The first thing when looking at a schedule is know what is important for your family. It is really easy to look at a family the same size and age categories as your family and follow that. It is easy to find a schedule written by someone you respect and follow that. Doing it this way may work for you for a while but you will soon find things crumbling at the edges and wonder what is going on.
Dont be discouraged by realising that your schedule is no longer working for you; schedules need to change. I tweak our schedule 2-3 times a year. Family circumstances change, a child matures and moves on, or I grow in my understanding of what is important.
I actually prefer use the word ROUTINE. A schedule is run by the clock for example, a train schedule. Everyone expects it to be here on time and stress levels rise if it is either late or early! A routine on the other hand is built more on habit it is one thing happening after the other, regularly enough for people to know what is going to happen next. However I plan my day there needs to be this inbuilt flexibility for life.
How does one plan for life? I work by the little motto Think of your schedule as Plan B. Because I see learning or educational value in every activity that happens in our family life then when life happens I can relax knowing that they are learning. Of course this mind set gets challenged all the time but it is what I work towards. When I wake up each day I look to see what life is going to bring us, and what part of my learning routine will fit in with that. On days that nothing is happening we slot into our routine Plan B.
These are the questions I ask myself when I am working on our family routine.
· What is the most important things for our family?
o Bible Study, Character study, Devotions, knowing God.
o Family Relationships
o Life skills looking after the house and business
o Particular academic needs
· What is the most important thing for each of us as individuals
If we get rid of what we are told to teach our children and just looked at our child, and ourselves for that matter, and looked at what their need may be at this time it may be physical, it may be emotional, social, moral or academic. I am sure we all know that one thing that each of our children need. Our routine needs to meet that need not the needs of the Education Department. So as a parent what is it that your children need right now?
o Me I need to have enough time to eat the food I want to eat and exercise. I need to keep on top of my housework. I include me in this thinking process and I put it first. I have found that if I am not in a good place all the good scheduling and planning in the world will not keep my days, let alone my family, together.
o Joshua needs to be progressing through his Math and Science
o Jessica needs to be picking up on some creative skills and piano
o Naomi needs computer skills, and time for creative skills
o Daniel needs Speech drill, OT drill, Phonics lessons, and being read aloud to.
Note to self: Of the four children, Daniels needs are the highest priority at the moment.
Now that I can see our family priorities I can start to see a routine coming together, I can start to see patterns in our days when these things get addressed or could be addressed. If I cant see it pulling together I need to do some research into how we can meet those goals and not be distracted with the other things that get thrown at me.
Just a note to younger families I know I worked by the clock a lot more when I had little people than I do now. But the principle is still the same what goals do you have for your little ones, what are their priorities in their training and how are you going to fit that into your day.
Sally Clarksons divisions of her day have been a big influence on me as I have learnt to plan my days.
She has 5 Ds though I adapted it to 4 and have probably tweaked it a bit .
Discipleship Studies learning about God and becoming who He wants us to be.
Discipline Studies the foundational subjects, subjects that need drill Reading, Writing, Math, Research I also included Typing
Discussion Studies otherwise known in our house as General Knowledge History, Science, and any other school subject
Discretion Studies Talents, Passions and Life Skills. This included things like creative pursuits, piano, for one of my children it included story writing, for another building, family games, library trips, etc etc etc. The main focus was to give the children the skills they need for the passions they have.
Initially I would work through the day following this sequence Discipleship, Discipline, Discussion and then Discretion. This break up of our day helped me get around the what happens when life comes issue too. I could see that many of our life interruptions actually fitted into one of these four categories. If our day got delayed because of a discussion over something we saw on TV last night that was both a Discipline study (language arts include discussion and dissecting what we see in media) and a Discussion/General Knowledge area. If we get called on to help somebody then that falls into the Discipleship area of our life God wants us to be available. The challenge here is to include our children in these circumstances so that they are not only seeing us being available but being available themselves.
Only just recently I have looked at my priority list and looked at this sequence of Discipleship, Discipline, Discussion and Discretion, and decided that it wasnt working for us. I came to realise that for me, following that sequence was like following a school timetable. I realised it wasnt serving our priorities or needs so I have tweaked it.
This is our weekly routine at this moment. I usually write our routine in a chart, with times as a guide down the side. But I havent written our new routine down this way at all and I think this has helped me see it as a routine to achieve our goals rather than a schedule to keep us on track. When I have written down certain times it is because the have become our habit.
Our family starts early with kids waking up anytime from 5.00am. Between 5.00 and 7.00 we have quiet time. This it the time bracket where everyone can have their personal devotional time with God, and everyone else is respecting that time for others even if they have completed their own. After 7.00am, music goes on and I expect to see people moving about. By 8.00am I expect the children to have had their Devotions, Breakfast and Chores completed. Mondays the kids take an extra chore to help with the Monday Morning Home Blessing.
Depending on the season/weather the children often have a short amount of outside play or physical activity.
When we are all ready we sit down for our Bible Time. If the children are ready before I am they go ahead with their independent work especially the older two. The younger two often just continue to play together.
In our Bible time we include research skills, using reference materials etc. We also include oral narrations and writing. So should this be as far as we get with planned study session for the day those top priorities for our family are already fulfilled.
This generally takes us to morning teatime. After that my focus is on Daniel he has Speech and OT sessions and we need to practice most days. He also wants Reading and Math lessons. I want him to do Five in a Row and I use this to discipline myself to read to him.
During this time the girls are working on Creative projects and I am available to help them. Joshua is working on his studies. He has worked out his own schedule as to what days he studies what subject. Other than his Math, Writing, and Latin he works on History, Science and Economics.
This takes us to lunchtime. Everyone pitches in for lunch and chores afterwards. Joshua continues his studies. In the afternoon the girls have their table time where they complete their math and any unit study/notebooks they maybe working on. Daniel has independent time either in his room, on a play mat or outside. During this time block I am checking work, maybe writing/blogging, helping the girls and/or helping Daniel stay focussed. A couple of afternoons a week I am doing a read aloud session with the girls.
The above works for Mondays and Wednesdays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are different. This is so I can balance all areas of my life not just the kids.
Tuesday, after a short Bible session (really just a devotion, not a study) I have a block of time (2 hours) for my housework. Lately this has been swapped for a session online with Cindy Rushton and her Talk-a-latte chats! I am trying to discipline myself to iron during these and therefore be true to my plan of housework! Thursday is the same though my focus is my office work.
During this time the children have table time, or play board games, go for an adventure outdoor, etc. They look after each other with Jess often helping Daniel with a particular project.
I try and have a block of time with Daniel before lunch on these days.
Then we have Friday Friday has always been a different day for us. I keep Friday for being together. We may get out of the house a nature trip, a library trip, the pool etc. We have Homeschool Co-op once a month on a Friday. If we dont leave the house we may do studies together such as read alouds, hands on math/science, public speaking, making books etc. Or we may just do nothing and the kids all pursue their individual interests and I do scrapbooking!
A recent development in our family has been the children recognising that Saturday is just another day to live our life. Our focus on Saturdays is to catch up around the house especially big jobs like cobwebs and the outside veranda. We often have a table time together. The three oldest do their independent work and I have a session with Daniel. Joshua has pulled Saturday into his learning schedule should family life have changed his focus during the week and he needs to catch up. True, the kids have a lot more free time on Saturday but we train them to make productive use of their time it is all learning.
Sunday is not a day off, it is a day full of opportunity for us all to develop our relationship with God, with each other and with others in our Christian family. If I look back at my priority list this is actually the top priority. Seeing Sunday like this has nearly changed our whole week, certainly helped me change my mindset. If Sunday has such a focus on Relationships which may mean that Saturday and Monday become a day of Life Skills such as cooking and/or cleaning up the house. So be it each day, with each of its different demands are meeting our family priorities. This is the life that is our PLAN A our learning routine is Plan B and comes into play when need be.