The difference between a Schedule and a Rhythm (and how Rhythm brought Rest to our Homeschool)


A. a plan for carrying out a process or procedure, giving lists of intended events and times.  

B. to arrange or plan events to take place at a particular time.


A. a strong, regular pattern of movement or sound.  

B. a repeated pattern of events marked by natural flow and regular reoccurrence of certain activities.

When I first started my Homeschooling journey,  I tried desperately to create (and re-create) very specific Homeschool Schedules I wanted us to follow.  These comprised of many boxes and many little increments of time, all filled in with exactly what we would do every second of the day.
When the children were preschoolers and toddlers, I tried something like this:
8 am – Break-fast
8:15 am – Wash hands and faces, stack dishes in sink
8:17 am – Leave Kitchen and enter the Learning Room
8:20 am – Morning Time prayer and songs
8:25 am – Morning Time calendar 
8:30 am – Poetry Reading
8:35 am – Letter Review with songs
Um… who wants to guess if THAT worked with a 4, 2, and 1 year old?  *cough*
When they were in early elementary and preschool, I tried something like this:
9 am – Morning Calendar
9:15 am – Printing
9:25 am – Math
9:45 am – Drawing
9:55 am – Snack
10:10 am – Story time

Nope, that one didn’t work either.
These rigid schedules never (ever, ever, EVER!) worked for our family.

By the time our kids were 7, 6, and 4,  I was so done with the fight and I remember literally writing out a “Schedule” that poked fun at the whole thing.  It looked like this – 

Monday through Friday: do homeschool stuff.


This is also about the time I ‘met’ Charlotte Mason and my philosophies on life, education really started to change. 

I was actually a bit surprised to find out that CM advocated for quite a strict schedule for her students, even in the homeschool.  

It has made me question if we have been doing things ‘right’.  I mean, why couldn’t I get my kids to just do what I wanted WHEN I wanted?  Why wouldn’t they just follow the schedule?  Why couldn’t they do Math when I said so and keep Drawing to the allotted time frame and move flawlessly through the tasks on my little checkmark system schedule?!

Instead of offering the structure, flow, and productivity I was hoping for, these rigid schedules brought frustration, burnout, and full-on meltdowns.  

At that season (when the kids were younger), if I let that Schedule rule my day, my emotions, and my reactions it wasn’t good.
I saw that it wasn’t working but I couldn’t understand why.  It seemed like so many other Homeschoolers were using these types of time-slotted schedules and their kids were following along.  I mean, seriously, just google “Homeschool Schedule” and you will find countless schedules that aren’t that different from the ones above.  And THOSE Moms even have stars and velcro charts and all sorts of fancy things to go along with the time slots. 

Look at the past Charlotte Mason schedules and they seem so perfectly boxed out and should work, right?

Well, I’ve come to realize, after many years of homeschooling, that it is OKAY to not have a Schedule in my Homeschool.
Just like with any other decision you make for your homeschool and family, you need to know your “why”.
If you are going to plan and implement a strict Schedule – why?

If you are not going to plan and implement a strict Schedule – why not?

Simple as that.
You must (MUST) know why you are choosing one or the other.
Schedule VS. Rhythm
So, to me, a Schedule means just what it’s definition says – a plan and list of events (or lessons/activities) to take place at a specifically given time. When you have a Homeschool Schedule, you want to see Math happen every day at 10am.

A Rhythm, on the other hand, is quite different.  A Homeschool Rhythm is a regular, established pattern of work/activities based on a natural flow.
See the difference?  The Rhythm works wonders for us, so I want to encourage you that it might really work for your family too.  Especially if you’ve been trying more strict schedules and been really struggling.
These days, we have an extremely simple Homeschool Rhythm. I spoke about it in my Morning Time and Family Loop Plans post and it is up on the kitchen wall, but more for decoration than anything.  

Our Rhythm goes like this:

Morning Time (all together)
Morning Rotations (Individual Work)
Family Loop

There is no real time frame in terms of an hourly, time-slot type schedule.

There are several subjects and tasks that we want to accomplish every day and we work towards accomplishing them.  Period.

Every day, we wake up, we spend time together, we do Morning Time, the kids know what Individual Work they have to do, and will rotate through spending time with me to accomplish their Morning Rotation.  Then, at some point, we will fit in our Family Loop subject (either History, Geo/Bible, Nature Study, or Hands-on Science).  We have a daily pattern that is predictable and reliable.

The kids know what we are doing even though it is not rigid or tied to the clock or a checklist.  They know what is expected and move freely within those expectations.  We are pretty relaxed but have enough of a pattern that everyone still feel secure and productive in that daily ‘beat’.

We DO try to do Morning Time in the morning because, well…. you know.  
Honestly though, beyond that – it’s just got to be done by the time the sun sets.  Or sometimes, not even.  Sometimes (gasp!) we carry over work that we didn’t do on Monday to Tuesday or even Wednesday.  (I know, I know… unheard of, right?)

And OH, the peace this structure brings to our home, friends!  I can’t speak highly enough of this kind of relaxed, yet purposeful plan.  We are not lazy.  We are free.  And within that freedom we are actually more productive because we have nurtured the atmosphere that lends itself to peaceful, restful learning.

Let me express to you some solid reasons why I strongly advocate for adopting a Homeschool Rhythm instead of a timed Schedule-

Rhythm leaves more room for God’s leading and life’s ‘divine interruptions’.  

C.S. Lewis talked about this when he said: 

β€œThe great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day.”

Now, I don’t think all the interruptions to our days are unpleasant.  In fact, many of these little interruptions are sweet and beautiful!  But nonetheless, these unscheduled events and needs can often be seen as annoying interruptions if we are set on a specific schedule that runs in a minute-by-minute time frame.

Honestly, I desperately want to live with eyes wide open to where God is leading and what ways I can reach out to our children, love on them, love on others – family, friends, the children in our lives.  If we are faced with the question of choosing between ‘doing homeschool’ or encouraging and helping a friend in need – I want to be the ones who choose people over tasks every time.

And the strict schedule makes choosing the unexpected very difficult – especially when you feel tied to the schedule, ‘or else’.

Rhythm allows for more play and more creativity.  

I’ll admit it – there are mornings when we are barely starting Morning Time before 11am.  It’s not because we’ve slept in for hours or watched videos or are just lounging around eating chocolate in our PJs.  (I wish!)

If we’re getting a ‘late start’ to the day, it’s almost always because the kids have been completely engaged in something else that I deemed worthwhile to let them continue.  Whether it is building with Legos, painting a picture, creating a play together, building a fort for reading, making something with the sewing machine, spending time with the chickens, nurturing relationships, etc.

When the children are happily engaged in productive projects, activities, and play, I usually leave them be.  This is part of that space Charlotte Mason called ‘masterly inactivity’.  Where the parent chooses to ‘let the child alone’.  So she can create, imagine, dream, play, and grow in her own giftings, skills, and focus.  This IS ‘school’, friends.  It is the most profound type of education because it is that self-education we so desire for our children to grow into.

The minute-by-minute schedule would never allow for me to do this ‘letting alone’ as much as I do.  I would constantly feel behind because we would NEVER be starting (or finishing) on time.  I prefer to breathe deep and enjoy this time for them to just be children.  We get to the ‘work’ eventually.  Some days, it just takes longer to get to my plan because they are first doing some ‘work’ of their very own.  *wink*

Rhythm allows for more Delight-Directed Learning.  

Apart from having more time to play and be creative, having a Rhythm allows for more time to take educational detours.  I love to watch for the sparks in our children and work hard not to ignore them, but to instead, nurture them.

So, if we are reading about some aspect of Early Modern History and all of a sudden our kids are completely captivated by Queen Elizabeth – we are likely to camp there for a while to nurture that interest and soak up all the delight-directed learning we can do.  We just have more freedom.  If ‘History’ takes 2 hours, that’s okay.  There’s nothing telling us we have to rush to the next time slot.

Rhythm removes the pressure to blaze through things.  

When you’re supposed to be done Math at 10:15 so you can start Spelling at 10:16, and done Spelling at 10:30 so you can start Copywork at exactly 10:31 – um, it’s a bit stressful.  The temptation is the get through the first thing so that we can flawlessly move on to the next thing, so that we can again move on (quickly!) to the NEXT thing on the schedule.  If we lag behind, the whole day is just messed up.  And if you are an A-type Mama, that will drive you NUTS.  So, guess what?  You’ll rush through things to stay on schedule.  It just might become about that darn schedule instead of about the little person in front of you and the learning that is or is not taking place.

Rhythm gives children more say in how they manage their own time and tasks.  

It’s okay to let our kids decide when they want to accomplish their work.  I’ve actually realized that my children work far better under these less restrictive perimeters.  My eldest really enjoys reading his personal reads in the evening, so that’s when he reads and often narrates to me.  My daughter loves to get her work done early in the morning because she feels a weight off her back by getting it done!  My youngest likes to wait until I am fully available so he can sit on my lap, play with my hair and just completely enjoy his time with “Mama”.

There are days when another project (say Lego or an Art project) overpowers my child’s desire to do Math work.  And that’s okay.  The Math can wait if a child prefers to do it a little later in the day.  The child still knows they need to do it and they are still learning through the activity they are currently engaged in.  In fact, they are probably learning MORE than they will during that Math lesson.

This method helps children learn about when and how they work best and how to manage their own time and tasks on a daily and weekly basis.  It is worth noting here that this structure also really helps with atmosphere – it keeps the kids MUCH happier because it respects them as people.

In fact, I feel so strongly about this, I’ll make it another point…

Rhythm helps maintain a peaceful and productive home atmosphere (at least in our home it does!).  

Guess what?  I’m going to let you in on a little secret –  kids often have their own little agendas.  They don’t always WANT to do what we want them to do, when we want them to do it.  I know, right?  Wait… you already knew that?

So, if I’m aiming for peace in the home and homeschool, I’m going to try my best to understand how I can structure our days for the most peace and productivity.

I work with how I function best and also consider how each of the individual little people in my home functions best.  What makes them most capable of learning and absorbing these great ideas I want them to contemplate?  What helps them thrive?  What really frustrates them and hinders them from learning?  What times of day or types of situations push their buttons?  And what kind of atmosphere renders them incapable of learning (literally)?

Identify these things and don’t be afraid to work with exactly where your children are at.  It’s OK.  You are not being a push-over or overly accommodating to acknowledge their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and unique learning styles.  This is part of the whole reason so many of us chose to homeschool – to have the freedom to educate our children in an individual manner that helped them learn in the most optimal way.

I’ll tell you something – I write this blog usually between 10:30pm and 1am.  Partly because that is the only time I have to myself (chuckle) but mostly because it is the time of day when I think, organize ideas, and write most coherently and effectively.  It might sound absolutely insane to some people, but it is the way I’ve been since I was very young.  I don’t think it could have been trained out of me – this is just the way I tick.  (PS.  It is 11:15pm as I type this…)

Kids are no different than us.  They have personalities and their own needs and likes/dislikes surrounding their work and their play.

This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way through many, many months (years?) of tears, arguments, melt-downs, and complete frustration in our homeschool.  I thought things should be done the way I wanted every single time, no compromises – and it caused so much upset and much of it was avoidable.  It was simply a matter of taking into account my children’s’ personalities, abilities, and personal limitations.

Some quotes from Charlotte Mason:

“We should have a Method of Education not a System of Education.  A method is flexible, free, yielding, adaptive, natural.  A system is endless rules and very rigid.  The system would teach the child how to play but then he has no initiative. A wise passiveness – let the children take the initiative; follow the lead of Nature.”

“That the child, though under supervision, should be left much to himself – both that he may go to work in his own way on the ideas he receives, and also that he may be the more open to natural influences.”

“We are very tenacious of the dignity and individuality of our children… Do not take too much upon ourselves, but leave time and scope for the workings of Nature and of (God)…”

Want more inspiration?  Check out Julie Bogart (from Brave Writer) in this video about Schedule VS. Routine.

I will end this post by saying – obviously, I am very pro-Rhythm.  But that doesn’t make me entirely anti-Formal-Schedule.  I’m anti-Schedule in my own home because it doesn’t work at all for us.  And, honestly, because of what I know about children – I think a formal and rigid schedule will be hard on most every child.

I do, however, I have friends who say they could not function any other way than on a strict schedule.  

So, to each her own.  If you are a strict Schedule Mama, power to you if it works!  *smile*  I am simply sharing my thoughts and my heart on why tossing the strict schedule and adopting more of a relaxed Rhythm has worked for our family.  

The hope is to encourage other Moms, like me, who feel pressured to adhere to a Homeschool Schedule when it isn’t working for their home and to express how Rhythm can bring rest and peace to the atmosphere of home.



  • Kendall

    This is Exactly what I've found to be true even as we're not "officially" homeschooling. I tried to come up with times and a Schedule for our days, but inevitably it didn't quite work and it often felt a bit unnatural.

    There are a few things we are pretty strict on (time to cook dinner, time to call Papa on his break, bedtime) but largely we have a rhythm we adhere to now and it works wonders. I'm in a better place, the littles are (mostly) in a better place, and therefore our home and family is in a better place. πŸ™‚

  • Toni

    Cassandra, I just wanted to drop in and say that your blog has been a very big inspiration to me over the last few months. We have been struggling in school for the last few years… stressed, fighting, tears, and feeling like I have failed my children greatly. The Lord knew we needed something to change and as He began to deal with my heart and open my eyes, He lead me to your blog … I just wanted to say that your posts have helped me so much to see that there is much better way to educate my children. A way that inspires them and brings joy back into our home. Hugs — Toni

    • Cassandra

      Hi Toni! Thank you so much for this message. I am so incredibly encouraged my your words! πŸ™‚ The entire reason for writing this blog is to share our experiences and breathe (hopefully) life and encouragement into the hearts of other Mothers. So, I am so happy that my words have touched your heart. There IS a better way, I promise. It takes courage to walk this journey but it is so rewarding. Are you thinking of homeschooling this year?!

  • Unknown

    I found your blog because I was looking for some reviews of Five in a Row and Before Five in a Row. I'm planning to get BFIAR for my 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 year old boys to use this year. It sounds just right for our family! Then, I noticed this post title and was drawn to read it right away. Schedule vs. rhythm is *always* on my mind! I like schedules, because then I know there's time allotted for everything I've deemed important, but don't like them because I feel like I'm always watching the clock, instead of being in tune with what our family needs/is doing.

    So – sorry this is long! – my question is, do you have a schedule for the rest of your day? Do your kids have a certain time for lunch, or to do chores? Do you have a certain time you start the laundry, or dinner? I can handle a natural approach to learning (I think!), but I always get hung up on figuring out where the rest of these things fit into the day.

    Thank you for your thoughts – blessings!


  • Anne

    Hi Cassandra, I have been so blessed reading through your blog over the last couple of days. Something has been missing and just not connecting, not feeling right. Our days haven't felt rich and meaningful so on the surface. I haven't quite known how to change that. I have taken a break to seek the Lord and I believe He is directing me to your blog. I am using SL core A and will be using core B. I also have P 4/5. I'm hoping that this routine will work for us using SL. My boys are 5 and 7. Is it possible to adapt what I have with my SL cores to this method and enrich our time, please share any tips you may have for me ;). Thank you so much for your lovey blog and willingness to share your wonderful journey.

  • Rose @---}

    I am a type-A person and always like schedules. They work well in my home management but when it comes to school time it does not. I would love to know how you figured out the rhythm thing at the same time as starting CM? Seriously, it was beginning CM, with her philosophy of short lessons (10 min, no more than 20 min for math, etc.) that left me feeling rushed and unfocused on my kids but on fitting 10-12 subjects per day. Now nearly 2 years later I finally realized I cannot do as she says… the way I understood it anyway.

    • Cassandra

      Hello, fellow A-type! πŸ˜€ I hear you completely. We actually never embraced the 'short lesson' thing. I just watched my kids' cues. I have never done that many subjects in one day successfully. I agree with you – its far too stressful. Do what is right for your family, and you will be much happier. πŸ™‚

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