HDYDI: Simplifying the Morning Routine

I get this question. Lots. “How do you get five kids ready for school? Every day?”

Nobody said anything about a shower. Kellie, this one’s for you.

Just know that I was not this on top of things when I had one in school, two littles at home and one in the oven. We’ve adapted and grown over time. I’ve figured out my kids’ temperaments and my tolerance level for crazy. For the record, it’s pretty low.

  1. Do the work the night before. Yes, you’ve heard it one billion times, so let’s make it one billion and one, shall we? I don’t think it matters whether you homeschool, private school or public school, when you don’t get your gear in order the night before it makes for a less stressful morning. Make lunches, have the kids lay out their clothes, get folders signed, have breakfast items ready – do it all. Homeschooling moms, do you agree? Please say you do or you’re blowing my whole theory here.wiml, blog_060
  2. Be the mom, not the maid. That’s a mantra in our house. If you have older children, say five and up, put them to work. Have them clear the table, load the dishwasher, tie a sibling’s shoes, carry a backpack to the car, pour the cereal. Whatever. But don’t do it all yourself. Your kids have to (and need to!) learn that they are responsible, capable human beings. Initially it might take a little longer (and some days I crack and do it for them) but the dividends will pay big-time down the road.
  3. Have a place for everything. Four years ago we installed the ingenius hook system. It has saved my life. And I’m not even kidding. Backpacks and jackets get hung up and school shoes placed beneath. Everyone has their own “hook” and we placed it right by our garage door. That way, things don’t get strung all over the house. In addition, we have a filing system on the homework desk. Each kid has his/her own file to place homework or syllabi in for later in the week. It helps to manage the paper clutter. Because let’s be honest, that can be the death of most moms. Death by school papers.hooks
  4. Establish a routine. We assign the kids each a day for certain chores. Mondays, Will is responsible for setting/clearing the table, loading the dishwasher and pouring the milk/juice. Tuesdays those responsibilities move to the next child and so on. Warning: this system also comes with sass, bellyaching and whining. I’ve also found that a box of ¬†Clorox wipes and a finger directing them toward the nearest bathroom for toilet duty helps. Significantly.chore-chart
  5. Take the day off sometimes. Some mornings you just don’t have it together. You’re yelling at the kids to get moving. The baby woke up twelve times. Somebody’s sick. Or, you know, it’s Monday and you’re just not having it. Cut yourself some slack momma. Not everyday will be kittens and rainbows.
  6. Employ a little Love & Logic. I took the parenting class last spring and it has revolutionized our morning routine. I hope that’s not too dramatic. Scott is usually the drop-off man for school and I tend to Luke. If the kids are dragging tail and a few minutes of lateness doesn’t affect our schedules, we don’t stress. We say, “We’ll leave when you’re ready.” That doesn’t happen too often. A few days of being late really got under their skin. On the days time does matter, we have a consequence later in the day. Say they want to play with friends or be on time to basketball practice. Oh man, that’s a bummer.

What do you do to simplify the mornings?


  1. Renee on January 20, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Since we have a few with some developmental needs, we “buddy up.” Kid A is responsible for zipping Kid B’s coat and so forth. It does quadruple-duty: It cuts down the crazy, helps people feel confident, provides OT practice and extra insurance all leave warm and ready. For example, we have the kid who is slightly obsessive and weather-focused check the clothing of the kid who doesn’t care how he looks or if his clothing is seasonally appropriate. There’s nothing like hearing “Today’s report says it’s 30 degrees outside. You can’t wear just a t-shirt. Oh, and by the way, that does not color coordinate.” Hey, you use what you’ve got. (I used my middle name to protect the anonymity of the guilty.)

  2. Anna on January 20, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Where did you get that neat chore chart?

  3. Christine on January 20, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Where did you get those lunchbox containers?!

    • Kathryn on January 20, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      Pottery Barn Kids via their online store. Throughout the year, they put them on sale with free shipping and that’s when we got them. And, now they come in four different colors! Had ours for four years and running.

      • Catholic Lawyer Mama on January 21, 2014 at 9:48 am

        Those lunchboxes really look awesome. Do the plastic dividers wash in the dishwasher? What a great way to avoid buying ten zillion ziploc bags.

        • Kathryn on January 21, 2014 at 9:57 am

          Yes ma’am they do! Top rack only. I rinse them out during the week and do a dishwasher cycle on Fridays.

  4. Kellie on January 20, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Thank you so much! These are great ideas! And I will definitely look into getting the chore chart. I think that will help tremendously!

  5. Dawn Aitchison on January 21, 2014 at 7:55 am

    THIS homeschool mom definitely agrees!! There is nothing more frustrating to the day’s routine, if I feel like I am already behind before breakfast! Our best days are when we follow the printed schedule. I was just telling a big kid today that I don’t do that schedule and post it just to look pretty on the wall!! Getting stuff ready the night before, or at least having thought out a plan, is about preventative maintenance in our home. That means preventative maintenance for mom keeping her sanity!

  6. verdinalouisa on January 21, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Wow! I never had those organization genes… the only thing I really did to help the mornings (two kids) was make sandwiches Sunday evening. My son only ate pb&j; my daughter loved egg salad or pb&honey. For the pb&j, I spread pb on both slices of bread with jelly in the middle (same with the honey). I froze the sandwiches so just had to put them in the lunch boxes in the morning with the chips and apple. My thought was that it didn’t hurt to freeze them for that short time and they were still sort-of cold by the time they ate lunch.

  7. Kimberlyq on January 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    We have 5 kids. The oldest (14) attends public school, and the younger 4 (12, 9, 6, and nearly 3) are homeschooled. We attend Regina Caeli Academy (a homeschool hybrid program) 2 days a week. So…the days we are at home are fairly simple. Up and working on schoolwork by 9:00, and if you stay in PJ’s all day…fine. No electronics until the schoolwork is finished.
    Schools days are entirely different. The night before, we make lunches and lay out uniforms and water bottles. Whoever isn’t on kitchen duty has trash duty. All the kids help with lunches (even the nearly 3-year-old). We even load backpacks into the van so we’re not hauling them out to the van the next morning. That alone has saved my life.

  8. Nicole on January 22, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Oh my word. I get hives thinking about getting 5 kids out the door. Some days, just getting my two out on time is enough to send me over the edge. Your words of advice are, of course, perfect. If I was better about making sure I followed all of the tips, I am sure our mornings would run more smoothly. One thing we did implement, and it sounds like common sense, is that there are no toys/games/playing with a pet or sibling/etc. until you are completely ready to leave the house. That means teeth brushed, backpack ready, you name it. Reminders need to be given probably once/week, but they get it.

    The other thing we did was implement a reward system. The kids have a “late bank” that has a total of 15 minutes in it for the week. That averages out to 3 mn late per day. They know what time we have to leave the house, and they check the clock in my car to see how late or early they are. If we are late, the minutes are deducted from the bank. If we are early, we add minutes to the bank. If we have minutes left in the bank at the end of the week, they get to choose dessert for Friday night (or movie night, if they like). If they have more than 15 mn in the late bank for the week, then they get to do something special that weekend. It’s only happened once that they had more than 15 mn in the bank, so they chose a special breakfast Sunday morning (cinnamon rolls!). It has helped that they know it’s a cooperative effort to get out the door on time.

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