I am not a mama who thrives when things are chaotic, cluttered, unplanned, or unstructured. The best thing have done for my life as a stay-at-home (and now, homeschooling) mom is to create routines. Around when my oldest turned 3 is when I really started firming up our days and creating predictable routines. We still have the routines that I put in place around that time. They have morphed to suit our lives as a mama with kindergarten-ish aged kids instead of 3ish year old kids, but the bones are the same.
I started with connecting "helping" (chores), "learning", "reading", and "outings" to other things that were a given in our schedule--mostly meals and naps. Having a routine, not a schedule--no times are tied to most of it--helps the kids to know what to expect, and allows me to handle the chaos that kids throw with (some) grace. Here is what our days look like. Every day. Summer, winter, vacation, when sick, when we have company, literally EVERY day. The bolded things are the things that are a given. We'll eat three meals, nap/rest, bathe, and go to bed every day, without fail (OK, sometimes the bath gets skipped). The things between are things that are tied to those givens in the minds of my children. When do we do chores? AFTER breakfast. When is story time? BEFORE rest and BEFORE bed. When is free play? AFTER school work in the morning or after chores in the afternoon. This way, they know what to expect.
Breakfast (a given in our schedule)
- Helping (dressing and brushing teeth, bringing breakfast dishes to the kitchen, sweeping up crumbs on the floor, wiping off the table)
- Learning (at 3, that might have been reading a book or two, over time it has grown into our full school time) --this is Monday through Friday only
- Outing (errands or play dates, if there are any on the schedule) or free play if not
- Helping (cleaning up from lunch)
- Helping (tidying up our toys and rooms)
- free play (board games, outside, crafts, screen time, etc)
- Outing (some days we have classes or errands to run in the afternoon)
- free play
Notice that there are no times on my schedule. It's all "what comes next". And it really does work in all seasons and in all circumstances. Sure, when company is in town, we skip the school part in the mid morning, just like we do on Saturdays, but we still do our chores after breakfast before we have an outing with Grandma! On vacation, we still read books and have some intentional down time in the afternoon. We rarely rest on vacation for the full hour and a half that we rest at home, and if we don't have the space for everyone to rest on their own, we compromise with being still in front of a movie, but it helps attitudes SO much to have that break in the middle of the day!
Having routine like this in place has been a LIFESAVER. We were able to transition smoothly from toddlerhood to homeschooling without any problems at all as a result. I know not all of my blog readers are homeschoolers, but I think the general principles of routined days apply. Many of you moms probably don't need the same sort of structure that I do to thrive, either. More power to you if you can handle the chaos with less imposed order! Sometimes I wish I could, but I cannot. This is what works for us. I hope that helps someone else out there who is feeling like their days are a little chaotic. Try to tie some routines to the set parts of your day and see if it helps!