If you follow me on IG (@kyndrasteinmann) you’ve seen that I’ve been adjusting our main routines for the day. I find that I have to do this about once a year now the children are big for the most part and it makes sense to do that towards the end of summer in order to make the adjustment back to lesson time easier.
I tend to think of our days as having a basic framework (the Day Frame) with buckets of time within the framework that can be used for projects, play, or lessons depending on the day and the time of the year. The Day Frame is driven by rising and going to bed times, meals, and activities that happen outside of the home.
This year I have two students attending our local Catholic high school (one full time and one part time) who will need to leave the house about 7 am and will be gone until 2:30 or so. One of them is planning to join a competitive high school rowing team, so he will have practice from 3:30-5:30 each week day. The other one will probably do basketball later in the year.
We have other evening activities for some family members four evenings out of the week (choir, two dance lessons, Civil Air Patrol, Chess) so both ends of the Day Frame are effected.
How I adjust the Day Frame
My first step is to think about and make a list of things going well and things that need to change. I think about whose responsibility those things are, what I might need to change in my own time or actions (does a child need more training in a task? is someone ready to move up a chore level?) and when in the day the task should fall.
Next I think about my own needs: what work is there that is mine alone? what do I need to do that work? time? space? when will I get up? when will I go to bed? I draft out my schedule in blocks with some blocks before everyone else is up and active and some blocks after everyone is in bed or during “free time” (more on this later). I add up the time for each block across a week and decide if that is enough time to do what I need to do or at least chip away at it.
Digression into Work Habits
Chipping away at things is a very important concept. Right now our basement is in some disarray because of moving bedrooms around. I’m really the only one who can restore order down there because I’m the only one who can decide what should be trashed and how things should be stored. That’s fine but I have learned that I cannot dedicate large chunks of time to that kind of project all at once. I get overwhelmed and the children begin to feel disconnected and quarrelsome if I am too focused on a project that they cannot help with. Instead I put that project on my list multiple times in a week for as little as 20 minutes or as much as an hour (but no more than that). I choose a specific goal – get all the handcraft supply bins back on shelves with labels and lids – and work at that and only that for the allotted time. Items that turn up that aren’t handcraft supplies are put in a designated space or bin until their turn comes. About 10 minutes before I am to finish, I look at where I am and decide what I need to do- sweep, throw out trash, put sticky notes on things, etc.- in order to complete the work block and leave the project in a way that is easy to return to. This means I can leave the project feeling like I have made progress and knowing that the next time it shows up one my list I’ll know what the next step towards completion is.
I do the same thing with household chores. It is much, much easier to do a little bit three times a day then to do one massive work block. Messes are rarely made all at once and cleaning up multiple times a day keeps the tasks short. The other advantage is that the tasks are repetitive throughout the day which means that I can offer more consistent follow up and training to each child. Note on the charts below how many tasks show up morning, noon, and evening!
Doing many small tasks several times a day means that things stay tidy and clean and no one ever has a large, daunting task.
OK Back to Day Frame Changes
The second piece I look at is meals: who needs to eat when, what kind of meal do they need, what snacks are needed and so on. For this adjustment in the Day Frame – I’ve decided to make a major shift in our meals to a family breakfast (large and very protein based), a good sized lunch (fairly large and protein based for people at home, high school kids will usually eat school lunch), and a late afternoon Tea Time (smaller, includes a savoury and a sweet dish, still plenty of calories but more fat and carb based). I expect some kids will grab a quick glass of milk or bread and butter at bedtime but for the most part Tea will be the last meal of the day. This schedule maximizes a few things: Breakfast is the one meal when I know everyone is home, my children who tend to have low blood sugar will get a good start to the day, I’m fresher and more able to cook in the morning without distractions and also managing evening chores and such, Tea at 4pm means that children can play, ride bikes and be out of doors in the summer evenings and they are fed before evening activities without feeling rushed. I’m working on developing 4 weeks worth of menus to simplify the cooking and grocery shopping and I’m expecting once the school year starts that we will dedicate one Saturday each month to batch cooking certain things and freezing them.
Chore times are linked to meals and given the schedule of the school year, I’m switching over to assigned teams for certain parts of the day. Since the high school kids won’t be home in the mornings and I’m not ready to have kids doing chores at 5 am, the three younger ones and I will tackle the Morning Chores. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays the members of our learning community will be here and they will help with the noon chores. On Tuesdays and Thursdays the younger kids and I will do them. High school kids will do the Evening Chores and cover for each other when they have outside activities in the evening. I’ll work with them as I find that chore time can be a good connection time when I am only working with one or two children.
Saturdays tend to start slowly around here unless there is an activity for one or more children (Civil Air Patrol events are often on Saturdays and frequently start early!) They can end up being very puttery and so unstructured that children end up feeling quarrelsome so I’m planning to adjust some of that time as well.
I’ve made a list of Saturday cleaning jobs for the whole family to work at. Probably an hour or so of work if the daily chores have been done all week.
I’m hoping to do more projects. When I was growing up, my dad worked in town during the week and on Saturdays we worked together building sheds, getting firewood, and doing all of the myriad things that 40 acres and animals require. I remember finding it tedious at times as a child and my father getting super frustrated at points but mostly I look back on those days as extremely important in my formation of getting projects done, problem solving and being willing to tackle any job and learn as we went.
One weekend a month, I want to put into batch cooking both of ingredients (sauteed onions, pasta sauce etc) and of easy to heat and use meals (things the high school kids can take to school and microwave for example).
Sundays are a bit tricky since the Mass we attend is at 12:30 pm and we usually don’t get home until 2:30 or 3 so I’m thinking that we will move towards more of a Sunday High Tea and perhaps even be able to have company on those days. We’ll need to do some planning and cooking on Saturday if this is to work.
Regardless of the day, the Day Frame ends with Evening Prayer and bedtime. My goal is everyone in their room by 7:30 and lights out by 8:30 for most of the children. The high school students will have to get up at 5 am and breakfast will be at 6:15 am so early bedtimes will be better for everyone. I’m trying to re-establish my own habit of lights out at 9:30 pm for myself since my alarm goes off at 5am as well. Winding down the day with prayers, snuggles, and books provides that gradual calming of body and spirit that is so necessary to good rest. When winter evenings draw in and the children can no longer play out of doors after 5pm I will add in read alouds and handwork after tea.