Routines, Part Two: Developing Your Own Daily Routines (for homepreschool/homeschool)
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 25, 2010
If you have decided that you need to establish routines for your family—or even tweak the routines you already have in place—the first thing that you should remember is that this will take a little planning and a LOT of time and commitment (remember, the only way a routine becomes a routine is if it is consistently practiced on a day-to-day basis–so that it becomes a habit.)
Planning Your Routines
The first thing that you need to do is decide what the “skeleton” of your routine should be. These are the non-negotiable things that must happen everyday…the things that you can’t skip or re-arrange. These are the things that should get done even if you run into unusual circumstances such as illnesses, interruptions, doctor’s appointments, and so on. My “skeleton” includes Bible/devotions (Monday through Friday), meals and snacks, nap time and bedtime. In between the “bones” of my routine, I’m free to plan our day however I want to. If you’d like to see some sample routines for preschool and kindergarten-aged children, be sure to check out my tab, “4R’s: Routine.”
In addition to the basic examples of routines on my tab, there are some other items that we should remember to include in our routines…errands. Many families choose a specific time one day per week to run errands, cook and freeze meals, clean house, etc. We opt to “do school” formally only 4 days a week, saving Fridays for messy art projects, field trips, park days (this is the fun stuff—what I call “Friday school”), and/OR cleaning house, running errands, and so on. On Fridays, only the skeleton of our routine remains. Similarly, on weekends, only the “skeleton” of the routine remains, leaving us free to be spontaneous, relax, or continue our housework.
What to Do if You Have Older and Younger Children
So far, the things I’ve talked about are pretty basic. But how do you plan your day if you have preschoolers AND older children? How do you ensure that all your children get what they need? That’s a lot harder. I know from experience…I’ve done both Kindergarten and high school with babies/preschoolers in tow. I know it’s tough! None of us want our preschoolers to get “mommy leftovers”; nor do we want our older children to be left unsupervised, or trusted to do too much of their school work independently.
So, what’s a mother to do? Here are the three best planning options that I have come across (the meat on the bones!):
1. Alternate your entire day between older and younger children, starting with the youngest. Spend time with your preschoolers, then alternate and spend time with your older children…continue this pattern throughout the day. Be sure to give your preschoolers their own “preschool” time (circle time, art, developmentally appropriate activities/play), so that they will see that they are just as important to you as your older children are. After all, we plan activities for our older children, don’t we? I believe our preschoolers deserve the same. An hour or two of special attention is all it takes.
2. Concentrate on your preschoolers in the morning, and then your older children in the afternoon. Assign your older children independent work in the morning for an hour or two while you enjoy your “homepreschool” time with your young ones. Depending on the ages of your older children, independent work could include things such as personal daily devotions/Bible reading, handwriting or copy work, spelling, independent reading, music practice, etc. Once your homepreschool time is done, get your preschoolers involved in play and then work with your older children. Be sure to read my article, “Keeping Little Ones Busy” for ideas to help your preschoolers stay busy and happy while your school your older children. In the morning, your older children will enjoy taking breaks to “help you” do music with your preschoolers; if you provide open-ended art for your preschoolers, older children will enjoy joining you for those activities, too. Don’t forget to give your older children frequent play breaks, as well.
After lunch, read aloud to your preschoolers and then put them down for nap or quiet time in their rooms.
Once the preschoolers are settled, concentrate on your older children. Start by checking the work they have done in the morning. Then, while your preschoolers are still napping, work on your hardest school subjects/the subjects that need the most uninterrupted attention (phonics, math, editing writing, etc.) I usually sit between my boys while they do these subjects. Try to look at, discuss, and correct the rest of your children’s work right as they finish it.
Once your preschoolers wake up from nap, take a break and cuddle them awhile, give everyone a snack, and then get your preschoolers involved in some play before continuing your school time with your older children (if necessary.) This might be a good time to do the subjects that need lots of discussion—science OR history (alternate them–don’t try to do both in one day!) Once your school time is done, follow the rest of your daily routine like normal.
3. Teach all your children together as much as you can, using the unit study/“bus stop” method (there is still some alternating involved.) If your children are fairly close in age (preschool-first grade, for example) it’s easy to do almost everything together—especially if you use a unit study method. The rule is: Do what your can with all your children, and then let your youngest “off the bus” for free play whilst you continue to work with your older children. Take frequent play breaks, and be careful to keep things developmentally appropriate for your youngest children.
The thought behind this: a) Preschoolers pick up a lot by listening in on older children’s lessons (passive learning), and b) it saves time, making a shorter day compared to the first two options.
If you choose to use this method, you’ll want to treat everything you do like a unit study: Everyone “studies” the same things, but each “studies” at their own level. Here is what a typical day might look like:
Do your family worship and Bible time with all your children first thing in the morning; yes, including your preschoolers. Preschoolers love to participate in worship and Bible memory work. If your older children’s Bible story/devotional doesn’t hold your preschooler’s attention as well as you’d like, read your preschoolers a short, age-appropriate version of your Bible story first, and then let them “off the bus” to color printable Bible story pages that correlate with the Bible story while you continue Bible with your older children (OR let your preschoolers play quietly with Bible felt sets/your “box of the day.”) After a short break, do your “circle time” with all your children: Calendar, perhaps the flag salute, music/singing, and then your story time. This is your unit study—the time you spend reading about the topic/theme of your choice. Spend a little time talking about what you read and reviewing any new vocabulary. If you have any activity to accompany your unit (remember, activities are not required), do it next.
After another play break, let your preschoolers “off the bus” for the day. Get them involved in some play (or perhaps your box of the day—be sure to read “Keeping Little Ones Busy”) while your older children do their math lessons (keep your preschoolers close by, and/or let them play with math manipulatives.) After math is completed (be sure to check it on the spot!), have everyone take an outside play break for 20-30 minutes. When you come inside, have your morning snack before getting your preschoolers involved in another activity—play dough, a sensory tub, or a simple art project that isn’t too messy (stickers and felt tipped pens, stencils and colored pencils, water colors, etc). While they are happily engaged, start your phonics/language arts lessons. After your phonics/language arts lessons are complete, take another play break together…perhaps a longer one, if time permits. Try to get some outside play time if weather permits.
If you start your day at a reasonable hour and keep your lessons developmentally appropriate (in other words, on the short side), you should be able to wrap up your school time before noon. During the afternoons while your preschoolers nap, your older children can finish their lessons (if they haven’t already.)
Once everyone is awake again, use the rest of your day for more creative/outside play, art, learning games for your older preschoolers, and so on.
Let me know how it goes–I love comments!
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