I'm a routine follower, especially with all these kids running around. Now that Jack is starting preschool I've streamlined our morning and afternoon routines to include him, and I've got some great tips to help YOU streamline your routine (plus some free printables)!
First, try to figure out what your biggest time wasters are in the morning. For us, I decided the kids needed to get all of the upstairs business done before coming down to eliminate the up and down nonsense that can take up a ton of time. Basically my rule is don't come downstairs until your teeth are brushed, your bed is made, and your clothes are on. That way they are done up there and can focus on getting the rest of the routine done before heading out the door. I love this time saver when it comes to clothes, you don't have to stress about what to wear, or if anything is clean, because it's already there to grab and put on.
I let the older kids make their own breakfast which saves a ton of time while I'm packing lunches, and we have a designated cabinet just for our lunch containers and their lunchboxes to make sure they are clean and ready to go (rather than sitting in a backpack with a half eaten sandwich from the day before in it). ps, win some lunchbox gear here!
They are responsible for packing up their own bag. I try to not remind them of everything (homework, library books, etc) because I want them to work on their own accountability when it comes to remembering things, but keeping this routine helps jog their memory of what needs to go into their bags before they head out the door. They do pack it the night before (as you'll read below) but as we all know there are always last minute additions.
I put the shoes last, because the shoes really are the LAST thing to do before they leave. I make sure they have everything ready the day before so there isn't any frantic searching for shoes, hats, etc in the morning. Shoes are by the door and out you go. This also prevents them tracking dirt all over the house looking for something. And let's face it, with five kids shoes have a tendency to go missing even IF they were put out the night before, so shoes are really worthy of their own category on our to do list.
We have to, HAVE TO get the homework and reading out of the way once they get home or else it's a battle at night. The kids have their own separate homework areas (because really having them sit together is not possible, they are just way too chatty). This is a non-negotiable on days that they don't have any extracurriculars after school. Come in, unpack your bag, eat a snack while you do your homework, but that's what needs to get done first. Making it a rule means no arguments, it's set in stone. Once it's done there's time for play, and that can last as long as they want. Play outside, play inside, do whatever, play time is just as important in our house as homework time. On days where we are going to after school sports and stuff this is still a rule, but we do have days where we modify it just because of logistics.
Depending on their ages, the chores vary, but basically the chores and "re-set" are very similar. Gather up your stuff and make sure it is all ready to go for the next day. That means the backpack is all packed up, items are located for the next day, shoes are put out by the door, the lunchbox is in the cabinet ready to go. We go over what is going on the next day to make sure we have it all covered, carpooling to lacrosse, making sure ballet outfits are washed and located, etc.
The re-set step also gives us an opportunity to talk about their day, what was good, what was maybe not so good. It can carry on over to dinner where we can chat about the ups and downs, and they can tell us what they learned, what the liked, what they want to work on. I like to make it a chance to communicate with them about what they're feeling about their day and make sure that they know they always have a space to talk to us about their day. If they had a bad day, we can "re-set" and focus on moving forward in a positive way.