Establishing Routines + Schedules
When we start thinking about homeschooling, the first thing I think about is establishing routines. This is important regardless of how old your child is. Children function best in an environment that is predictable and they know what comes next and what is expected of them in different situations. Routines and schedules can and will fluctuate with holidays, a move to a new place or as your family's needs change.
Being a toddler teacher for 10 years before having children probably gave me a different perspective on parenting twins. My husband often teases me that we are running a preschool in our living room. There is probably some truth to this. I approach being a stay-at-home mama much like I did being a toddler teacher. We have a lot of routines and a firm schedule that we follow every day. I define a schedule as the flow to our day - the order to which we do things. Routines I define as the way we do things within our schedule. We have a routine for preparing for meals, for using the bathroom, for getting ready for bed, etc. Both are important for establishing a sense of predictability within your day for children.
Because of all this structure, transitioning to homeschooling for preschool was not a huge change for us. Now that our kids are a little older their needs have changed and our schedule reflects that, but in general our day to day life hasn't changed a ton. Regardless of your situation, here are some general tips on establishing routines.
TOP TIPS FOR ESTABLISHING ROUTINES:
*Be consistent. Whether your child is home all day or just before or after school, having a predictable order of events is helpful in young children feeling secure in their environment.
*Limit Transitions. Transitions are when you move from one activity to another. Moving from breakfast to play time. From play time to group time. From inside to outside. These are all transitions. Transitions are often the most difficult part of the day and reducing the number of times you expect your child to move from one thing to the next the fewer opportunities for conflict.
*Prepare Visual Schedule. Especially when routines and schedules are new, it can be helpful to have a visual for young kids. I usually do this by either hand drawing the parts of the day or with clip art. Right now we have a visual schedule for bath and bedtime.
*Schedule Un-Interrupted Play Time. This goes along with limiting transitions. Rather than scheduling multiple small windows for play, make sure you have at least one long period of play each day. Time for your child(ren) to get deeply involved in play that won't be interrupted by needing to go somewhere or do something.
*Clean Up Before You Move On. Before we move on to something new we clean up. At the end of playtime, after breakfast, before we head inside, etc. Our kids are expected to clean up their toys and bus their dishes before they head off to do something else. I believe this is an important life skill that is easily established early. It also decreases the amount of clean up that needs to be done at the end of the day.
*Don't be afraid of change. If things aren't working (read: frequent tantrums, yelling, tears) change your routine. It is easy to blame your child or yourself for tantrums and difficulties, but often tweaking your schedule or routines is the solution.
*Give changes at least a week. It takes everyone some time to get used to change. Children are the same. Change only one or two things at a time and give you and your child(ren) at least a week before deciding if it is working or not.
"Play is the child's tool for making sense of his world." (Lesley Koplow)
OUR SCHEDULE FOR FALL 2015
As mentioned above, I'm a big believer in changing things up when they aren't working. I am constantly streamlining our routines, tweaking our schedule, adapting to meet the ever changing needs of our twins. Heading into Fall we are starting our second year of homeschool preschool. In previous years our adventures have always been in the morning and I loved the super predictable nature of our schedule, but this year scheduling obligations have forced some things to the afternoon (like soccer practice). I'm hopeful that our four year olds will be able to roll with these differences. If not we'll probably try a visual schedule to help them. I'm sure that this schedule will adapt as the year evolves, but for now, this is what we are starting with. A day that follows the same general flow, but allows for lots of play, exploration, and flexibility for integrated learning. They wanted certain field trips to be included every week (the park and museums) and I prefer schedules that have few transitions. When they get involved in play I want them to be able to stay with it for a long while, not be interrupted by me telling them to clean up 15 minutes later.
Our Weekly Schedule
AM: Breakfast / Gym / Field Trip
Our mornings are typically our out of the house on-the-go times. We do our morning jobs and then settle at the table. I often prepare some sort of morning invitation for them at the table. After breakfast I usually workout at the gym for about an hour and then we go somewhere. Our Nature Nuts science program, the library, Children's Museum, Art Museum, nature walk, etc. Depending on what we are learning about we might also plan a specific field trip that is related. One morning a week we are at home because our afternoon is filled with dance.
MID-DAY: Lunch / Group Time / Read Aloud / Quiet Time
We get home around lunch time most days. We prepare the meal together and then when we are done we have a brief Group Time. We talk about the calendar, introduce a new activity or material, or work on our Little Passports project for that month. Singing and reading a story are usually also involved. After Group Time we snuggle on the couch and I read aloud from our current chapter book for a bit. Then the kids go upstairs for some Quiet Time.
One day a week the kids have dance and another we have playgroup, otherwise we usually play at home during this time. After Quiet Time they usually have at least two hours of uninterrupted play time. There are days that they will ask to go to the pool or we will have a playdate, but even then they are playing and mostly in charge of their time. If our morning wasn't spent outside, at least part of the afternoon typically is spent playing and moving outside.
EVENING: Dinner / Soccer / Bed
When their Dad gets home from work it is usually time to clean up and then we eat as a family. This has gotten thrown off a bit this year with the new addition of soccer practices. On nights that one of them has soccer dinner is not usually completely a family event, but we enjoy the one on one time that we each get with one of our twins.
I would love to hear about your schedule in the comments. After being a teacher for so long I know that everyone has different preferences for the flow of their day. I would love to hear about yours!
"..it's also a mind health. Learning to take the time. Not to rush through life and to appreciate moments for what they are." (Mei-Ling Hopgood)
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