Our new schedule, what it is, why it’s working

They say a change is as good as a holiday.

Well, this past month, we used a working-holiday as a grand opportunity to change up what we were doing with our family’s schedule.

Our plan was to settle ourselves in a small, non-touristy village in France, where we could truly just live for a month (out of the 11 weeks we’re traveling), while also taking time to engage with the culture, get out and explore the area, and work on our French skills. (And that top photo is the street on which we’re living in said village.)

We’re excited to say it feels like we’ve accomplished that goal. Although we had several extended periods of time living in one place while on our one-year trip, we never managed to get into such a solid, balanced routine, nor had we found one back home that was really meeting our family’s needs.

So we went ahead and made a brand new schedule, with the changes motivated by specific things like:

  1. Ryan’s desire to spend more time really being with the family, especially being a part of their schooling.
  2. Our need to balance our work time and make sure that we both had enough of it.
  3. The fact that we wanted to really maximize time for school and work while staying put for a month, balanced with a desire to take full days off for sight seeing and local exploring.

A few months back, I shared the schedule we’d been using in the fall. It had some really good points, but it was wasn’t quite the home run we hoped it would be and still needed some tweaking.

Ryan took on the challenge and after sitting down with it for a while, he emerged victorious with the new schedule we’ve been living and loving.

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Ryan’s favorite place to do pushups, on the balcony overlooking the village.

What’s different about this schedule:

  • We’re being stricter about our mornings and our start times (this is particularly influenced by Ryan’s new morning routine, which is very motivating for him and pushes the rest of us to stay on track).
  • We’re eating all of our meals together as a family more intentionally than before. We still usually ate together on the old schedule, especially dinners, but we both love that we’re eating all three meals together on a really consistent basis.
  • Both Ryan and I spend the first hour focusing on the kid’s schoolwork, together. This helps so much because we’re in a season right now where we have two early learners that both need a lot of support with their basics (reading, writing, math) and aren’t yet capable of reading instructions by themselves. By tackling this first hour together, we’re able to give them both focused attention and crank out some of their most important work straight off.
  • We’ve given our two big kids a greater level of responsibility. You’ll see how there’s a chunk of the day when they’re actually overseeing much of what goes on in the house and they’re really rising to the challenge (and as a huge perk, this is giving Ryan and I both a bit of extra, focused work time).
The child on the left is actually a friend's who was sleeping over, but otherwise this would look like us finishing up breakfast in our rental home here in France.

The child on the left is actually a friend who was sleeping over, but otherwise this would look like us finishing up breakfast in our rental home here in France.

I’m sure you’ll all really curious now just what this new schedule looks like, so here it is:

Our current family schedule

6:00 am – Ryan wakes up to begin his morning routine. This includes exercise, getting ready for the day, reading, quiet meditation, writing, etc.

6:30 pm – If Stephanie didn’t wake up at 6 with his alarm, this is when she wakes up to get herself ready, which includes exercise most days, showering/dressing, and reading/devotions.

7:30 pm – Stephanie wakes up the kids (although the boys are usually awake already- it’s the girls who need dragging out of bed). They spend the next 30 minutes getting dressed and tidying their rooms, then coming down to help while Stephanie makes breakfast and empties the dishwasher.

8:00 pm – Eat breakfast together, then clean up, while Ryan writes out what each child needs to accomplish in their schoolwork that day.

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8:30 pm – One hour of schoolwork together. Typically Ryan works one-on-one with Caden (our 7 year old) while I focus my time on Johanna (5 years old). We try to get through their language arts and math work in particular. Meanwhile, Abby (10) uses my laptop to complete her math curriculum and French lesson (both of which she can do independently) and we check in with her occasionally. Kepler (3) just plays or uses the iPad.

9:30 pm – Stephanie heads upstairs to begin her work time. Ryan stays downstairs, continues on with the kids school (or sometimes takes them out to do errands if needed, like going to the local market or bakery). He makes lunch just before noon.

12:00 pm – We all eat lunch together, then clean up.

12:30 pm – Our big kids (the 7 and 10 year old) take charge at this point. They stay downstairs with their siblings and they can play together, do more schoolwork if needed, and they are also expected to clean up from lunch and tidy the living room. Then the 5 and 3 year old go down for their quiet time, and Abby and Caden have an hour or more where they can read, play quietly, finish their chores, etc.  They are technically “in charge” at this point, because Ryan and I both go back upstairs to work at the same time. Of course, if they truly need us, we’re just right there and will come down if necessary, but so far, they’ve barely needed us and have managed likes pros on their own. For this added responsibility, they earn money each day, but we hold them to a high standard and find that they’re really rising to the occasion and taking pride in their job.

Looking out from our upstairs bedroom/office.

Looking out from our upstairs bedroom/office.

3:00 pm – Stephanie finishes and come back downstairs to do a bit more schooling with the kids (like reading one-on-on with the early readers, or looking over some of Abby’s projects). She also uses this time for grocery shopping in the nearest big town if necessary, for cleaning and laundry, and then for cooking dinner.

5:30-6:00 pm – Depending on how early he can finish up his work, Ryan comes down somewhere between 5:30 and 6:00, and we eat dinner together and then the kids help clean up.

6:30 pm onwards – We spend time together as a family.

7:30-9:00 pm – The kids bedtimes have varied a bit more since we’ve been in France because sometimes we want to go out in the evenings, or to hang out with our friends, the Oxenreiders, but generally they’re in bed by about 9pm at the latest, sometimes earlier.

9:00-10:30 pm – Ryan and I get time together to hang out, and we are trying to get to bed by 10:30 (we have a bad habit of staying up until closer to 11 or 12). But waking up at 6 or 6:30 motivates us to get to bed earlier, since neither of us functions well with less than 7 ½ or 8 hours sleep. Occasionally one of us will have a business phone call or need to podcast with someone back in North America and after dinner or evenings are the only time that works due to the time zone difference, so we just go with the flow as needed.

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On our last day off, Kepler runs across the stone bridge to an outlook point at the ruined castle of Les Baux, France.

On a weekly basis: We’re using this daily routine 4 or 5 days each week, so that we can take 2 or 3 days to get out and explore or do things with friends. We usually take Saturdays and Sundays off, but the beauty of this flexibility in our lifestyle is that if we want to take a gorgeous Wednesday off to go for a hike we can (and recently did).

So that’s our schedule, for the time being. Since we’ve loved this schedule so much, we’re planning to continue on with it as best as possible once we return back home in April.

What does your family schedule currently look like? Which parts are working and which parts are you trying to find solutions for?

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