If You're Going to Have a Homeschool Schedule, Do It in the Morning, Says a Therapist

As soon as our state closed schools due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, I sprang into action. Our family always works better on a routine so I knew I had to establish one early in our new homeschool schedule. This is why I wanted my kids to begin their schoolwork in the morning. I figured that getting their work out of the way was just easier, and according to a child therapist, I was on the right track. "Creating a routine in which school work is scheduled for the morning, provides a sense of consistency for a child," said Haley Sztykiel, LMSW and SSW. And that's what we've done: Monday through Friday, we lounge a bit after waking up and eating breakfast and then the kids do their chores. Afterward, we start our schoolwork at 8:30. It's a routine that always remains the same, though sometimes we change up the exact schedule.

Some days, we skip reading or math, or stay on a different subject for longer. Other days, we struggle to do the basics, and our schooling time doesn't last much longer than an hour. But sticking with the routine of doing (or at least trying to do) our schoolwork first thing in the morning has really worked for us. "Morning work helps to create a solid start time to the day, and creates a separation from the previous day," Sztykiel said. "It helps to diminish the feeling that days are blending together, and create a sense that a new day has begun."

I can definitely see how that could happen if we were to keep putting off work and not having an actual start to the day. I think I would begin to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Having my kids take on their work tasks early means I don't need to harp on them all day, and leaves them with a lot of time in the afternoon for creativity, exercise, and play. "Morning work also allows a student to feel accomplished and creates a sense of productivity for the day," Sztykiel said. I've seen this in action my kids — because they were able to cross math off their list, they feel like they can do more, whether it's coloring a giant "Thank You" poster for the delivery workers, coming up with a silly dance routine, or tackling a 500-piece puzzle.

This is a difficult time for many of us. I'm thankful that I'm still working as a freelance writer and as an adjunct professor, and I'm lucky to be able to leave most of my work for the evenings and weekends. But having my children work in the morning leaves me with more time to work during the day if I need to. I'm not spending all day helping them solve math equations (which I am most grateful for). It's not perfect, far from it actually, but our morning routine has certainly helped create a little peace during this uncertain time.

It's also important to note that I do my best to recognize when my children need breaks while doing school work — I don't think this method would work with out them. For example, my kids hate writing (oh, the irony). So if they're struggling with a writing assignment, I simply stop them and tell them to return to it in the afternoon. While it is admittedly more difficult for them to return to it later because it means stopping whatever fun thing they were doing, the break is usually worth it because they come back revitalized and ready to try again.

This summer, I've carried on the same idea — they do their chores right away in the A.M. before playing. Because as Sztykiel says, it gives them a strong sense of accomplishment as soon as their day begins. And it leaves plenty of time for succeeding at other things — like building a massive fort.