Organization of the Day – A Mother’s Rule of LOVE seeking HARMONY

spencelogo-graphicsfairy006cAfter the Detailed Look Through the Learning Spaces post, Jaime asks…


“I would love to hear more about how your daily routines go….how does your day flow?”


Keep in mind that organization and order are helps to the busy mother. There is an investment of time on the front end of organizing something – whether that is your school room or your day – but the payoffs are that you become the manager of the day, a manager of the time, not a slave to it reacting to everything that comes up.

Organizing the day means anticipating as much as possible and leaving PLENTY of elbow room in the schedule for those things I cannot anticipate. I move through the day on the rails I laid down – habits of order and obedience. If I’m derailed for a time, I just pick up the rails NOT where I left off, but where I should be in the day. Shift what was missed to another day (I do this all.the.time!) A Mother’s day just does not work on a strict schedule or rule. A Mother’s Rule is dictated by LOVE and must be open to being flexible while being obedient to her vocation.

I was starting to self-destruct trying to react to all the things that hit me during the day, so this loose “Rule” is my answer to meeting the day. Think of it as a Rule…with Wide Margins! 🙂 It’s really more of a rhythm than a rule. I think St. Benedict offers us much wisdom – it is good to have a Rule in place that offers us opportunities for obedience, humility, and service. Our vocations demand certain obedience to the daily duty. A Mother’s Rule for her day must consider her vocation as well as the persons (little and big) she encounters in her day. A Mother’s Rule must have sufficient space for LOVE – dialogue, snuggles, spontaneous tickles, discipline, crisis:

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Colossians 3:14

Love will bind the parts of the day together – those parts that are ordered and flow smoothly and those that seem to unravel around us. As long as we seek order and cover all with love – the day will be pleasing and harmonious. Count it all for good.
The following is my answer….my rule of LOVE. I offer it as a way of sharing and so that it might be a starting place for you to consider…
First, I’ll point out that I move through my day in “blocks of time”. Organizational methods are aplenty, but this one I discovered a few years ago and it has been a keeper! Blocks allow for elbow room – dirty diapers, a skinned knee, a request to read a favorite book, spilled orange juice, the extra 3 loads of laundry, snuggle time in the rocking chair watching the birds out the window – blocks of time are my “wide margins”. Keep that in mind for EVERYTHING you read here.
:: Rise and Shine Time (5:30 – 8:00)
We’re up early here – around 5:30 or 5:45! A confession – I’m not a morning person, at least not by nature. I am, however, learning to love the beauty in the morning hours even if rising at this hour is a real mortification for me. Here’s what the morning block consists of:
  • While I’m nursing the littlest I say my morning prayers privately. These consist of prayers from my Mother Love prayer book and In Conversation With God. During this time the children stumble down and sit at my feet while I’m praying. The two older children are kind enough to know not to disturb until I finish my prayers, the 4 year old is in training. 🙂 I’ve visited with you before on my daily prayer routine.
  • KEY to a happy day…..choose a happy apron to wear!
  • Coffee, breakfast, morning visiting, breakfast clean-up, kitchen tidy, observation of the morning birds.
  • Morning chores. Everyone has their own. The children get dressed and tend to morning hygiene, beds are made. I start laundry, tidy the living spaces, and take a look at the lesson plans for the day. I set out (some call this strewing) little vignettes or displays of books or activities. These aren’t ornate or complicated – many times this is a picture book, a statue of Our Lady or another Saint, and a coloring page. Very, very simple here – lest the temptation to become side-tracked on a tangent takes over!
  • Free time with the leftover time in this block. I might check in at 4Real…or do some other online research, call mom for a **quick** chat 🙂 Sometimes I am firming up the lesson plans for the day. The children are ALWAYS enjoying playing outside during this time.

:: Morning Family Block (8:00 – 9:30)

Ok – another confession – my times are ishy! lol! So, when I say “8:00” please read, “8:00-ish” 🙂 More elbow room! If I’m reading a book to my little fella at 8:00, you better believe I don’t hop up and say, “ok, enough of that, time to move on to our next thing!” My day has more of a rhythm and less of a rule. Does that seem contradictory? It all goes back to that quote in Colossians…love binds all in harmony.
  • Morning basket of work.  I reserve the first hour of our learning time as together time. These are things we all do together. I have students from 8th grade down to preschool/Kindergarten-ish age. I gather all my resources into a large basket (hence the name) so it’s all kept together. We begin with morning prayers and devotions and a bit of reading about the liturgical day. I like reading from A Year in Faith and Art.  (Updated Morning Basket post)

:: Learning Blocks (9:30 – 11:30)

My older students are now independent learners.  It’s so important to set up good habits of obedience and attention when the children are little because if you do, the older child will move along those rails on their own!  That means that I write lesson plans for older children and they follow them, with little or no direction from me.  This frees me to work with my little people to build those good habits (see above comment about building habits)!
Most days, the lesson plans are completed as written, but there are some days I make room for rabbit trails.  And, nothing is really ever without interruption here…so I anticipate as much as I can and try to be patient and gentle with the rest. Love binds everything in harmony.
So that you have an example of what the older children do during the day, please check out The Paper Stuff and all of the pages under that index page.
:: Lunch and Angelus (11:30 – 1:00)
From 11:30 to 12:00 we quick tidy our spaces, swishing toys and objects into place (explanation of the quick tidy on this post – scroll down a bit). The Angelus is a short prayer at noon and lunch follows afterward. We clean up the kitchen together. Everyone has a job – everyone! If there is any free time after clean-up it is used for playing. I’m usually swishing laundry in the wash, out of the dryer, and starting my dinner.
:: Learning Blocks (1:00 – 3:00-ish)
Again, older children work independently, but this afternoon time is when we get to interact more because littler people enjoy mandatory quiet time.  (Do you do this?  Enforce quiet time in your home?  You should!  You really should!)  During the afternoon quiet time, I like to listen to narrations, do dictations with older students, and have discussions.  If I need a relatively quiet time to interact with a child, this afternoon time is as good as it gets!
:: Afternoon Time (4:00 – 6:00-ish)
We ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS end our lessons and begin a period of free time with a quick swish through the house and a quick tidy. It leaves the learning spaces fresh for the next day, and makes the home pleasing for daddy who will arrive home shortly. Quick tidies never take more than 15 minutes of time. After quick tidy the children have some free time, though some help me with dinner prep. I bounce between dinner prep, laundry, and baby/toddler. On the rare day that my dinner is almost completely put together by this point, laundry is caught up and humming along, and the littles are napping, I might catch up on emails, watch an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, read something delightful, or look at something online. Rob is usually home at this point so his agenda is on my radar as well!
:: Evening Time (6:00 – 8:00-ish)
There’s dinner and clean-up during this time – hopefully closer to 6 than 8! We try to have family read aloud time (though we haven’t read anything lately – I need to begin again!), and family rosary is the last event of the evening. Bedtime is generally around 8, but again ishy – more reading aloud. Older children read in their rooms.  Younger children pester older children while they are reading.
:: The Remains of the Day (8:00 – 10:00-ish)
🙂 Here’s where Rob and I finally catch up with each other. We might have a conversation together about something I’m fairly busting to talk about (without the presence of little ears)! Sometimes he watches something on tv, whilst I have some computer time or read a book, or sometimes lately there are dueling laptops. 🙂 Many evenings we set aside this time for our “date night”, watching a movie together while sipping a glass of wine! I love the remains of the day with my guy!

That’s it. It’s off to bed and start all over again the next day. This is a fairly typical day. It doesn’t account for trips out of the home which I am very guarded about during school hours. The only exception being Monday morning Mass. Sometimes after Mass we stop at the market for the week’s groceries, grab a treat for lunch and then start the day from there.

I hope this helps, Jamie! I’m not perfect, nor am I perfectly organized! I am learning that order, obedience, and service can all be acts of LOVE expressed in my vocation. It gives me great joy to find ways to faithfully live my vocation while offering all to Our Lord. The Holy Family, and Our Lady in particular offer me a great example of service with joy. All their efforts, all the little parts of the day, every thought and action was focused on living God’s will and embracing the Divine Child.
For some, the routine I live is far too structured, others may find way too much wiggle room in it. 🙂 We’re each unique, and God gives us each unique talents for living out our vocations and our days. Focus on God’s will for your family and keep your eyes on HIM. Don’t ever allow an idea here or anywhere to cripple you. Reflect on ideas you find inspirational and then offer it to God. He’ll let you know exactly what to do with it. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!!!
I pray your days are lovely, filled with expressions of love, and that this little glimpse into my day has been helpful.
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28 Comments

  1. Oh Jen, I was up late last night trying to work out a schedule for this coming year and COMPLETELY overwhelmed by it all… (not to mention I'm in the middle of rearranging our home and trying to fit into a smaller room for schooling…) This post was JUST what I was needing to read today. I am SO very thankful that you took the time to share all of this with us. You are amazing!! THANK YOU!!!

  2. …but the payoffs are that you become the manager of the day, a manager of the time, not a slave to it reacting to everything that comes up.

    You have no idea how much this speaks to my heart. I am printing this out and going to slowly savor it tonight and for a few days to come!

  3. What a lovely peek at your day. I am finding that I am having to reconsider our whole schedule- the last baby 'derailed' me and I never quite got back on…so many good things to consider here. I noticed that it's subtly broken down along nursing times as well- I think that's where I got so off with the last baby. I didn't really 'make room' for nursing, so I want to be sure of that this time. (#5 is due any day.) Just lovely- thank you for allowing us a peek. Your “rule” is my favorite part.

  4. Thank you so much Jen. Your perspective on the “rule of LOVE” is so inspirational. This glimpse into your daily rhythm is just what I needed right now. The word rhythm has been inspiring me lately because it is helping me find more joy in the repetition of our days instead of viewing it as mundane or monotonous. Thank you for being a true Titus 2 woman by sharing and encouraging women to love their husbands and children and to be keepers of their homes. You are a blessing!!!

  5. I just found your blog and love it. I love the pictures of your “homeschooling center” so nice and inviting. We are starting our first year of homeschooling this fall! God bless.

  6. Dear Jen,
    I love 'peeking' into your home. I love how you do these lovely sharing view. You seem to be so gentle and organised at the same time. The time and effort you put into these enviroments make me appreciate your generous nature. I pray I can be such an example to my own children and others.
    God Bless

  7. Dearest, dearest Jen!!

    Aren't you a wonder? There is such ordered calm in your schedule…this is exactly what I'm looking for. I sooo rebel against rigidity, having lived as a slave to a schedule of my own making many years ago. Unfortunately, that rigidity has created a backlash in the complete opposite direction. We have been nearly “schedule-less” and the consequences are disastrous!! Our Lord has been gently (and not so gently!) encouraging me towards a return to self-discipline, yet I've feared the harshness of scheduling my day. You've reminded me that a schedule is meant to “serve not enslave.” Thank you so very, very much…

  8. What an amazing post! Thanks so much for taking the time to share this with us all! I'm definitely going to print it and put it in my folder for re-reading! God is so good – he blesses us all tremedously through those around us. Have a wonderful weekend! Lori

  9. Jen,
    Thank you so much for a little glimpse into your day and week. As I set goals for next year I think I might use the block idea. Thanks again!

  10. Jen, I've just recently discovered your blog and added it to my reader! What a providential post–we have just resigned ourselves to year-round homeschooling, and with the (now, not so) recent baby, we are sorely in need of more structure! Thank you for your insight. I am not a morning person, and I struggle with getting up early at a consistent time. Can you share how you overcame this? I am convinced that getting up early is one of the keys to a good day, but I need help in the willpower department. Besides prayer, do you have any advice?! 🙂 Thank you!

  11. I never thought of going with where we should be in the schedule rather than picking up where we left off after getting derailed.

    This post is a huge blessing! Thank you for the reminders about love binding it all together –

    “A loving heart is the truest wisdom.”
    —Charles Dickens

  12. Jen, thank you for the inspiration! Your use of blocks and picking up where you should be instead of where you left off are both excellent reminders to me. I echo J.C.'s comment – “I am convinced that getting up early is one of the keys to a good day, but I need help in the willpower department” – and look forward to any insight you can share. Silly as it is, my specific question is when do you shower? This task completely derails me, since it wakes my children if I try to do it before they get up, but I feel yucky without being clean. If you're willing to share such an intimate detail, I'm all ears! Thanks!!!

  13. We use the quick tidy also before my husband gets home. It works great! Thank you for sharing this information. It is very helpful.

  14. Hi Jen!! I'm a fellow blogger and have recently found yours. We are about to start our first year of homeschooling, and I just had to tell you that you have been quite an inspiration to me!! I love order and organization – and you have discovered some wonderful ways to make that happen, and in such a lovely way. Anytime I want to start working at organizing our school room, or start thinking about lesson plans, I quick jump on to your blog to get my inspiration!! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    Heather
    http://www.timelessandtreasured.com

  15. Jen, thank you so much, i have recently discovered your blog and am really enjoying your openess and sharing with regards to your schooling set up, amongst others, I was wondering, how you decide what will be in each child's curriculum for the year, I'm especially interested in your 4 year old, as my eldest daughter is four!

    many thanks, and best wishes, Jen

  16. I found your blog through the link from Mrs. Happy Housewife. What a fantastic blog! I love this post. It has helped me so much to see how you organize your day.

  17. I have been meaning to read this since the day you posted it…and I'm so glad I finally did!! I think the idea of large blocks is perfect, and am going to try my own version at home! Thanks so much for the wealth of info.

  18. Thanks for sharing your daily routine. I love learning about the way other families do it. I have a question about your quick tidy time. You said that usually only takes about 15 minutes. Lately my kids don't even want to get out their toys because it takes them so long to clean them up. How do you encourage your children to stay focused? It seems like mine get distracted and I find them playing with their toys halfway through the clean up time!

  19. Thanks for the question, Jennifer!

    How do I keep the kids focused during quick tidy time? I'm right there with them and I keep them on-task! I motivate and encourage the whole way through! And, my kids know that 15 minutes is all the time we spend on this! They can do ANYTHING for 15 minutes!

    Stay upbeat and stay right there in the mix…if they wander off…wander them right back in! If I had a child that didn't pull his/her weight the natural consequence of that would be that the child would make up for taking advantage of others help during the next quick tidy by quick tidying all by themselves.

  20. Thanks for the reply. I think my problem is I tell them to clean up and then go to do some cleaning somewhere else. Staying with them during clean up makes it easier, but I was hoping to get to a point some day where I can just say, “Ok, time to pick up,” then leave and come back to a clean room later. We are definitely not there yet:)

    I like the idea of natural consequences of slacking off. I might try that.

  21. It is so refreshing to read such confidence in God and his greatest purpose for motherhood! Thanks for all your writing. Do you have a post about how you do quiet time with the little ones? What do you have them do? How do you enforce it?

    1. Hi Kristi,
      Thank you so much for your kind comment! You might check out my post Year Considered: Nurturing Wonder in the Early Years.

      Quiet time here is very important – it’s one of the few times I can work with my older children without the joyful ebulliency of littles intruding. Quiet time here means time that is either spent napping for a little one, or if they’re not napping but still need some downtime, it involves quiet time spent in the child’s room. I provide a nice basket of books, and if needed, I can set a timer so they know when quiet time is over.

      As far as enforcing – it is just a non-negotiable. I’m not mean about it, but as the mom, I am in charge of stewarding our family time and this means that I need to ask my littles for some reasonable quiet time spent in their room with books or maybe 2 quiet toys (nothing electronic!). If they leave, I gently but firmly walk them back to the room, let them know how much longer quiet time will last, and leave. Nothing dramatic. I do my best to set them up for success.

      If this were a new routine, I’d start with a VERY short quiet time – like 10 minutes. Set them up for success with nice things in a nice space, and leave. Then, after a few days – stretch to 15 minutes. And so on…until you have a reasonable amount of quiet time. So, first you invest time in the habit so that the habit can help with smoother days. Make sense?

      1. Awesome. Thanks. We are moving to a new house in a few weeks, New job, New baby in a month…So we are ready to start some new routines since things are getting all squirrelly anyway! Thanks for a wonderful blog.

  22. I found this post after listening to your talk from the Denver conference, but I see those specific pages aren’t up yet. Any chance they might be soon? God bless you!

  23. I love this inspiring look at your day, Jen, thank you! When do you make time to do your wonderful planning and organizing and work on your blog? Is this mainly on weekends? And also, bigger cleaning jobs and organization projects for your home…also on weekends? Are you able to fit all this in? Thanks!

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