Inspired by Simple Homeschool's article on Creating a Visual Schedule for Kids, I realized that this was exactly what our home needed to bring some much-desired peace and order to our days.
Too many times each day, I was being asked "when are we eating lunch?" or "why can't I watch a movie right now?" or "why do I have to do my math before I play outside?". I was weary of the questions, and I could tell that my kids needed some more structure to our casual summer days.
Making the Schedule
I loved the idea of using a pocket wall chart where I could easily rearrange the activities in our day. Problem was, I didn't have one nor did I want to go out and spend the money on one.
I was able to solve this fairly easily by using a preschool pocket wall calendar that I had purchased at a garage sale several years earlier. I had used it for a year, but decided doing calendar time wasn't that important to me, and so it had sat there. I sat down with a steak knife, and slit open each of the 7 day slots to make one large, horizontal slot going across the calendar.
Now I had space for 7 daily activities, but I knew that I wanted more. I opted to use a package of long strips of heavy paper, intended for writing out sentences. Instead, I cut them in half with a paper cutter, so that I could make two rows of 7, giving me 14 activity slots.
When we have a rigid daily routine, it just doesn't work (at least, not for us). Particularly in seasons with very young children, every day can look quite different and there are many elements that make up our days and weeks. I knew that I needed flexibility in how each daily routine looked, even though there are certainly threads of similarity from day to day.
I wrote out a long list of all of the various things that we do as a part of our days: meals and snacks, various learning/school activities, library trips, piano lessons and practice, playdates, grocery shopping, laundry, morning and/or afternoon chores, family time, etc.
Once I had a complete list, I assigned each activity a category, such as basic daily routine (getting dressed, getting ready for bed), household work (morning/afternoon chores, laundry, house blitzes), learning activities (schoolwork, piano, read alouds, couch time, art), meals and snacks (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack), play (backyard, free play, friends over, movie), outings (shopping, library, fun surprises, church, playdates, park), and family activities (family time, devotions).
I used a different color to distinguish each category. I wrote the name of the activity and also drew a simple image to go along with it (nope, I'm not artist, but I tried!). I thought that the images would be helpful for my young non-readers to identify what was on the schedule.
Using the Schedule
Each morning, either I or my 6 year old assemble the schedule. She loves doing it and is so excited to know what is happening each day. I help her to find the correct cards and put things in a reasonable order of events.
The chart is hanging on a wall right beside our kitchen and near the play room, so it's easily visible to all of us throughout the day.
Although we have only recently implemented it, I have already seen two major benefits:
- It helps the children to stay focused on the activity at hand and there seems to be less fussing about waiting for an anticipated activity (such as a snack or going outside) when they can see that it is coming soon.
- It keeps me more accountable for how our day is progressing and whether I am sticking to what I had planned. My daughter also helps to hold me accountable by reminding me of what is on the schedule next!
One beautiful aspect of a flexible routine system like this is that if we are struggling to get everything done before lunch, we can simply switch the order of our cards, or even remove a card entirely if it just doesn't look as though we will have time to get to it. There's a real freedom in that.