How to Start a Homeschool Routine

A dear reader, Kimberly, asked: Any advice on starting the homeschool routine for the first time? For us, it’s kindergarten so our first “school” day routine ever! I’m wondering how to make the transition from six years of all day, all play!

Homeschool Habits 101

Oh how exciting Kimberly! In all our years of starting little ones, we have found that we can do the ‘school work’ in about an hour. The important thing is to break the time into short increments: 15 minutes here, a fun break, fifteen minutes there, a snack. Later in the day – a read aloud in the afternoon or even at bedtime.

Just making the routine all a natural part of your day. Here is a simple run down of what a typical morning might look like for our preschooler and first grader. An example:

  • We start with our Before 8:45 checklist. (You can just hang out here for a while!)
  • Next, I sit in between our younger two and read the Rod & Staff Bible Stories to Read (while four-year-old colors in his accompanying Bible Stores to Color).
  • First grader works on the Saxon 1st Grade math calendar (whatever math curriculum you use). A K/1st grader is always excited about getting to ‘do school.’
  • When preschooler finishes up his Bible coloring, he might join in math time, playing with the math manipulatives first grader and I are using. We finish up the math lesson for the day.
  • Preschooler enjoys one page of a Rod and Staff workbook. (He loves Samuel and Sarah and is practicing drawing lines, beginning at the start dot).

Just the Three Rs

Did you notice we only do Bible, along with math, phonics and handwriting? I strongly suggest that, at this age, you major in the 3 Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic. Go to the library and load up on books. Snuggle on the couch. Get outside. Others may offer different advice but that is what works best for us. I hope that helps. I share more detail on our routine – including what works with our little ones, in these posts:

Morning Room Time Builds Skills for Learning Later

How do my younger two sit still or even begin to do the 3 Rs? Rewind to babies up to age four. May I say that the morning room time habit (whether it be in a bedroom or a corner of the family room or whatever works best for your family) truly builds the habit of focused learning. If a preschooler is practiced in a small amount of quiet, learning play, then he or she will understand, quite naturally, the next step of learning.

Even with my youngest, now age four, I continue to be amazed at how morning room time blesses us all. Just yesterday, we were all gathered around the table for lunch. I pulled out our ‘one more thing after lunch‘ which was Harmony Fine Arts. Littlest Guy stayed and sketched as long as he was interested – which was about five minutes, tops. That’s ok because guess what? He hopped down from the table, and sat in the floor with his cars. He rolled those cars close by. And he listened. He turned his little face upward and chimed in now and then. He listened and learned.

I looked down at him, sitting there rolling his cars and I had a flashback of morning room time when he was just a little over a year old.

The youngest are part of the action. And, yes, I am tired at the end of the day and there are sibling squabbles and plenty character training opportunities. But I am privileged to have them all together, constantly tweaking our routine to meet the needs of the age range. Etch it all in your memories, friends.

Do not stress if you find yourself with a four-year-old or kindergartener and did not practice morning room time. My best advice at this age and stage is above: short time increments and learning built into your day. Maybe afternoon quiet time might be the blessing at this age and stage.

Help! I'm Homeschooling ebook by Tricia Hodges Need more helpful homeschool habits? Help! I’m Homeschooling! has all our best in one spot.

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What habit blesses your homeschool?


  1. 1


    I just love the enthusiasm with which you embraced this question! Thank you for reminding me that it’s not drudgery to start a routine and that it will bless the whole family :)


    • 2


      Thank you for your sweet comment Jennifer. My advice, if you are starting, is to pick one habit. One that you believe will bless your family the most. Work on one. Celebrate small successes! Work in small amounts of time.

      And, of course, these young ones are learning along with the older ones all throughout the day…

  2. 3

    H says

    I’m still unsure of how to start a homeschool routine after reading this. What is morning room time? What is a math calendar? Do you have an actual routine that you can post to give an example of what the day looks like?

    • 4


      Dear H, if I were to answer all of those in this one post, it would be rather long :)
      Instead I have linked to further reading on each of the questions you ask. My Helpful Homeschool Habits for Multiple Ages, linked above, offers all that I have written on building the morning room time habit. The helpful habit: Little Ones First, linked above, shares how we begin with the younger ones and what our two little ones do each morning. Our Ten Parts of the Hodgepodge Homeschool Schedule speaks to what a typical day looks like for us all. Our Curricula may help you picture the tools we use: In the next few days I will be sharing A Day in the Life post… But let me say that each of these habits you can use to tailor your day – create what works best for you and your children. Start with one. (And a math calendar is simply one of the tools we use alongside Saxon 1st grade math). I truly hope this helps!

  3. 7


    Hi Tricia,

    Thanks for this post, especially for the part about the littlest ones. I have a seven year old, a five year old, a 15 month old, and one on the way. We started school about two weeks ago and I am quickly figuring out that our little bundle of energy needs something to do that is just his own and not just his everyday toys.

    I am thinking about putting together a box or bag of activities we just pull out during school time for him.

    Thanks for the encouragement.


  4. 12

    Karen says

    I feel like I am hitting my head against a brick wall. I know all about “blanket time” (or as you called it, “morning room time”) and “littles first.” I’ve worked hard with my oldest two (now 6 starting K, and almost 4), both on “first time obedience” and pre-K skills. But the past two years have thrown us for a loop: as a foster-adopt family, we received three new infants all within 12 months of each other. I have no clue how to make a routine with these three, who are now 2.5 (adopted with special needs, so he is developmentally near the level of the other two babies) and two 18-month-olds (one bio and one foster)–it’s like they roam in a pack! I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to engineer solutions: gate off portions of the house, change door levers to knobs, put cabinet locks on everything, find “up high” places for the two bigs to work (so babies don’t grab their scissors, glue, pens, etc.). I know this sounds trivial, but the truth is, every day is like three steps backward, ending the day exhausted with nothing accomplished, and feeling like a horrible mom because I can’t even sit down to read a book to my children. Is there hope for us?

    • 13


      Dear Karen – first off, you deserve to sit down for a bit and put your feet up. Of course you are exhausted at the end of the day! You are handling many busy little ones. I hear the overwhelm in your words! Now I did have three younger ones while trying to homeschool my eldest two. And each one had morning room time. But #3 and #4 were already trained, one at a time while the training for #5 started. Unlike you – who have three all at once! Here is my advice to you: 1. Pray for wisdom! 2. Realize you cannot do it all. 3. Celebrate and focus on any and all successes! Praise, praise, praise! Even 5-10 minutes of quiet, alone play time. You must feel like you are running around and getting each one settled just so you can get one thing done. Maybe focus on the one thing that is the most distracting – and work on that one thing for a while? I always feel so much better if I strip away all the ‘extra’ and focus on just one thing. Plus, at the age your K and 4yo are, any homeschool can be done in short spurts throughout the day. The beauty of homeschooling! Other suggestions you may have already considered: 1. workboxes for your older two (they can begin independently – even throughout the day – while you are helping the younger three) 2. your older two each doing a short play time with a puzzle or reading a book – one on one with a younger child. 3. Gather around and do read aloud time all together and let them all play on the floor while you read. Even five minutes is a success! 4. Get outside – even the backyard – just for a short time. So great for mom too! I hope some of these suggestions will spur you on and encourage in some small way. What a great mama you are!

      • 14

        Karen says

        Thank you for your words of encouragement. Today was a particularly difficult day–the kind when you just gather them all in and say, “We need to stop now and pray for Mommy’s wisdom.” 😉 I am thankful that my 6 and almost-4 are huge helpers (they have had to be). I like the workbox idea. I am thankful we just bought a place with a huge property. Lots of independent play outside (but for the youngest three, they need the older two outside with them). As I thought more about the “morning room,” it occurs to me that if I could actually separate each one (now, that would be a feat, to have separate rooms for each), instead of all three in one “morning room,” it might just work. We currently have problems of the babies wrestling and biting, especially the foster, with whom our discipline options are limited. I have been very discouraged about read aloud time–too much climbing, jumping, shrieking, ill-timed dirty diapers. I know, it requires training the three littles, but oh, all of them at once! We are just starting to have the two bigs “babysit” (entertain) for short times, and they both do an excellent job. Thank you again for your encouragement and suggestions.

  5. 15

    Millie says

    How can I get the “before 8:45 checklist”? It is such a great idea to have it printed out! I clicked on the link but it said 404 not found.

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