I know a lot of people are allergic to schedules but I'm the kind of person that would never accomplish anything without a list. On the other hand, I have a husband, four kids, a Dreaded Jungle Basset, a Mouthy Parakeet and a Seafaring Hedgehog all up in my business every day so I have to keep flexible as well. I balance these two needs with a plan and a routine.
My routine often changes but I always start a new school year with a shiny, new plan all mapped out and ready to go. I write down everything that needs to get done, sorting into daily, weekly, and semi-weekly categories. Next I schedule my day into hourly blocks so I know if I have enough time to get all these things done. I shuffle, re-organize, and even delete items. Finally, when I'm satisfied that we will not be overscheduled, I print off my schedule and then go over it, step by step with the kids. I find that it helps everybody tremendously if they know all expectations ahead of time. Also, on more than one occasion they have pointed out a snarl or reminded me of something I had overlooked!
We aren't morning people around here, so our goal is to start our day between 8:00 and 8:30. I usually let them hang out on the couch and wake up a bit before I start breakfast. But if they sleep in too long, then they miss out on this ritual.
Breakfast is also our Creche Conference time. I describe that in detail here. Right after Creche Conference we do Flip Flop Spanish. I put it here because it's a group subject and we are still together. It is frustrating for everyone to have to wait on that "slowpoke" kid who, like a watched pot, just goes ever more slowly the longer you look at him.
After Spanish is chore time. Each kid has responsibility for different chores: pet care, wiping the table, spritzing up the bathroom, etc. I keep a list on the side of the fridge and it is their job to read the list, complete the chore, and mark that it is done. I have chores of my own to do at this time, and my last one is to check up on their list. I learned the hard way that I must inspect everything I expect. ;)
As soon as each child is done with his/her chores and they have been "rubber stamped" by me, they bring their baskets of school stuff to the table and start on their "independent work". This means everything that they can do without direct supervision from me and/or without participation from a sibling. They all know how to watch a video, work a math sheet, draw a picture, and run the programs on the computer. If they need my help or to have their work checked, I am right there. Over the years, I add more and more of their work to this block of time. At this point, most of their work is here. It's a juggling act for all of us as I listen to one child read, give another child spelling words, check a math paper, watch as another child completes their copywork and listen to one of the big kids narrate a reading. But we do pretty well most days.
When a child finishes all their work in this block, they are free to do whatever their heart desires as long as they do it outside or in their bedroom. I do not allow them to hang out with the rest of us and distract the kids that are still working. But this free time is an incentive to not dawdle over their work.
Up to this point, we have just been doing the next thing. But lunch is a hard and fast (most of the time) stop at 1:00. I do this in order to keep us moving forward. We all stop and eat lunch. Whatever hasn't been done will have to be squeezed into their free time in the afternoon.
When we start back to school next month, I will be adding a "literature hour", except it will only last thirty minutes. Basically, Kaytie and Nate have to read a book off their list for thirty minutes and Daniel and Abbie have to read to themselves any book they like (but I did pull off our shelves a basketful of books right at their reading speed for them to pick from). This will encourage the big kids to step it up a level in their reading and give up some of the easier reads that they seem stuck on. Not bad books, but just books that are too easy for them to be reading and re-reading. And it will encourage the little kids to take that plunge into real reading for pleasure. Neither of them think they can read unless they are reading out loud to me. It's become a crutch that I want them to give up. They will still read out loud to me in their "independent block" in the morning.
After that, since that is basically the end of our academics for the day, I have set aside a chunk of time to finish up anything that wasn't completed in the morning. If they finished all their work in the morning, then this is free time. :)
After this is outside play, chores, and snack. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we will have an extra read aloud time. On Wednesdays we will work on handicrafts and listen to our current composer. On Thursdays, we will go off and do some Nature Study.
Late in the afternoon, after they have had time to burn energy and blow the cobwebs from their brains, I have scheduled a time that I'm calling by the vague name of "projects". This will be a time where they pick something productive to do or to learn. I'll be offering the big kids a photography class during this time. Or they can draw, paint, conduct a science experiment, practice the piano, build with Lego, whatever, as long as they are using their brains and/or their hands. My kids are great at only choosing to do projects that can be completed in one sitting. This block of time is intended to stretch them out of that habit. I don't know if it will be successful or not.
After that is supper and evening time with Dad, then showers and bed. OR, one of our evening activities. We tend to be quite busy in the fall and a few weeks in the spring and then we take the rest of the year off (except for Scouts which lasts all school year).
Friday is our out of the house day. We have co-op in the morning and errands in the afternoon.