‘Schedule’ versus ‘Routine’

A Difference Between a ‘Schedule’ and a ‘Routine’

I have been helped by the author of ‘Jot It Down‘, from Bravewriter.com to see that there is a difference between a ‘schedule’ and a ‘routine’, and although both words may appear to be interchangeable, they are not.

When we first started out with home-educating, I believed that the best way to be structured was to have a schedule – a daily schedule, a weekly schedule, any kind of schedule.  I, of course, run into a rut each and every time we didn’t accomplish everything I had planned for the day.  This caused much frustration, feelings of guilt that I was not providing the best education for my children and a whole lot of stress, that eventually filtered down to the rest of the household.  End result: not a happy camp of home-educators.  For our household, having a routine works and has worked best for us, especially in raising a child with special needs, whose very presence in our household makes it almost impossible to have and keep to a schedule.

Putting Things Into Perspective

Reading Jot It Down helped to put things into perspective for me.  The following are excerpts from the book:

“Lots of home educators use schedules that tell them what to do each day of the week, as well as how much work to complete.  A certain confidence is cast when a check box can be ticked to indicate completion of work. This propensity toward scheduling is a perfectly fine personality trait (not good or bad).  Yet sometimes, “schedulers” find themselves frustrated by their results in a home education environment.  Life interrupts: dentist appointments, phone calls, trips out of town….and so on.  These parents worry that they are never quite “getting it all done,” or are afraid to trust their moments of inspiration to lead them away from the day’s assigned tasks for fear they will “get behind” in their schedule.”

Well, the above paragraph pretty much describes what our home-education life was like up until our move to Sheffield in 2011.  The author continues:

“Home education does have content to cover that in many cases requires a sequence.  That sequence is oftentimes scheduled for you and therefore feels like a kind of straightjacket for completing the work in a timely way.  To fall behind the scheduled assignments is nerve-wracking for some parents.  I remember one mother told me she never took any school holidays because her curriculum didn’t ever give a Monday off.  It felt like too much pressure to “catch up” later in the week.  Maybe you can relate to this experience.”

I can, only too well!

What A Schedule Is

“A schedule means that you expect to cover a specific amount of material on a specific day and if you don’t, you will be behind.  You then feel you must “make up” that material or you will never be “on schedule” again.  This anxiety we home educators feel about getting behind is reasonable.  After all, we’ve never taught before – we don’t know what happens to our children if they don’t complete the grammar book or finish all the math problems.  So we forge ahead, obeying the schedule, because we don’t know if it’s possible to skip any of the steps (or to delay them temporarily).”

On the flip side, there is a huge advantage to following a “routine” approach in home-education and it benefits all subject matter.  And, this is what I feel most comfortable with, especially now in view of our new home-educating approach.

What Is a Routine?

“A routine means that you have a set of agreeable daily and weekly practices that you return to without much preparation or forethought.  A routine enables you to operate in a calm, consistent way with your children (everyone knows what to expect each day and what the structure of the typical day will be).  The routine provides consistency, predictability and a feeling of progress, which we all crave.  The routine works when it’s populated with activities that feel pleasing and comfortable.  However, where routine really shines is when an interruption occurs!


The author gives an example:

“If you discover in the morning that the zoo has a free admission pass for one day only, for all children under 12, the parent living from the mindset of “routine” will scrap the original day’s plan (to recite math facts, to read aloud, to complete grammar lessons) and instead, will toss the kids into the [car] for a trip to see the giraffes.  This parent knows inspiration and opportunity are rare visitors.  When they arrive, the savvy parent welcomes them and dumps the original day’s plan.  Knowing that you will return to the routine the very next day gives you peace and lets you enjoy the “break in routine” to its fullest.  The routine will still be there for you no matter what.  You’ll also realise that there are no incomplete scheduled pages because you aren’t trying to plow through a pre-determined amount of material.  On the contrary, you are serving tasty meals of learning that can be juggled to suit field trips, the arts, sports, and other interruptions to your daily lifestyle.”

So, for anyone reading this, who has struggled or continues to struggle with feelings of inadequacy or feelings of failure, or the expectations placed on one’s self, be assured and encouraged to let go of the schedules that more often than not are the cause of the aforementioned feelings and be happy with your daily routine.

Whether or not you are a home-educator, what are/have been your experiences with having a routine versus living by a schedule?  I am curious to know.  I could learn a thing or two from your experience, so please do share something below.

Judith 🙂

4 Responses to ‘Schedule’ versus ‘Routine’

  1. Aliki says:

    Amen. So true. This is our experience too as we are learning to balance our days on this wonderful new journey of home education. We are learning to thrive with a realistic routine. Thank you for taking the time to copy the excerpts!

  2. jannelle00 says:

    I LOVE THIS!! With 5 kids this is our greatest challenge! I am going to have to re-read this again, when I put the kids to bed 😉

    • eph317us says:

      Thanks, Janelle. I was going to ask (by sending you an email) how you manage to home-school with 5 kids. It must be challenging. I’m challenged, and I only have 3!

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