4 keys to a good homeschool day

4 keys to a good homeschool day
Written by contributor Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

In the day-to-day of life, every homeschool parent hopes for good homeschool days.

Sure, we know they aren’t all going to look like that photo on the front of the homeschooling magazine. We also know that bad days are inevitable. However, there are steps we can take to ensure that that good days outweigh the bad.

Our family works on a six weeks on/one week off schedule. Last week was our break week. You’d expect that it would have been a great week, but, surprisingly enough, the week before went more smoothly and was far less stressful than break week.

In considering what might be the cause behind break week being more stressful than a school week, I identified a few key factors that seem to contribute to a good day, homeschool or otherwise.

1. Get a good night’s rest

A huge deciding factor in the good day/bad day equation is a good night’s rest – for everyone. Without enough rest the kids are grumpy and so am I.

That means that I have to get in bed at a decent time each night – even those nights when I feel like I still have a million things to do. Even those nights when dishes are still piled in the sink, clothes are still in the washer, and email messages are still unread.

That can be hard.

I’ll be honest. Sometimes the dishes in the sink thing really bothers me. If there is something that I can do in 15 minutes or less that is going to make my morning better – such as putting those dishes in the dishwasher or straightening up the main living areas of the house – I will take the time to do that.

However, there have been times when I’ve had to say, “They’ll be there in the morning.”

And I have the Instagram photo to prove it.

Messy Kitchen

Incredibly frightening photo by Kris Bales

You know what, though? In that particular instance, it was much better for me to just go to bed and get a good night’s rest. Those dishes were still there in the morning. I was able to get them taken care of when I got up and that made me feel so accomplished that I had a great attitude for the rest of the day.

(And, for those who wonder, yes, my kids help around the house. By my personal choice, though, unless I ask them to help, the kitchen is my territory.)

2. An early start for Mom

I am a night owl. I do like mornings, but they are rough for me. That being said, I have discovered that I am much more productive and have a much better attitude if I get up in time to get some things accomplished before the kids get up (which isn’t especially hard at my house since I have raised three more night owls).

I like to make sure I’m up in time to work out, have my quiet time, maybe read and respond to email, take care of some online work, start supper in the slow cooker, and do a couple of those things that I left undone the night before – you know, like unloading the clean dishes that I put in the dishwasher before I went to bed.

If I can get a few things knocked off my to-do list and have some self-care time before the kids are up, it’s a lot easier for me to have a better attitude, even when things aren’t going as planned. And you know as well as I do that there is a lot of truth to the idea that we moms set the barometer for the attitudes in our homes.

3. Enjoy the beautiful weather

Photo by Tanya Waldburger

Okay, so clearly we can’t control the weather, but I have discovered that a beautiful day lifts everyone’s mood and makes the day better. With that in mind, I try to take advantage of those really incredible days when I can.

My kids are older and don’t enjoy playing outside, but we love when we can open our windows and sliding glass doors. Feeling the breeze blow through the open window while we’re reading or taking work out to our screened-in porch makes us all a little happier and more agreeable.

For those of you with younger kids or kids who enjoy being outside, take advantage of fair weather days by getting outside to play a bit more, taking a blanket outside to read, or skipping the science book in favor of nature study.

4. Have a routine

Our family does not enjoy a strict schedule, but we thrive on routine. We get up about the same time each day and have a target time for starting school. We do our schoolwork in the same general order and have meals at fairly predictable times.

If your family functions better on a stricter schedule, that’s fine. The key is finding the schedule or routine that gives your family’s day a sense of flow that keeps everyone feeling peaceful.

Most kids – and adults – thrive on routine. It helps us anticipate what’s coming next, which makes a smoother transition between activities. Maybe it’s my OCD tendencies, but I really love predictability.

Have you pinpointed some of the key factors that make your homeschool days go more smoothly?

About Kris

Kris Bales is the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest voice behind Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She and her husband of over 25 years are parents to two amazing teens and a homeschool grad. Kris has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. She also seems intent on becoming the crazy cat lady long before she's old and alone.


  1. Boy I needed this today. Yesterday was such a bad day I decided to just skip school for the day and start again today. One kid was sick and I have a migraine. I figured it would just be best to make up the work later this week. Going to bed ealier sure does a world of wonder though.
    Tanya’s latest post: 4 Amazing Homemade Cleaners that will Save you Money

  2. I’m really really working on #1 and #2. It’s so tough. I’m also a nightowl, and my kids are too young to sleep in. I’ve found a clean living room, and a clear kitchen table, to be the key to a good day so far. We are in a 2 bedroom apt, so our living room is where it’s all at.
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  3. Great points even for non homeschoolers. Its funny that you feel the kitchen is your domain…thats the area that I need the most help in,

  4. Getting up early is definitely important for our school day. If I don’t get my early morning quiet time and get a few things done before the kids wake up we all seem to suffer. On the flip side you are right that means we all need to get a good nights sleep. I tend to struggle with this one a bit more. I use my evenings to decompress and unwind. Sometimes I feel like being constructive and writing and other nights I want to just check out for a while reading or watch a show. In any case once the kids are down I have a hard time telling myself its bedtime. I’ll keep working on it though. All of these tips were great!
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    • Yes, it is very hard to make yourself go to bed when the house is finally quiet and peaceful. I think it’s easier for me because my kids are all 12 and older now and often stay up later than I do. They’re doing quiet things by that time, but it’s not the same as a house in which everyone else is in bed. I have to get up early to get that time now.
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  5. Ugh. I HATE getting up. I hit snooze until the last possible second and then I am a BEAST because I didn’t get up before my kids (I still have 2 in public school that have to get up early). And quite honestly, I am a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal and I’m realizing that that can’t happen- especially when I start homeschooling the others next year. Thanks for these great tips/reminders!!!

  6. Jacob Bryant says:

    I agree 100% about the getting up early. I have told my work mates that it makes the difference in the day. As for the kitchen, I hate to say it, but I agree with Kris. My little helpers try hard, and the counter does look better shinny, but I really planned on using the butter for other things.

  7. What a good post for me to read! I just withdrew my 1st grader and Kindergartner last week. We are taking a two week break while Daddy is here visiting (he works months at a time out of state) and Mema will be here too. I know myself well, staying up late and not having time to wake up before the kids get going will set my day up for disaster. I may have to revisit this post a few times when we officially start homeschooling in a few weeks 🙂

  8. You know I appreciate these kinds of posts, but when you have toddlers and nursing babies that wake at night, none of this can be a reality. Having kids at home of various ages is hard and as much as I would like to follow a list of rules to help my life go easier my life is interrupted by the constant needs of my children. So , for any mom out there that finds herself at wits end, because once again there is a list she can not possibly manage….take heart…the kids will grow and you will remember this advice and put it into practice when you are in another season of life.

  9. This is so true. Though my six year old is a morning person and is usually up a few minutes after my husband and me. Thankfully he still has an early bedtime!

  10. Thanks for the post! And especially for posting the picture of the kitchen! 🙂

  11. Sharon Estrada says:

    It’s little reminders like this that I need to keep me on track. I have a 21 month old that still wakes at night and loves to be up early. If I set my alarm for 6:30, he is up at 6:00. If I set it for 6:00, he is up at 5:30. I can’t go earlier than that! I’m still working on the night owl thing. I’m trying to get it down to a decent hour. I think so clearly at night. Thank goodness we just started our 3 week break. I can actually exercise and read during the wee one’s nap, instead of working on lessons with my olders. Whew Hoo!

  12. Oh man, the dishes thing. It just IRKS me to see it staring me in the face when I get downstairs in the morning. What I do is I give myself X amount of time at night and when I’ve done what I can in that amount, I call it a good night’s work. It might not be ALL done but it’s enough to get over the mental block.

    I wish we could do #2 — my daughter still co-sleeps and takes none too favorably to her favorite pillow getting up and moving without her. 😉
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