Our Daily Schedule

by Karmel Larson

Small and Simple Things

(Lucy Mack Smith reading the bible to Joseph and Hyrum)

By David Koch

This week I am caring for my brother’s 3 wonderful children.  Though it is delightful to have them here playing and bonding with their cousins, it has reminded me of how I cherish our routines, schedule and stewardship assignments given to each child.  As I have missed the order of our home over the past few days, I thought it would be a good time to respond to my dear friend, Mayela, about some details of our daily schedule.  I’ve included a brief outline and some notes about different times of the day.  If there’s a certain part of the day you are interested in knowing about how we do things, leave a comment and I’ll find time to elaborate on that section.

Let me just preface this by saying… this is the default schedule that I always strive to achieve.  If anyone ever comes over, we throw it out the window because it never works the same.  It is there to create joy and sometimes it’s most joyful to be flexible and try again the next day.  Having no schedule in place though, leads to mob rule, mom in jammies and crisis mode, kids with bed head and overall bewilderment wondering where did the day go?  I started the schedule for this post at 6:30 because that’s when I begin with the children.  I like to take the approach to mothering and running the home the same as if I were a CEO of a fortune 500.  So I feel like I need to be “Ready For Work” by 6:30.  So before 6:30, I like to have done my exercise, my spiritual routine, be showered and dressed to the shoes (flylady) and tidy up my room (flylady morning routine checklist).  Sometimes I don’t get everything in and some days I race to the table without my make up on yet.  But the day goes much better when I’m completely prepared and can then focus on Brigham, the kids, the home, the meals and squeeze in my own education, hobbies, passions in the cracks here and there.

6:30 Wake the Children

  • They get to put beans into our “Bean/Being Good Jar” at scripture time for completing any of the following before 7.  When the bean jar gets filled, we choose an activity to do as a family.  We are very liberal with adding our beans.  Joshie gets one for being cute.  Briggy Jr. gets some for smiling, etc.  We don’t want it to take too long to fill up!
  1. Make bed
  2. Say prayers
  3. Get dressed
  4. Clean room
  5. Morning Chore
  6. Brush Hair
  7. Beat Dad to the table
  • Anyone who arrives with bedhead gets the squirt bottle and mom’s brush at breakfast… no one leaves the breakfast table with bedhead!  I quickly learned that I really don’t like the looks of a loafing child with bedhead at 10am.  I think having them dressed and ready helps them be more productive as well.  Something about “getting ready” for the day that helps us move onto productivity.

7:00 Scriptures with dad around the breakfast table

  • In our home we say that, “7 is Heaven”.  When we stick to scriptures at 7 am and Family Prayer at 7pm it feels like Heaven in our home.  Of course, there is dual meaning here in that we hope these spiritual routines will also help lead us all back to heaven and help our children to develop their own testimonies and a desire to seek exaltation.
  • I used to do this during the day when Brigham was gone because it was easier and more consistent.  I’ve recently felt impressed though that we need to make more effort to do this WITH Dad!  It’s been a tremendous blessing since we made the change!
  • Everyone gets a chance to read.  The toddlers do echo reading and preschool age does turtle talk.
  • We never worry about how much we are reading, rather the quality of the experience, the feeling and stopping often to discuss words, storyline, doctrine and ask meaningful questions.
  • Yesterday we were reading about Teancum in the Book of Mormon and we only read one verse because Dad got so carried away acting out the javelin stabbing in the tent scene that it took up the whole time.  No they didn’t get much doctrine or deep thinking that morning, but the talked about it all day.  So many different things are happening when a family is gathered to read scriptures together, and one of those can be “fun”!
  • We have great scripture book marks thanks to our home teachers.  I want to create some for the families we visit.  Abby gets the scriptures and sets them all out, opened and ready, and cleans them up afterward.  I keep our scripture items in a kitchen cupboard.
  • I have the kids wait to eat until after we are done reading to avoid the mega distractions (and spills) involved with a meal.

7:30 Eat Breakfast & Clean Up

  • Abby is our breakfast cook and helps occasionally.  Soon she will be able to manage this meal alone.  Right now she’s building up her repertoire of cooking.
  • For cleanup, everyone has a job from our ZION FAMILIES RESPONSIBILITY chart.  Any chart, list or family document I ever share is of course constantly changing to meet the shifting needs of our family.  In general though, we keep the same chores for one year and then change it up.  I used to do a weekly chore chart and I was going bonkers trying to remember who is doing what!  The same jobs for a year has been a heaven sent—Thanks to LaDawn Jacobs!

8:00 Home Blessing Hour (Fly Lady reference… check out her website if you are unfamiliar with Flylady.net)

  • This is when we do anything we need to get done to start our day at 9 with order, peace and cleanliness.  I try to get all of my deep cleaning done at this time so that Saturdays are free for fun or projects.
  • I’ve posted around the house in discreet places some daily charts for cleaning, so that we are doing just a little every day.  Here’s a sample that is taped inside the bathroom cabinet doors.  Each older child is assigned a bathroom.  Daily Bathroom This helps me train them on how to clean.  I figure that I already know how to clean a house.  My challenge during this “Home Blessing Hour” is share this gift with my children and help THEM learn how to clean a house.  Right now it takes a lot more time… but give us a few years and I’m planning on some big dividends paying me back as my teens help maintain an impeccably clean home!  (am I dreaming?  maybe…  I think it is achievable though)
  • When the kids are done with any assignment I’ve given them,  they go to their desks or couch upstairs and do their personal scriptures and journals while they wait for me.  If they finish before I’m ready, they can read or do something of their choosing while they wait.

9:00 Mom Devotional

  • I like to start with whatever I feel like that day.  Over the past 5 years, this has morphed and changed so much that it’s hard to narrow down into a brief summary.  The only consistent item is prayer.  We always pray here to officially begin our studies.
  • This is where I add in memorization (I’m currently working on a project to develop more thoroughly our Larson Family Repertoire of Memorization-I’ll post more about that once it’s completed)
  • I really love reading from classics (right now we are reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • Sharing anything from our “school closet”
  • Readings and Recitations
  • Spanish Language Training (I like books and games for this)
  • Practicing for family programs (to be performed for grandparents on conference weekend)
  • This is the moment when I gather them all up, look deeply into their eyes and make sure they know how much I love them, why we’re homeschooling, how excellent they are, how much potential they have within them, etc.
  • This is a time for being guided by the spirit to know what to share, what to say, what resources to draw upon and how to start the day.
  • It is also a checkpoint for getting our “lists”  (Zion Family Responsibilities Chart) and marking what has been accomplished and what is expected next.
  • I always feel like we have accomplished the Spiritual basics, those things that are truly essential for the salvation of our family have been touched upon BEFORE we begin our “lessons”.

9:30-School Time

  • I’ve found that we can complete an entire year of public school curriculum in just a few months.  So I don’t worry about missing a day here and there, sickness or other live events that cause a break in our schedule and routine.  We also do school year round, so when a baby comes, we just break for a few weeks and get back to it when it feels peaceful and right.
  • I can’t quickly note everything we do for our “school lessons”, but here’s a quick summary:
  • We do Music and Math first
  • Computers are throughout the morning with different children depending on how things are going.  For computers time we use Waterford, BBC Typing, Piano Marvel, Tumble Books and e-mails and blogging.
  • Language Arts is after Math
  • Anything we don’t finish up before lunch can be completed during quiet time or after family prayer.
  • Each child has:
  1. A desk
  2. A “Brain Box” (where they keep all of their daily notebooks, supplies, journals, etc.)
  3. 3 boxes to turn in their work  (I’ll have to take photos to share some day)
  4. A cabinet shelf where their current curriculum & spelling box  is kept
  • We use the K12 curriculum.  I also use The Well-Trained mind, Thomas Jefferson Education, Charlotte Mason and all other resources I find to create a homeschooling method that I call the “Mama Karmel” approach.   I love that as a home educator, you can select the best of everything and anything to incorporate into your family education.
  • This is also the time that I try to focus on my own education.  I have my own desk near my children and my own course of study.  I am currently working through an exciting, mentor guided reading program.  Here’s a link to my own study list that I’m working on.  Right now I’m reading 5000 Year Leap.
  • Lunch Helper jobs have to be completed before lunch is served.  We say, “Serve the family and then be served your food”  The kids each have “room assignments” that we refer to as their stewardship, and they are expected to be tidied up before each meal.  (I’m pretty lenient on my expectations according to their age, but I like to see an effort being made and progress over time)  My neighbor, Emily, recently told me that her kids were complaining that they almost had as many chores as the Larson kids did… now that’s a lot of chores, poor little things!

12:00 Fix-Eat-Clean Up Lunch

  • Ben is our lunch cook and prides himself on his recipes he’s created like “Super Mischief Chili” and “Buttery PP” (pasta and peas).
  • While he cooks I’ll have the others do their lunch jobs and then play tumble books (on-line audio picture books) while I clean up, help Ben, do all those random mom things that need to get done.
  • I try to have “Meaningful Mealtimes”, meaning that something is planned for learning and discussion at each meal.  At lunch we alternate science and history each day.  I project k12 lessons onto a large wall and we take turns reading and clicking through the material.  The kids love k12 lessons!
  • I frequently make YOUTUBE play lists that coincide with our learning and I will play some of those videos while we cook and clean.  For example, I made a huge play list of Greek Mythology videos when we were studying that and a play list about roman numerals when we were studying the Romans.  Whatever they show increased interest about, I like to create a play list for it along with a library trip.  (We try to make it to the library weekly, but it seems more like every two weeks during the summer)

1:00 Silent Reading

  • As the kids finish up their “lunch cleanup” jobs, the head to the couch for silent reading.  They each have a book basket that they fill up to read during this time and during bed time.
  • The rules for silent reading are: Be silent, have your book basket and stay on your own couch cushion.  If any of those rules get broken, they are sent off to quiet time early.  Everyone LOVES silent reading and learned very quickly how to follow the rules so they have the privilege of reading with the family.
  • There are 3 parts to the silent reading hour.  We start with partner reading (this gives me a chance to finish up the kitchen), then I read aloud to them, and then they finish the hour reading silently to themselves.  Even my 2 year old sits with books and looks at the pictures.  The two younger boys can using building toys to finish up the hour after they’ve looked at the books in their baskets.  (here’s a link to the list of books I’m reading aloud to my kids right now…the bottom half of the page)
  • Any important part of silent reading is my own education and study list.  I’m reading this list with my husband.  We discuss them and then I write a paper to report on the experience to my mentor.  I love this part of the day!!!!
  • I discovered the importance of silent reading and some tips on how to make it successful from the book, The Read Aloud Handbook.  This one is on my top ten list of all time most important books for a mom to read regarding the education of her children.  It is a MUST read!!  It changed how I schedule my time!  I now read to my kids 3 times a day all together plus more for lessons, and individual reading sometimes.
  • In our home we like to say,

“Larsons are readers and readers are leaders!”

2:00 Quiet Time

  • I learned of the importance of Quiet Time from the book, Accountable Kids.  I instantly began having a daily quiet time and it has brought great calm and peace into our homes.  I’m continually impressed at how well my kids can self entertain and be quiet for an extended period of time now.
  • The rules for quiet time are: Stay in your bed or at your desk and sleep or do a quiet activity.  Wonderful things happen during quiet time.  This is an excellent quiet hour to let the spirit guide what happens in your home.  Magical!

3:00 Free Time to play with Friends

  • We have 3 “checkpoints” in our day to review our Lists and see where the kids are at.  After quiet time is our second time to bring out the list and mark off everything.  I don’t insist that everything is completed, but we evaluate the list together and access if they have done enough to play, had a positive attitude and done the “non-negotiables” (music, reading, writing, math and chores)
  • The first check point is at the beginning of our mom devotional and the 3rd is as we gather for family prayer.
  • I usually work in my office while the kids are out playing.

4:00 Start Preparing Dinner (I like to listen to audio books while I prep food to help me get through my mentored reading list.  My current audio book is Good Earth)

5:00 Call kids inside to help prepare for Dinner

  • Abby folds laundry.  Thayne sets the table.  Ben unloads the dishwasher.  Then they can read, play inside, watch tumblebooks or do Waterford until dinner is ready.
  • Once a week I have them study from their spelling box and we’ll do a spelling bee at dinner. (words for their spelling box come from misspelled words from their daily journal entries)

5:30 Eat

  • Again I try to have a “meaningful mealtime”.  Tonight’s focus of discussion was spontaneously led by Dad.  He laid down the law that Hannah Montana wasn’t going to be watched in our house anymore and he laid out all the reasons why.  It was a great discussion!
  • I usually have something in mind to discuss centered around history, current events and/or geography.
  • Dinner time is when the kids report to their dad about their progress that day.
  • This is a good time for informal oral book reports about what they read that day during silent reading.  Reporting to dad always seems very important, official and he asks poignant questions that get them thinking!
  • Everyone helps clean up after every meal.  I help each child accomplish their tasks.  I like to sing, recite what we are memorizing or be very intentional with music that we listen to while we work (and while we drive).  We enjoy the Singin’ Smart Series, Animated Audio Scripture sets,  hymns, spanish CD’s, children’s songbook, K12 music cds, and playlists created on Pandora.com or youtube.  The kids have recently really enjoyed discovering tunes from Phantom of the Opera.

7:00 Family Prayer (7 is heaven!! Checkpoint #3 with our lists)

  • We have a family binder that keeps lists, routines, chore charts and reminders.  We open it up to display the expectation as we go about the day.  Ben brings this binder to family prayer so we can make an accounting of how we all did that day and talk about how we hope the day will go tomorrow.
  • Family prayer always ends with a group hug and everyone head upstairs to where the bedrooms, family library and desks are located.

7:15 Children’s Hour

  • I love the set up of our home because I have Abby on one side of the top of the stairs and the boys across from her with a little bench in between for me to read to them all as they head to bed.
  • I learned about Children’s Hour from LaDawn Jacobs (you can get her materials for the cost of printing from Stevenson’s Geneology in Provo-highly recommended!!)
  • Children’s hour can be whatever you want it to be.  I just love to read, recite, reflect, sometimes I sing and sing and sing… whatever I feel like.
  • I’m hoping to get the painting at the beginning of this post soon to hang above my Children’s Hour bench.  It is of Lucy Mack Smith reading to her boys, Joseph and Hyrum.  It is titled “By Small and Simple Things” and it has very special meaning to me.  So much more is happening when we are reading to our children (right Shauna?)
  • The bench is a storage bench and so I keep all of the Children’s Hour supplies right there handy.  I’ve found easy access to be key to getting things done!

Bedtime Reading

  • Our kids each have a basket of books and a bed lamp.  We let them read themselves to sleep and have never pulled the plug on reading time.  They just know that they will be woken up at 6:30 and expected to rise cheerfully no matter how late they stay up.  It hasn’t ever been a problem so far.
  • One of my favorite memories of Ben will always be finding him awake after all the others are asleep, devouring a seriously tall stack of books.  His favorite stacks are book sets.  He just finished reading a children’s encyclopedia set and is now reading through a science encyclopedia set.
  • Building our home library is a passion of mine.  I love to book hunt at yard sales, on KSL and at Deseret Industries.  I rarely pay over $1 for hard backs and 25cents for paper back.  Have a home library, I feel is key to having avid readers.  Our kids LOVE our home library!  (and of course, I do to!)

Evening Routine

  • I have my own evening routine to accomplish after the kids are tucked in.  (thanks to flylady of course)
  • I like to read myself to sleep as well.
  • I try to be purposeful in prayer and placing a “power thought” to help myself get up with energy and enthusiasm the next morning.

So…. having said all that…

the truth is that I rarely accomplish all that in one day of course.  But I do accomplish a lot of it on most days and I don’t worry about it or beat myself up about it when I/we don’t.  Peace and joy take precedance over any list or routine and of course the spirit is paramount in directing the flow of our day.  This provides me with a great guide however and allows me to proceed with purposeful intention each day.  We tell are kids every day that “Larson’s strive for excellance!”, and that can only happen if it begins with mom.

You know the saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”?  Well, I believe that pertains in every way to every aspect of home life and family education.  If you aren’t enjoying the process of educating your own mind, why would your kids?  If you aren’t developing your own talents, why would they?  On the flip side of that, if you are filling your head with memorized selections of great poetry and scripture, it will be easy to share that joy with your kids. (I like to sneak in memorization during teeth brushing, putting on shoes, morning wake ups, bath time, etc.) If the memorized work is already in YOUR head, you can pull it out at any time… you don’t have to go gather up the poetry binder and WORK on memorizing, it’s just a part of daily built in life!

If mom’s doing it… the kids most likely will follow!

I’ve discovered that home education is not from 9-12am.  It’s from 6:30-8:30 for our family.  It’s not a curriculum, it’s a way of life.  We also don’t just do “school” in our school room.  I try to use every room in the house every week.  We have sewing and keyboarding in our guest bedroom, an  art room, the desks in the library, assignments done in bedrooms, reading on the couch, music in the piano room, math at the kitchen table, games on the white board-reading lessons & puppet shows in the basement, and computers EVERYWHERE (we have 5 in the house!) etc.  We move around a lot!

Can I just end by telling you how much I love sharing with and teaching my children.  There is nothing that compares to the joy in a child who just “got it”.  Thanye just learned how to read and is on his 5th k12 phonics book.  This is absolutely my favorite time of day right now, when we sit down to read together.  His eyes light up with joy like never before.  So much more happens when we take the time to share the joy of reading and education with our children.  I found this quote recently on one of my new favorite websites, www.ThePrudentHomemaker.com,

“No teaching is equal, more spiritually rewarding, or more exalting than that of a mother teaching her children.”-Boyd K. Packer

It is indeed so “spiritually rewarding”.  I wish we could all discuss this in person and share ideas together!  I hope you’ll post comments.  Tell me what’s working for you!  Hope this helps…

Happy Homeschooling,

Love Karmel