The Concept of the Daily Schedule
In my house the daily schedule began the summer of 2012. It was my first summer home with three children. I’d had experience working in childcare, from outdoor education, to camps, to an after school teacher. But it’s a little different with “your own kids” in “your own house.” But in other ways its not that different.
One thing I learned while being out on the trails with groups of kids was a certain level of discipline and order is necessary for safety and sanity. At the beginning of every hike I would let the kids know what to expect for the next two hours and what my expectations for their behaviour was. It was a bit surprising how well that 2-5 minutes helped keep things on track.
We’d already had a chore board during the school year so that when the kids got home they knew what was expected of them before they could play on the computer or watch tv. And it helped us as parents not ask too much or too little of our kids. We saw phenomenal improvement in the kids after just the first week. There weren’t as many complaints or fights.
This was especially so for my husband’s oldest–C. At the beginning of the summer C was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s (or I guess now its just classified as ASD). The biggest thing he struggled with was unexpected changes in his schedule. Even if it was something he wanted to do, suddenly thrusting it upon him would start a fuss.
My mother is a third grade teacher (though I guess she’s now technically retired). From the time that I was in elementary school I remember watching her put on the board the schedule for the day. She would have the time, the activity/subject, then any homework. Many parents who had difficult children (for whatever reason, from ADD to Asperger’s to just being behind grade level) specifically asked for my mother as a teacher. They recognized the value her ordered classroom (and her schedule) made with their children.
So call it thievery or flattery, I took that same idea and used it in my own home.
Execution: Making the Schedule Reality
My husband and I purchased a dry erase board (well it was purchased initially as our chore board), and I transformed it into a daily schedule–among other things.
Sorry for the bad picture, the wall was located such that getting a good image was difficult.
Now our board has a few different sections on it. But I’ll start with the schedule section first.
The Schedule Itself
With a dry erase board, certain things need to be permanent, or less likely to be swiped away by children or passing pets. Wet erase markers is one way, but a more effective way is permanent marker. “Oh no!” you might cry “I can’t do that! Permanent Marker will ruin my board! It will never come off!” Hate to burst your bubble, but that is not the case. The simplest way to erase permanent marker is to write over it with dry erase marker. Simple. Occasionally, I’ll even clean off the whole board and give it a light scrub down with magic eraser.
I used permanent marker to designate my sections, draw the lines for the schedule (one area for time and one for the activity), label the sections, and anything else that I don’t want to rewrite every couple days.
A typical schedule in our house on a summer day looks something like this:
-9:45 Eat Breakfast and get dressed
9:45-11:30 Morning chores and Free Time
11:30-12:00 Outside time
12:00-1:00 Lunch- [Meal if it is planned]
1:00-3:00 Afternoon chores and Free Time
3:00-4:00 Game Jar or Activity Jar
4:00-5:00 [Other activity]
5:00-6:00 Set table, dinner prep, quiet time
6:00-6:45 Eat Dinner
6:45-7:00 Star Time
7:00-8:30 Family time [or other activity]
8:30- Get ready for bed/Bed time
A few notes on some of those events.
First is that we tried this summer especially to instill in the kids a sense of responsibility and time management.
During the summer we let the kids sleep in as late as they want. Which most of the time means they’re up between 6 and 8am. I can’t get them up during the school year but with summer or weekends they tend toward early rising. If they aren’t awake by 9am, we’ll pop our head in to let them know what time it is. They can then get out of bed and eat breakfast, get dressed etc, or not. If they choose to sleep in it just means that they have less time to do other things, such as chores, electronic time, games, etc.
Second, we build in free time. This is time that the kids need to learn how to occupy themselves. We have games, activities, chores, etc that they can do. However, they need to decide what they will do and then do it. It’s not the job of us adults to entertain the kids every second.
Third, The schedule in many ways indicates when we as adults are available for the kids. For example, if the kids want us to check their chores, we don’t have to if its outside of chore time. The adults aren’t at the beck and call of the kids. Yes, usually we’ll check it, but we might be busy doing something else. Another example is activity jar/game jar. That hour is when whomever of the adults is there will dedicate some time to doing a craft, playing a game, leading an experiment, assisting with cooking or whatever the jars come up with. The same is true with whatever the “other activity” we choose is. Sometimes its play Castle Crashers, watch Blue Planet, make cookies, do x craft. We are guaranteeing that if the kids want to participate we are there to facilitate.
The whole hour before dinner was mostly because that’s the most hectic time for us as adults. My hubby is just getting home from work, I’m trying to make dinner, and my sister sometimes just needs a break or she’s helping me out. As much as we want to we don’t have the time to focus on the kids. We put them in charge of setting the table, sometimes we’ll play a game with them, otherwise they need to quietly occupy themselves (or they can loudly occupy themselves outside). Our kids use this time to either read, play a card/board game, or try to earn stars. Sometimes they offer to help with the cooking, but usually they’re fine occupying themselves. The two big rules at this time is “No playing in the kitchen while cooking is going on” (too many near misses there), and “You’re banned from the kitchen if you say ‘I’m bored'” (banning worked better than suggesting chores).
Lunch and Dinner, if we know what we’re making we’ll put it on the board. Why not? It helps limit the number of times the kids ask “what’s for dinner?”
Family time is sometimes going to the library, dog park, taking a hike, or playing a game, watching a movie, or whatever we happen to come up with.
My biggest reminder, or suggestion, is that you don’t need to force your kids to follow the schedule. This isn’t school after all. Our kids are free to do whatever they want with their time so long as they aren’t disturbing others and aren’t the breaking the rules. The schedule more reflects what is available for them to do. That being said there are consequences for choosing not to do your chores (no electronic time and can’t participate in game jar etc), or using your electronic time during activity jar or craft time (you’re busy doing something else and don’t get to do the craft), or choosing to participate in the scheduled activity (you are busy doing the activity and can’t aren’t do not doing something else). That’s the things with time management, you choose what to do with your time. Whenever you choose do something, you are also choosing to not do something else (at least not right then). That choice isn’t necessarily between bad or good, many times it’s a choice between good and good (and with kids something bad and bad ;))
The notes section is essential. Have an area where you can jot stuff down–packing list for the camp out, toppings requests for the kids pizza, things the kids want to ask dad when he gets home, and sometimes a beautiful drawing from your children.
Today is. . .
This was more of a keeping it fun thing we decided to do. We look up what the “day” is. Such as Sunglasses day, Apple Pie Day, Flag Day, etc. Sometimes we’ll even integrate the day into our activity. On a Bird Watching Day we may go out and identify birds, make a bird craft, or make some kind of treat for the birds. On Chocolate Ice Cream day we ate–chocolate ice cream. Sometimes keeping a little bit of silly is very important.
This is a list of things to eat so that the kids know what they can have whenever they’re hungry. It saves me the trouble of having the kids come up “I’m huuuuuuuungry. What can I eat?” Well now we have a suggestion list. We even have a shelf in the pantry especially for the kids’ snacks. So if we forget to put it on the list if they see it there they know they can have it.
It used to be “after school snacks” and “after chore snacks”. The kids would be hungry when they got home, but often would be hungry again before dinner. The after chore snacks were a way to encourage them to do their chores because they were highly prized, such as cookies.
Now we have “2-4pm snack” and “anytime snacks.” Between 2-4pm the kids tend to get a bit munchy so we have snacks that they can have. For anytime snacks I tend to just have fruits and veggies. This way if they fill up before dinner who cares! They just filled up on healthy fruits and vegetables!
If you’re having trouble coming up with a list, ask your kids. Sometimes they’ll have suggestions that you didn’t think of. And I like to add some kind of home made goodness every now and then, like mini banana chocolate chip muffins or cookies, or fresh baked bread.
We don’t give our kids an allowance. My husband and I agree on this. His main reason is that chores we assign are because you are a part of the family, and need to help support the family. My main reason is because I don’t get an allowance ;). honestly, we didn’t want the family chores to be associated with money, and we didn’t want the kids to just expect money.
However, we wanted a way to teach the children to value money, and to value the work they do. So we have “Paid Chores.” These are extra chores that we don’t usually assign. It may be something odd that needs done, like sweeping the deck, or washing the car. Sometimes its things to help the kids develop themselves, such as complete x exercises, or write a meal suggestion including a shopping list. This way, the kids can earn money, and work hard or learn hard while doing it. No, its not a lot, but they can earn it. We do occasionally, if the kids are saving up for something particular, offer higher paid chores for a limited time.
What do they do with the money? Most often they spend it on paid snacks. We go out and buy a box of fruit snacks, or chips, pudding or rice krispie treats. Things that the kids don’t need to eat, but enjoy eating. They get to earn money with the paid chores, and use that money for things they want–treats that they can eat whenever they want because it is theirs. Once K1 earned 1.70$ in one day, and turned around and used about half of it on paid snacks. Some she shared with her siblings, some she saved for later.
Outside of Summer
Before this summer I also used this board to list the assigned chores. And during the school year I might list what activities are going on in order after school. I don’t usually put the times down unless there is a specific time for something. Bedtime, or Scouts, Soccer, or a departure to go see a movie at the library might have a time listed. Otherwise it is just a list of events like below:
- Arrive home
- Chores and free time
- Set table
- Scouts (or dog park, or family time, etc)
- K2 Daddy’s night
And I should also let you know, weekends almost never have a schedule. Sometimes its good to leave things unscheduled. Though if we’re doing something special I might write it in the schedule space so the kids know what to look forward to.
If you happen to have a child who struggles with schedule changes, it may be helpful to indicate on the schedule if you anticipate a possible need to change something. I’ve done that when a visitor was coming but I didn’t know what time, or when we might not go to the dog park because there is a chance of thunderstorms
That is a run down on my Daily Schedule Board. Good luck and I hope this helps you!