I don’t know about you, but when summer hits around here sometimes it feels like it becomes a free-for-all. Which is fine, for a while. But then kids start arguing, mom gets grumpy and we all start looking forward to fall and getting back to a “normal” schedule. I have noticed that the longer span of time we take off from lessons the more that feeling sets in. I have also noticed that the longer the kids are together most days, without a break, the more they argue and get frustrated with each other.
We all need some amount of down time through our days to slow us down, let us regroup and just give us a break from everything. Our solution has been working really well so far and it doesn’t require a strict schedule to make it work. That’s what I love most about it, freedom to be flexible but still knowing that the same basic routine of things will take place each day. Here’s what works for us:
::Every morning the kids are expected to stay in their rooms until 7:00a.m. This does a couple of things. 1) It lets everyone have quiet time whether awake or sleeping until a reasonable time before hearing dishes clanking, singing, or playing to start the day. 2) It gives the kids time to get their first responsibilities taken care of before leaving their rooms. They are expected to have their beds made and be dressed before they come out for breakfast. What a sanity saver/nag reducer this habit has been! Sundays are the exception with pajama morning and lounging around until mass time.
::During breakfast, Dad and Toby lead family devotion/bible time. This also covers as Toby’s read aloud to keep him reading at least a little every day. The bible can be challenging to read sometimes and it has been wonderful for him to work through those hard words and meanings.
::After breakfast, everyone helps clean up and kids are expected to “take care of their list” before heading out to play. Without a plan in place for getting chores and things done in the morning, chores tend to go right out the window. We all have things to do that we don’t necessarily enjoy and getting work done before we play sets the day off on a good foot. Our list goes like this:
When the list is taken care of(except for the last 2, which can be done throughout the day) it’s free time! It takes all of maybe 20-30 minutes for them to get it all done. The kids trade off each week with one wiping the table and one sweeping under the table after each meal. To keep track of whose turn it is to do what, I write it on this list each week in wet erase marker.
You’ll notice we are also doing a few subjects through the summer. It’s a very light schedule that they basically can do on their own for reading, writing and math but I want to make sure we are ahead as far as we can be when the baby comes so we can take guilt-free time off.
::Lunch together. No matter what we are doing or what is going on, the kids and I will eat together. Sometimes with friends/cousins but usually just us. This is a great time to work on manners, talk about how our day is going so far and plan/chat about the afternoon/evening to come.
::After lunch read aloud. The kids are starting to do more of their own lunch prep which is wonderful and will really be helpful when I have a nursing baby to take care of come fall. I usually try to get my own lunch ready and sometimes start before them in order to be done first. This allows time for me to read aloud to them while they finish eating. Talk about a captive audience! We are working on book #4 of the Narnia series and the only complaint I ever hear about this read aloud time is that at some point I have to stop reading! They usually beg for another chapter!
::Daily Quite Time. This is possibly my favorite part of the day, not because I don’t want to be around my kids but because I see the benefits of it showing in all of us. Our quiet time is right after our lunch read aloud and I rarely have to even tell them what time it is. They both head to their rooms for an hour of uninterrupted quite time. No electronics, no Ipods. They can read, write, draw, rest, or play quietly while in their own rooms.
I usually tell Toby what time it will be over and he is our time keeper. I also require that they tidy up their rooms before they can come out to do something else. They have gotten better about this since they know they can’t go outside or do anything else if their room is a disaster. Took a while to get this figured out.
::Keep a normal bedtime and bedtime routine as much as possible. Even though here are plenty of times that throw us off and keep us up way past the normal 8:00/8:30 bedtime, we try to keep it as close to that as possible. The kids bath or shower every night and that starts our wind-down for the evening. Lilly’s words put it best, “Mom, I’m glad we take a shower or bath every night. It just feels so good to be clean when I go to bed.” We have some read aloud time, say prayers, give blessings and tuck in basically the same way every night. If it’s early enough the kids sometimes get some quiet reading time in their beds before lights out.
::Family dinner time. With the rare exception, we make time for dinner together every night. It is typically around the same time when Mark gets home but most nights we are all around the table. The kids help set the table and clean up afterwards too.
::Be flexible. Although all of these things help us to keep our sanity through the busy summer months(and all year round really), there is obviously a lot of room to be flexible. Nothing is set in stone and it’s fun to stray from the norm once in a while. But the idea is to have most of the days flow smoothly and for everyone to know what to expect. It may not work for everyone, but it sure works for us!