Dividing the Time

F was on spring break from his preschool this past week and I decided it would be a good time to test our summer schedule! Since we do school at home year round there isn’t a whole lot of difference between winter and summer, but there are some adjustments that happen because of the improvement in weather and some that happen because of the increases in age and maturity for all three (but especially for the big two). Of course I know that (potentially ) the baby will change everything, but I’m hoping that if the other three are used to a certain order, we can just add the baby to the schedule with a few tweaks and no major disruption!

One thing I’m doing (I’ve actually been doing it for a couple of weeks now) is turning off the computer when I come down for breakfast and not turning it on again until the children are in their rooms after lunch. This has a couple of good effects: I’m more focused on other things since I don’t feel compelled to check the Internet every 15 minutes or so, and because I can’t just run up and print something I need for a school lesson I have to be more thoroughly prepped for school beforehand, which is also good from a focus perspective.

I’m trying in this summer schedule tweak to balance four things: Chore Time, School Time, Play Time, and Alone Time. Here are my thoughts on each:

Chore Time: I think it is very important that children be involved in the work of running a household. Not just because they create a good bit of the work, but because chores are something they will have to do all their lives and learning to do them properly, promptly, and responsibly is a good place for them to learn how to be responsible, functional God-honoring adults.

For preschoolers I think it is best to keep the actual chore times fairly short (half an hour at most), but have them happen several times throughout the day. We are working towards four chore times. The first three (after breakfast, before lunch, and early evening) are about 30 minutes long, and the last one (after dinner)should take about ten minutes. During these times I give them each an index card with a list of chores (4-6 items) and they report back to me after they finish each job, so that I can inspect and approve the work before they move on. Even W has a list, since he wants to do whatever they do!

This worked pretty well for us this week, except when children were tired at the end of the day. F in particular seems to have trouble transitioning from playing to doing chores, getting ready for dinner etc. and we had a couple of evenings when most of his chores didn’t get done. I am wondering if I should give him a more substantial snack with a glass of milk or something when we get up from naps. He plays hard and is growing and I wonder if low blood sugar at 5 pm isn’t feeding part of his attitude problem.

School Time: School time went really well. I wasn’t sure how doing school with both the big children at the same time would go, since they can get distracted by each other! All three days we had lessons (Thursday F went out to my parents’ for the day and Friday I had a pre-natal appointment) they were done with their work in an hour! W has room-time during their school-time and he decided this week that he was big enough to go up to his room and close the door without my having to climb the stairs! F in particular did very well with my writing down the number of the lessons he was to work on and then working on whatever he could do while I worked with Su. Hopefully this trend will continue through the summer.

W has his school time after the bigs are done and go out to play. Right now we color, do some tracing and he usually has something to glue, then he follows them out into the yard and everyone has a little snack.

Play-Time: Achieving a balance between too much and too little playtime can be tricky. This week the children had the following play schedule: about twenty minutes of play between chores and school (basically if they did their chores quickly then they had time to play and if not they didn’t), 60-90 minutes of play between school and lunch/lunch chores, and 2 hours of play between naps and evening chores.

The first two play amounts seem to work well but given the difficulties with coming is nicely at the end of the day two hours may be too long a play time slot. Often by the end of that time there is quarreling and a failure to follow the rules, so perhaps I need to bring them in a little earlier….

Alone Time: We have always had “alone time” for the children. With a mix of introverts and extroverts in the family everybody benefits by having some space in the middle of the day. We spend about 90-120 minutes in the afternoon in separate rooms. Some of the children sleep and F usually reads or plays legos. In general everyone comes out of their rooms refreshed although I will occasionally send a child back if they come out grumpy. I get the chance to nap briefly and lightly for part of that time and also spend time working on things that frequent interruptions make difficult!

All in all I’m pretty pleased with the schedule test. I’ll need to tweak it a little bit to accommodate weeks when we run errands or have other extra activities but for a basic schedule I think it will work quite well.

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