First I want to point out that I am constantly learning and growing in my parenting journey; and also failing. I fail, I make mistakes, and I take my mistakes to my Father and ask forgiveness. I also ask my child to forgive me if I have wronged them. I do not want to come across with having all the answers or that my life runs perfectly with a good schedule in place. That is not the case, but I do know that for me and my kids, that having a schedule and routine in place helps to reduce the number of struggles and frustrations. I also want to start off by saying that I am not an organized person. Being organized does not come naturally or easy to me, but I have learned if I want my house to run more smoothly I need to have some order and organization. I still have lots to learn, but I want to encourage you that if you feel like you cannot create a schedule or routine because it does not come naturally, that I believe we all can step out of our zones and learn new things all the time 🙂
With summer break starting up for some, or just about to start-up for others, this is getting me into thinking about a summer routine or schedule.
I remember a few years ago when I did not have to do school with my oldest, when she was just preschool age and we homeschooled (still do) I can remember very clearly the disorder that came from not having a routine and schedule in place. Leah did not know what to do with a whole day, and she often became frustrated. It was not until later did I realize that she needed some structure to her day and things started to go more smoothly. I started to think about if she were at a traditional preschool she would have order and structure to her day…things like free play, circle time, snack time, outdoor time, art time, etc. Once I started to think in these terms I made a rough schedule of blocks of time for the things I wanted to get done and for her to do. She was a lot less fussy now that she knew that she did not have to figure out her entire day. And I was able to get more of my chores done in the designated time slots. This was where we started 6 years ago with a schedule and we do things a little different now, but with the same idea.
So when there is a school break, snow day, summer break or any break from a normal routine, it is okay to start a different routine. The beauty of all of this is that you are the creator of the schedule and can make it to fit your needs on a daily basis. Sometimes that may mean making a schedule and tweaking it when something does not work well after you have tried it. For example, I have learned that having my kids do math right before lunch might bring about tears and frustration much more than if I have them do it right away after breakfast. I am always learning and tweaking the schedule to fit us at that time in our lives. With a baby in the house, I need to be mindful of when I will have the most time to devote to teaching, and when I will not. A lot of that is based on her naps.
A few good questions to ask yourselves when starting to think of a schedule are:
1. What time should breakfast/lunch/dinner be?
2. Do I want everyone to eat breakfast/lunch/dinner at the same time?
3. What time should rest/nap time be?
4. What errands do we need to do?
5. What chores need to be done and by whom?
6. What do I want the kids to accomplish?
7. What do I want to do that is intentional (example…I always want to make time to do things with my preschooler, just him and I, but the day can get away from me very quickly so I need to put it into the schedule to make sure it gets done).
8. What character training should we focus on this week/day?
9. What chore/home management should I start teaching them?
I do not ask myself these questions each time I make a schedule, but they are good questions to start thinking about. When we have our school schedule I make sure to put in all the necessary subjects and when I will be needed to assist. I also add in daily chores so that we can fee like we are getting some things accomplished. But I also give myself and kids grace when something pulls us away from checking everything off the list (errand took longer, someone sick, an expected playdate, etc).
During our school schedule the kids get up and go to bed around the same time each morning and night. I find this to be helpful in the summer too and here is why. I really like to have everyone eat meals together. If child A is up at 7 and child B at 9, then breakfast at 9:30 is not going to work for child A. If child B needs more sleep then he/she goes to bed earlier and thus our meals will not be interrupted. I like eating together as we do our daily devotions, read aloud, and family time together during meals. I still do these things in the summer as there are just too many good books not to read. Lets say that we set the alarm for 7am during the school year, but do not want to get up that early in the summer, make the alarm work for you, and your schedule work accordingly; I know I do, I just make sure it works so breakfast is served all together, etc.
After breakfast in the summer we get to the must do’s of the day. The kids work on reading, a few math facts, and piano, a few chores. Since we have more time in the summer, this is where I would put in items like learning to tie shoes, more character training stories, typing games, baking more, etc. So I would look at my schedule each week, see what might be on the calendar and fill in the schedule so we have a nice solid routine in order. This still gives a huge amount of time for playing, creating, carefree, relaxing to happen. I do not like to pencil in so much, that my kids cannot think of things to do on their own. If I always am the one to do this, how will they ever learn what to do when they are “bored”.
As far as chores go, I seem to get a lot less complaining when the child knows that chore time is after breakfast (as well as reading, piano, etc). If I suddenly look at the clock at 4pm and realize child A did not get any chores done (because I have not asked him to) then it is much harder to get him to stop playing and come do a chore. He knows he must obey, but I do not want to have a battle if I can avoid it. Sometimes I am create more battles by not being as organized or prepared, but I also want my kids to know that I when I ask them to do something any time of the day, I expect them to obey with a happy heart.
I like to follow more of a routine than an actual strict schedule that every half hour of the day is scripted, but I know people who work best with a strict schedule. That is the beauty of it, you can make it work for your situation and personality.
I am not a fan of the “I’m bored” expression that comes from my kids. I usually respond with a number of chores that could be done and they suddenly disappear and find something to do. I do notice that I hear I’m bored a whole lot less when we have some structure time of activities like light school work, chores, reading, etc. When we finish with the must do’s of the day, they are off and exploring, playing, learning to be creative. They seldom are at a loss of what to do/play. But if I leave the entire day up to them all of the time, that is when they run out of things to do. So it just works better for all of us to have some structure and things to get accomplished. There are so many awesome things to learn, that pulling out a great bible study, devotional, encyclopedia, magnets, paints, etc….that it does not take too much thought to come up with some cool learning ideas for your kids. I know children learn the most when they are in charge of what they want to learn. So if you have a child who keeps asking about storms, check out some books/videos from the library about weather and climate. By putting these extra’s into your schedule it helps to make sure that the extras actually get done and are not just another idea stuck in a pintrest folder.
If you have children that are in school for the school year, it may be a good idea to make up a sample schedule when an unexpected day off occurs (bad weather, sickness, etc). That way when all the snow is coming down, the school is closed, and you have a houseful of children who do not know what to do with their time, you can pull out a sample day that you had already planned and have some structure to your day with minimal effort. I love giving my kids lots of unplanned time in the day for creative play and thought, but they also crave structure and order, so I make sure to have both. You do not need to entertain them all day, you do not need to have the most creative art projects planned, just having some structure will go a long way!
Last….the dreaded dinner hour rush! The clock hits 5pm and the kids are bickering with each other, hungry, complaining, and you are wanting to get dinner done before you end up yelling at all of them and then feel bad after. Ok…maybe that does not happen at your house, but this happens at mine quite frequently. So I decided to get organized and came up with some things for them to do during this time while I can still get dinner on the table at a decent hour! Some suggestions that we do are: stickers, card games like solitaire, audio books, dancing to music we have, helping to set the table, get drinks, etc. I also make sure they have a snack if needed (most likely this is for the 3-year-old who is starving and cannot do anything…so he gets to eat vegetables at this time.
I would love to hear how you use a routine/schedule to work for you!