A Step-by-Step Guide to Peaceful Homeschool Mornings

The first part of this school year was glorious. We got busy every morning and were incredibly productive. 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 in 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.

peaceful successful homeschool mornings pam barnhill homeschool solutions

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, 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.

peaceful successful homeschool mornings pam barnhill homeschool solutions

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, 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.

Free Homeschool Morning Time Plans

Just do it

Next comes the hardest part. When the morning alarm goes off, you have simply have 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 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.

peaceful successful homeschool mornings pam barnhill homeschool solutionsInstead, I like to begin my day with a yummy cup of coffee and a few minutes of a good audiobook. 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 day gets busy. The smell of coffee is just about enough to get me out of bed all by itself.

peaceful successful homeschool mornings pam barnhill homeschool solutions

Foster independence

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 not everyone has 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?)

peaceful successful homeschool mornings pam barnhill homeschool solutions

Once I can get everyone to that point then the day is usually home-free. The good start means 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?

Free Homeschool Morning Time Plans

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  • Sheila says:

    Great routine. I know it is easy to slide out of it sometimes but with a touch of effort you can switch that around. I agree that getting to bed at night and getting a good night’s sleep can make all the difference. My husband likes a good cup of coffee in the morning. I didn’t know McCafe was available at home. Thanks for sharing!

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Isn’t it crazy how easy it is to let go of good routines even when we know they make a difference. Being human is so hard sometimes. 😉 The coffee is pretty tasty too.

  • Anna says:

    I need to follow some of your tips. I sleep way too late so of course I hate getting up in the mornings! A good routine like this would probably really help

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      It does. It’s work to make it stick, but it really does make mornings go so much better!

  • UGH. My morning routine is shot. Thanks for the gentle reminder that we need to get started the night before.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      You are welcome! I need that reminder myself often.

      • erynne says:

        i groaned at hearing the night before bc my “do it” attitude quits so early in the evenings– but then i realized you said, a few minutes at the end of the day, which could be 2pm!! now THAT would be smart! and doable! and my head would still be in the game enough to remember what everyone needs to do the next day!

  • Stephanie says:

    What great tips! I always prepare the night before so I’m ready for the day, including: making everyone’s lunches, getting all the clothes set out, showers, and even set out bowls for our morning cereal. Just little things that make the morning run more efficiently! Love that McCafé is now available at Walmart – thanks for sharing #client

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Stephanie – Last year when we traveled to the next town for co-op I put everything out the night before! As much breakfast prep as possible, lunch packed (I forgot it in the fridge more than once!), clothes, everything. You are right, even the little things can make a big difference.

      • Christine says:

        I know this is a couple years later and probably not helpful, but my favorite way to not forget lunch is to put my car keys in the fridge with the lunches. 🙂

        • erynne says:

          haha love that. very creative and perhaps the best plan for all of us very busy mamas!

  • Alli says:

    This was wonderful Pam. I struggle with mornings, I need to remember to prepare more the night before. i somehow always forget that part. I’ve been using the sleep cycle theory for a few months now and I have to say it’s been working really well for me. I noticed it most on days when I get woken up early or got to bed too late the night before, wow what a difference.

  • Cassie says:

    How did you know I was struggling? I’m not getting a good nights sleep so this makes morning near impossible. Right now I’m in deep thought on how to get a better night’s sleep. All you tips are wonderful!

  • Great suggestions! I love the sleep site, and used it last night…only to turn off my alarm and go back to sleep this morning, setting off an annoying chain of events I know could have been avoided by actually FOLLOWING your suggestions. 😉

  • Catherine says:

    So funny, I want just thinking about my plan to organize our homeschool this Jan. We have all been staying up too late and sleeping in too long. It is so hard to keep a schedule going, and too easy to let it slip. I definetely will be looking into the sleep alarm. I would love to know more about your morning boogie routine. I have tried a bunch of different systems and have not found one that seems to stick yet. Thanks!

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Catherine — I hear you! It is so easy to slip. I do it with the boogie too. Maybe writing a post will help me keep it on track. I will add it to the queue.

  • Jen says:

    Why oh why do we let good habits slip?? I’m going to listen to that sleep site at get to bed by 10:00pm tonight. Well, definitely by tomorrow night 😉

  • Lucy says:

    Circle time. With my kids gradeschool and younger, we start the homeschool day together with something they all enjoy. Circle Time happens on a rug away from the table.
    1 Prayer and Morning Offering
    2 Pledge of Allegiance (yes, even in our home school)
    3. Today’s weather
    4. Today’s day & date
    5. Saint of the day
    6. Religion reading (a couple pages & review)

    It takes all of 15 minutes.

    Another easy habit is no screen time in the morning. At all (unless homework related)

    5.

    • Debbie says:

      Hello! I am curious what you do for “morning offering?” I love this idea of a morning circle time! I was just googling about how to get our homeschool mornings off on the right track, so glad I ran into this!

  • […] began with this blog and her ideas to have a peaceful morning and then adapted them to my […]

  • […] A Step-by-Step Guide to Peaceful Homeschool Mornings […]

  • KarenC says:

    I absolutely love this idea. I am one of those that also looks forward to my morning coffee, but have also worked prayer time and reading into that first yummy cup. However, I have to examine this because I really love to read and I absolutely hate to stop. The computer is even worse. 😉 I love to crochet, but is one of those things that I can’t do for a long time, so I could actually work that into my routine in the morning…. (Have you ever heard of prayer shawls?? Lovely idea!!) You’ve got me thinking about this now! That might even transfer into exercise easier…. I find that if I give myself time to wake up and then exercise, that is a good start to my day. My brain functions better. Not sure I want to admit that right now. 😉 Anyway, thanks for posting this, Pam!

  • Sonya says:

    Love your thoughts, I can relate on so many levels! I have a baby right now, and for whatever reason my kids don’t start sleeping more than three-four stretches until they are 18 months old…so sleep deprived!!! I’ve never been a morning person, but I absolutly love routines and schedules. My eldest daughter is a morning person and starts coming unglued by about 1030am which makes it really hard to start homeschool late. On mornings I have enough sleep and we start at 8am on the dot, she’s content and we have a beautiful day. I, on the otherhand, fall apart by 3pm and they end up watching tv for an hour while I nap (cause they tear the house apart if I don’t). I know I have to give myself a break with baby life right now, but it still feels like a fail when I fall apart by 3pm because I got up on time.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Oh Sonya stop beating yourself up. It will not hurt those kids one bit to watch TV for an hour in the afternoon while you nap. This is just a season. Do what you need to do to get by. (And have that good school day.) Pinkie swear you will!

    • Keren says:

      I have 3 under the age of 5 and none of them have slept through the night until 2 years old. It is just a season, and God is good all the time. I moaned at him the other day that I couldn’t get simple things done and kept making silly mistakes, couldn’t keep up with basic chores. Then I realized I’ve been sleep deprived for 5 years now! But, I sure hope it will get better when Little-bit finally sleeps through the night. I think I will be a different person soon. I’m not going to start anything new until then, just to be kind to myself. Hope you are also doing what you need to get by and soaking in some grace!

  • Mandi says:

    I like the simplicity of this. I’m going to check out the sleep calculator. I’ve been thinking a lot about setting two pm alarms: one for evening routine and one for bed. I think I will go do that now.

  • The good morning routine does start the night before. I’m also working on going to bed on time.
    I wrote about it here: http://www.sarahbadatrichardson.com/beware-of-the-munchy-monster/

    I need 30 min on my own to free write. (I have a small table in my bathroom and I sit on the toilet to write! ? That way I don’t have to go out of my room and DD doesn’t know I’m up.) Thankfully she knows to stay in her room until I come out. Then I read one book to her to fill her emotional tank. Then I head to my carport to exercise while DD plays in the yard. Then we have breakfast and start doing our school work. That’s the ideal and it does happen if I get enough sleep!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Love this post. However, I’m not the person needing motivation. :
    My11yr. Old is. How bout a post to help me get him up and in a less grumpy manner?

  • Candy Rae says:

    Thank you for these great suggestions. I will admit that my life has changed so much in the past few years, that I have been flying by the seat of my pants without a schedule for quite a while now. It’s not working. We are just not getting things done. I feel like I’ve lost my way and can’t see my way back. I have six children ranging from age 13 down to 12mos (twins who still won’t sleep well for me at night) and in all my years of homeschooling, I have never found a way to stay on task/schedule with little ones and their constant needs. But I know that I must! I am going to give some of your suggestions here a shot, but do you have any additional advice for me regarding the little ones? We’re kind of a hot mess over here.

    • Tina says:

      Hi Candy! I can imagine it must be challenging with 6 kiddos & trying to figure everything out. I have 3- and my oldest IS 3! So I can at least give some tips on how to handle them while trying to get everything else done.
      1. Spend about 10-15 min cuddle/play time with your youngest ones in the mornings to full up their love tank so they can keep busy while your older ones are doing school.
      2. Incorporate EVERYONE into some few minute morning ritual- prayer/devotional time, circle time etc.
      3. Be flexible! There will be interruptions from the littles throughout your day. Spending additional time, few minutes here & there with them, then returning to your task.
      4. Your children can HELP YOU with housework & things that need to get done.
      5. Don’t beat yourself up. Being a mom is tiring, it’s ok to take breaks and rest during/throughout the day.
      6. Start by making SMALL changes to what you are already doing & work yourself up to having a full routine for homeschooling & housework. Even if you feel you have no sense of stability during your day or already-established-habits, you do if you think about it. Every day you wake up. Every day you eat a meal. Every day you brush your teeth. Start by building on an already established habit. “After I wake up, I will do this.” or “Just before lunch, I will do this.” Start with just adding ONE habit until it feels natural & build up.This will ensure it sticks.
      7. Maybe school only 4 days a week?
      8. Routines tend to work better than schedules for moms of young children when your days & nights can be unpredictable. Schedules say “I do this at this specific time”, well what if you didn’t even wake up on time? Routines say “I start with this, then do this, after that, this” regardless of the time.
      You WILL get your home, life, & schooling in order! Just be optimistic, no matter how many times or days you “fail” to accomplish exactly what you had in mind. Keep making the best of TODAY & have an attitude that “It’s ok, we will try again tomorrow!” Eventually it will happen! It’s a journey & you will figure out what works for your family!
      Blessings your way!

      • Candy Rae says:

        Thank you, Tina ?

      • Michelle says:

        thank you so much Tina. copying and pasting all of that for reminders throughout my day:) <3

    • Doreen says:

      Loop scheduling is a great help when little kids are around to sabotage normal scheduling! Put all your subjects for the week in a long list in the order in which you would like to do them, tape the bottom of the list to the top to make an actual loop, put a paperclip on the subject you are at, and without looking at the clock enjoy each subject and don’t worry if you are not done by Friday, just continue Monday! Some very basic loop scheduling that can make a big difference 🙂

  • […] a good morning routine going. Take the time now to build a morning routine that works for you. Working on it now will make it a habit so when the school year starts you can slide right in to […]

  • […] the list the afternoon before is key to eliminating decision fatigue in my homeschool day and getting my morning off to a good start. If I put it off until the morning, it often doesn’t get done and we […]

  • Adriana Watt says:

    This was so great! One of our struggles of starting morning time when the glam wore off was waiting for the dawdlers. This brought out unkind words in quick children and frustration in ones with a longer day. There are lots of takeaways. Thank you.

  • Amy says:

    I used to be a morning person before I and kids. I used to wake up and read or journal for 30-60 minutes before going to work. I fought against mornings for many years but a year or two so I decided I really wanted that back. So even if I haven’t had much sleep I wake at least an hour before the kids so I can have my coffee and putter (read, pray, look on my phone, journal,). I have been aiming for yiga but have given up that idea! Then I can focus on getting the Morning basket and lessons in straight after breakfast. Otherwise they scatter. We do an hour or two and then they are free until lunch. We do chores about 4 or so before dinner. I child mind so by 9 a.m. I have a baby or toddler arrive and stay with us for the day too. So I try to get some of the prayers and bits some before this. I am looking to tweak a few things but overall I feel soooo much better waking up early than when I sleep in and I am groggy for work. It doesn’t sound like it should work but it does.

  • Christine Miller says:

    I find if I begin in the WORD and end in the WORD, He carries the day! We always start our day reading our verses (Reading through the Bible in One Year List – Old and New Testament) and that sets the tone for the rest of the day… HE then does it ALL!

  • Jen says:

    thanks for this! We are starting our first real homeschool year this year with our 5 year old, Kindergartener. I also just became a full fledged SAHM (was previously a WAHM) so I’m trying to get us into a routine as I adapt to my new lifestyle!

  • Nasreen says:

    Hi pam, wonderful share of a peaceful morning schedule. Im so lazy at times to get off my warm cosy bed. I realise when i dont start my routine early, my whole day homeschool routine seem sooo bad. We dont seem to achieve anything on that day. Im homeschooling 4 kids at the moment. 11 years old, 9 years old, 7 years old and 4 years old. My kids still have to be told of their routine every morming. Im alittle depress on my kids irresponsible behaviour. I might be wrong. Pls advice me. I need help.

    Thanks

    Nes.

  • Ticia says:

    Love this! Thanks so much for the encouraging words and “kick in the pants”! We have a morning time, but it sometimes takes us a while to get started because mommy is a slow morning person! My sweet children are all early risers!!! Starting the day with coffee is a must!!!! BTW, what is morning chore boogie?

  • nmcox12 says:

    Great tips! The main one being: if Mom doesn’t have self-discipline, no one will! Eek. But good reminder.

    I think, as I can see it now, my two main nemeses are 1) no matter how early I wake, the current baby *always* wakes up right when I do. No. Matter. What. So I’ve given up on trying to do anything at all without my horde of little people (and I do mean little, as the oldest is 4.5 and current youngest is 21 months).
    2) No one is at the age I can trust them to independently prep or even eat breakfast. Do you have any tips for what you did for breakfast when yours were all under 5?? I feel like I spend all of breakfast time getting up, down, up, down, to hand out food, get seconds, get water, etc. I’m lucky if I’ve eaten a bite by the time they finish, and then I *really* need to be on top of them so no one leaves the kitchen with sticky hands or without clearing their plates. Result is me being super hangry and feeling zero desire to make one more trip into that kitchen to get myself food or water! Ha. And, as you can guess, I’m not even homeschooling yet! More just trying to think about how on earth I’ll get the morning routine manageable for when we do actually need to school officially in about 2 years (at which time I’m guessing there may be a couple more toddlers/babies in the mix!).

    We did recently start doing Morning Time-ish activities while eating, thanks to your wonderful podcast inspiration, but I still find that I have to choose between eating my food or reading to them. :/ When will they just create Nutrition Cubes for busy moms? ;P

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Well there is Intermittent Fasting — kind of like Nutrition Cubes. 😉 First, don’t try to wake up more than a few minutes before them. I remember when I would get angry because I couldn’t have my “me time” in the morning. So I stopped trying to get it and enjoyed the extra sleep. Just try to have enough time to throw on clothes you laid out, use the bathroom, and brush your teeth. Now mine can read a clock and know what time to get up so I do get that “me time.” As for breakfast can you simply plan to eat after they do? Maybe nibble on some cheese or some other protein while you read. Then when breakfast/MT is over they get a few minutes to run/play and you can eat more leisurely.

  • Michelle says:

    When do you do your morning time? (You said you start the day with independent work) and which morning time are you currently doing?
    I’m looking at the bedtime clock thing now!! Thank you!!

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Now we start with Morning Time. 😀 Back then the boys would drive me crazy in the morning so I would grab them and make them do a few things before Olivia (who is a later sleeper) was ready to begin. Then we would do MT. Now they still get up earlier but are more self-sufficient so we all start together a little later with MT. Right now for MT we are doing the Middle Ages Morning Time plans from our shop. HTH.

  • Jo says:

    I use many of these ideas and they are day changing! 17 years into homeschooling and morning prep makes all the difference. Prayer to start and end my day is non-negotiable, so for me that’s where I get my energy, courage and peace to begin another day. ♥️

  • Stefanie says:

    My 2 cents…
    Nutrition is key to having enough energy. I mealplan on Saturday and we shop for and order groceries accordingly. Without healthy food, there is just no way to feel remotely okay with the new dawn.

    I am sloooooow in the morning and we need soooo long to eat. So we have a big box of quick lessons – printables, workbooks and such – and do them DURING breakfast. They don’t require more than a little oversight and make little mess.
    That’s gotta count as multitasking, right?

  • Karen says:

    Thanks, I’m losing steam as I enter my …don’t even know how many years it’s been! It was 25 a while back. Large family, quadriplegic teen, these are good tips to keep me on track!

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