire day.
Below are 7 strategies that work for us:
1. Set reasonable expectations
You know your family better than anyone! You know each of your kids and you know yourself, so there’s no one who can set expectations for your day better than you.
I am not a morning person.
I’ve tried to get up well before the kids, tried to make big, homemade breakfasts every morning. I’ve set that goal a hundred times and every time I fail.
I have a son who wakes up around 6 every morning – well before the rest of us – and that’s just who he’s always been. As much as I’d like to get up at 5:30 to cheerily greet him as he awakes, it doesn’t happen.
We need to set reasonable expectations for ourselves.
In our case, when the kids wake up, they get ready and make their own breakfasts (our growing boys sometimes have a “second breakfast” later!). We eat lunch & dinner together, and spend all day together, so having a scattered breakfast is fine for us.
My husband’s a morning person, so he’s up and spending time with the kids before heading to work. Meanwhile, I’m hitting snooze once (or twice!), getting ready, enjoying my coffee & having a bit of time to focus myself and the day ahead.
Find what works for you and rock it!
2. Be Prepared
I know this goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway! School lessons are more likely to happen when they’re prepared. When I don’t have something prepared, it tends to be procrastinated. If it’s written in the plans, it’s more likely to get done.
I’ve learned that I need a list, schedule, or plan to be most effective at…well…life! Whether it’s educating, travel, work, blogging — there is simply too much going on in life to keep it all straight and to stay on top of everything unless it’s thought-through and written down.
3. Set a Start Time
Children like consistency. They appreciate schedules. Kids like knowing what’s coming next, and schedules give them a sense of stability.
No matter how flexible your lesson plan is, having an established start time helps add consistency to start the day right. Whether it’s early, mid-morning, afternoon – set a start time and stick with it. Your kids and your lesson plans will thank you!
We start at 8 am. Every day. Our boys are early risers and we like to get done with our school day in time to explore, run errands, practice music/sports activities, so this works for us. Whatever time works for you — great!
4. A Screen-Free Start
5. Create Your Environment
My husband uses the phrase, “Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.”
In other words, we aren’t supposed to just tell the temperature — we’re responsible for setting the atmosphere. We need to be aware of what’s going on around us and make necessary changes in order to have the type of environment we want in our home. Our home’s atmosphere doesn’t just happen to us — we’re responsible for creating it.
A half-hour before our school day starts, we start playing music on our Amazon Echo. I’ve created some Amazon Music playlists that are 30 minutes long (you could do the same thing on Spotify!).
The playlists start with some fun dancing music and gradually transition to slower worship music. Our morning starts with fun and settles into a worshipful environment, ready to start our school day with our Morning Time.
Starting the music also gives our kids a subtle countdown for when they need to be ready. They know that when the music starts, they need to have their morning responsibilities done in the next 30 minutes.
6. Well-communicated morning responsibilities
We’ve found that if we start our day being productive, we tend to be more productive throughout the day.
Therefore, our kids have some responsibilities each morning. This ensures that, when it’s time to learn, we are prepared and on time.
We used to have a list on our fridge, but now it’s become a habit that our children (rarely) need reminders. They also know how long it takes, so our daughter (who is a sleeper & snoozer like me!) sets her alarm to make sure she’s ready on time each day.
Their list includes:
Our 8 year old son also exercises every morning – sit ups, push ups, pull ups, planking & superman (who’s kid is that?!), and our 11 year old daughter reads her Bible.
Whatever responsibilities you establish for your child, communicate it clearly and follow up on them consistently. Consistency is so important to create a predictable routine!
7. Be willing to push “Reset”
Plans exist to help us manage our time, but plans should not control us.
All grand plans fall through from time to time. That’s ok!
A sick child or parent, extra tired kids, dad is home from work — all of these can call for flexibility.
There are seasons when we need a day huddled together reading a big stack of books. At times, we need a “Jammie Day.” Sometimes, after a particularly difficult math lesson with a particularly crabby kid, we all need a 5 minute dance party.
You know your family better than anyone, and you know when those moments are necessary. Be brave and take those moments!