When was the last time you went to hear a performance by a symphony orchestra? Do you remember hearing the orchestra warm up? Each player tunes, plays, adjusts, and plays again on his own accord, with no regard to others in the area. Although you can hear the beauty in the instruments individually, the overall noise is not particularly pleasant, except for the fact that you are looking forward to hearing them work together. You may actually enjoy the warm-up, but you know something better, something beautiful, is coming.

An organized home can produce a symphony. One conductor stands in the front, and all the players, well practiced and well trained to use their instruments, play together to make a joyful noise. What you do not see, however, is the hundreds of hours spent in individual and group rehearsals that led up to the main event. Indeed, there is a conductor who knows the music, knows the instruments, and keeps all the players seamlessly performing together.

In an organized home, things are in place, people are busy about their tasks, and the home is peaceful. While homeschooling, having an organized home—especially when a home is a place filled with people working, eating, and playing all day long—can seem like a daunting goal. But a well-organized home does not "just happen." There is a parent at the conductor's stand who knows the players, knows the plan, and whose sole job is to keep all the players working together to accomplish something extraordinary.

One of the ways to create an orderly home is by establishing routines. Routines give everyone the opportunity to contribute to the smooth running of the household. They establish a sense of order. When each person does his job well, chores can be completed with efficiency, competency, and a pleasant attitude. 

Beginning around age 3, each child in our home is given a Morning Routine list. When learning his or her part to play, I will be alongside, training the child to become familiar with the list and explaining what each point on it means. This initial instruction is much like beginning music lessons. My daughters are taking piano lessons right now, and even though they can play duets together, each has to spend time learning her individual part. Once they can do their individual parts well, then they can work together. 

Once the list becomes a normal part of your child's day, a sibling can oversee his routine, or he can be entirely self-directed, depending upon the maturity of the child. For a 3-year-old, a simple morning routine looks like this: 

  • Rise and shine (wake up in a good and sweet humor)
  • Go potty
  • Get dressed
  • Make bed
  • Groom
  • Eat breakfast
  • Straighten room and bathroom

Once all of these skills are mastered, i.e., they can be carried out by the child independently, I will introduce an evening routine that looks very similar. As the child matures, the routine list will grow longer. For example, at age 8, my daughter's list includes some additional items:

  • Pet care
  • Laundry (switch laundry and put away a load of laundry) 

When you train the children, you can make a game out of increasing their speed. Use a timer when you are training them (when they are less likely to dawdle). Then, once you have determined how long the routine should take, set the timer and help them learn to work at a pace that is reasonable. As you are establishing the routine, stay in a nearby area and offer lots of praise. Stay alert to what is happening so that you can monitor their work and make immediate corrections. 

If your children have no routines in place, morning and evening routines are good places to start. Once these are in place, you will begin to notice how quickly they can learn and implement a new skill. Then you can think of other times when a routine might be helpful. For example, having a Saturday evening routine to prepare everything for church, as well as setting out the food for the Sunday meals, can be a huge benefit.