The day after tomorrow starts Spring Break for our local elementary and preschools. I am really looking forward to having my kids all home for a week. I have some plans to do some really fun things with them like going to the zoo and the museum. Are you looking forward to Spring Break or Summer Vacation? Or are you, like some of my mom friends, dreading the sibling squabbles, the “I’m Bored”s, and the messy house? I know we’ll have some of those, especially once we hit summer. Luckily, in the last 8 years of parenting, I’ve learned a little something about myself and my kids: we are schedule people!
Do you need a daily schedule? That depends on you and your kids. Some kids do really well just going with the flow. Mine don’t. Mine function a lot more happily when they know that at X’o’clock we are going to the store and when we get home I expect them to help put away the groceries before they head outside to play. They are a lot less likely to fight over what WiiU game they are going to play if they know they only have an hour and need to make the most of it. And they won’t spend nearly as much time in front of that WiiU (or the computer, tv, iPad, DS, iPod, etc.) if they aren’t left to do “whatever”. Some people would probably roll their eyes and say I overdo on scheduling. These are the same people who will be complaining after about a week that their kids are bored or fighting. I’d prefer to schedule than referee.
My schedule won’t work for everyone. This is what works for us. You can change things up, make it more flexible or more rigid depending on what you need. I have one “Master Schedule”, but there are several variations, depending on what our plans are for the day. I call this Master our “At Home Day Schedule”. This is for a day where we don’t have anywhere we have to go: no shopping, no classes, no field trips. Just a “normal” day.
During the school-year, my kids get up at 7:00. I won’t force them out of bed in the mornings during the summer, but we will try to stick to the same time. This way, when we get to fall, we won’t have to fight a battle adjusting to school. Once up, the kids work on their morning checklist. I got this idea from Inspiring Moms, but made my own checklist that works for us. Once they’ve done everything on this list, they are ready for the day: dressed, fed, rooms cleaned, beds made. The last thing on the checklist is to write in their journals. C & G will work on writing using prompts from our Journal Jar. J is still too young to really journal, but he can use the prompt to draw a picture.
Cleaning can be done two ways: 1)I can do it by myself while the kids do something else. 2)We can do it together. I like to have the kids help me. The hope is that if they are responsible for helping me clean, they will be more likely to keep their stuff picked up. We’ll see how well the hope meets the reality! We clean in Zones. Our house is a tri-level plus basement. That gives us four zones pretty naturally. The fifth zone will be outside. We’ll start with basic picking up, then the kids can help with dusting and cleaning windows while I vacuum. Outside, we’ll pick up toys, sweep the patio, and maybe pull some weeds. One zone a day won’t take long.
My kids love to read. This summer, we will be doing the Summer Reading Program at our library. In addition to that program, I found this Summer Reading Challenge that I thought looked like fun. If they complete the challenge, I’ll reward them. Probably with a new book. Obviously, the challenge is meant for the older ones, but I’ll find a way to make it work with J. J can’t read on his own much yet, but he can look through picture books or use the TAG reader. While the kids are doing their independent reading, I will do any cleaning they can’t help with - bathrooms, etc. I’ll also start a load of laundry.
C and I found this Lego Challenge. So for some creative thinking time, we are going to try and work on this over the summer. Each kid can make their own project - C & G out of Legos and J with Duplos.
I don’t believe in spending all day sitting around. We will get out and spend some time doing something physical. Depending on the weather and what is going on, we might go out in the yard and practice baseball for C and J. Or we may work on dance for G. Or we may go for a bike ride or walk. If it’s raining or just too hot to be out, we’ll do something inside like kid yoga or maybe try Just Dance on the Wii.
Unstructured outside time is important during the summer. We have a playset and sandbox in the backyard. Plus all kinds of balls and frisbees and sidewalk chalk. While the kids are out, I’ll switch the laundry and then head out to work in the garden. I’m hoping a little scheduled time in the garden each week will force me to keep the weeds under control. I hate weeding.
I have always believed in learning over the summer. I know a lot of people enroll their kids in classes - language, art, etc. C took a great animal class at the zoo one summer (when G was a baby). But with 3 kids, it’s hard to schedule something for all of them. So, we do “learning time” at home. We’ll do 4 days a week (one day off for a field trip), rotating between math, reading, and writing. We do this sitting at the dining room table. Each kid has something to work on on their own (writing the alphabet or a letter, reading a story, a math workbook). Then I go around and spend 15 minutes working with each one individually. It works for us.
J still naps, although I think we are close to giving it up. C and G don’t nap any more, but they do still each need some quiet, personal time each day. A little time alone is good for all of us! Quiet Time in our house lasts 2 hours. The kids will rotate between 3 “stations”: computer time in the living room (they can choose between EverydayMath, SpellingCity, Scootpad, and PBSkids), quiet play time in the playroom, and puzzles/reading/writing in the dining room (they can read, finish their journal, or put together puzzles). They are separated into different rooms so they have their own space, and they rotate every 30 minutes so there is no fighting over who is where. The last 30 minutes of quiet time, they get to watch a tv show that they agree on. During quiet time, I get to workout, shower, and do anything I need to get done like grocery lists, menus, or cub scout plans.
C wants to learn to play the piano this summer. We’ll have a lesson once a week, and then he’ll have practice time the rest of the week. While he is doing piano, G and J will be coloring or painting. One day a week, C will get off from practicing and we’ll all do some sort of craft project together.
C is a cub scout. If you have done cub scouts, you know that there are somewhere around 100-150 “electives” that the boys can do. Plus, beltloops and pins to work on. Last summer, I found a fun way to work on those was to make an Activity Jar. We pull out one or two activities each day to work on.
During the afternoon free time, the kids can be inside or outside. They can play toys or use electronics or even watch tv. As long as they aren’t fighting, they can do what they want. I’ll use this time to fold that load of laundry we washed earlier and put it away.
Time to head back outside after that time of sitting and playing video games! It’s also time for mom to start supper. If it’s raining, I’ll pull out the playdough or some board games for them while I’m cooking. Or if they are interested in helping cook, they can take turns doing that. Normally they aren’t, but you never know.
Supper and Cleanup
Evenings get kind of lazy at our house. So, if the kids get their showers right away, it’s going to happen. Otherwise, it might not. Of course, if they are going to play outside, or if we have a baseball or t-ball game, or have some shopping to get done, we’ll do it when that’s done.
Free or Family time, depending on what everyone has going on. Baseball ends up taking up a lot of our evenings in May and June. Two boys in two different leagues makes it difficult. On the evenings we are home, we tend to just relax, maybe play games, maybe watch tv.
Like the morning, we have an evening checklist. Again, I got the idea from Inspired Moms, but made my own to suit us.
That’s our Master Schedule. I do have a couple of “Variations” on this. They are all printed out and I hang up the one for that day on the fridge, next to the morning and evening checklists.
Shopping Day: The morning schedule gets altered to allow for time to go to the grocery store.
Library Day: A weekly trip to the library will hopefully keep everyone in fresh reading material for the summer. Basically the same schedule as Shopping Day.
Field Trip Day: The plan is to do one field trip day each week. We are members of the local museum, children’s museum, and the zoo. There are also several nice parks we can visit. On these days, once cleaning time is done, we take off and (usually) get back at lunch time.
This is my way of dealing with having three kids home, either for a week during Spring Break or for 3 months during the Summer. It works for us.