Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins
I feel a little silly writing to you about our daily routine, because between holidays and travel and sick kids, the pattern of our days has been off for weeks.
Our usual daily routine starts with breakfast and morning chores. After that, I try to structure our time and our environment and let each kid choose what to work on within that framework.
So all morning, the house is more-or-less calm and I’m available to help kids with focused work. After lunch we have quiet time, when we can each rest or work on our own projects without being interrupted (much). Then in the afternoons we play or run errands, make and eat dinner, prepare for the next day, and go to bed.
This week, though, is a planning week at our house.
This is a new system we’re trying this year and so far we love it. We do our usual projects for four weeks, and then we take a planning week to reflect on what we’ve been working on, and to make plans and goals for the next four weeks.
Here’s what that looks like:
It’s 8:30 a.m. Everyone’s dressed and eating breakfast. So far, so good. After breakfast each kid has a job: we clean up breakfast, we move the laundry, we wipe the bathroom mirrors and counters, all as fast as possible.
The kids are off to the things they’re most interested in.
Abigail (15) writes fantasy novels, and she’s hard at work on a new book. I haven’t read this one yet and I’m dying to see where she goes with it.
Owen (12) is building paper airplanes. He is into all things that fly, and has been learning to build things I would never have imagined.
Audrey (9) is writing a story this morning while Sadie (8) works on her latest Lego creations. They both prefer to have privacy while they work and then to show us what they’ve made later. I understand that impulse.
Evelyn (2) is playing with the new dollhouse furniture that arrived under the Christmas tree. Now that there is furniture, she ignores the dolls in favor of full-time interior design. Okay then.
Eli (5) is hopping back and forth in front of me and peppering me with Star Wars questions and trivia. “Why does Yoda have wrinkles on his head? Did you know Yoda can duel with his light saber? Are there baby Yodas somewhere? Are there baby wookiees? Where are the babies? Where are the mommies? Does the wookiee mommy’s fur tickle the baby wookiee? Can we make wookiee cookies?”
I answer what I can, then pull out our planner and a pen and call the older kids over one at a time.
Yesterday we spent the morning reflecting.
We looked at what goals they’d set for themselves for our last four weeks and compared that to what they accomplished. We noticed where they had done more than they’d expected, or done less, or gone off in a different direction entirely.
We talked about whether their expectations had been realistic, how they’d felt while trying to meet them, and what changes they might want to make.
Today we’re talking about how they each want to spend the next four weeks.
We talk about which projects they’re still working on and which they’re ready to let go of. We talk about new directions and new interests. We talk about skills they want to build, books they want to read, goals they want to set.
We think about each of the subject areas we need to be learning about, and make sure nothing’s fallen off our radar.
I really like getting to listen to each of the kids think about where they are and where they’re going. And then I get to encourage them in who they’re becoming and lead them toward ideas and interests they might not think of on their own. It’s kind of the best.
Together, we make a list of goals for the next four weeks and write them in the planner. Tomorrow we’ll break those down into steps and figure out what needs to happen each day or each week to meet those goals, and we’ll write all that on our calendar.
While I want the kids to have plenty of time for exploring and following their interests, I also want them to have practice at setting goals and thinking through the steps they’ll need to finish their projects.
We want to make sure we’re protecting the time and space to focus on the things that matter most to us, and reflecting regularly on our progress has really been helpful.
While I’m talking with one kid at a time, the others work on their projects, ride scooters outside, pop popcorn, and ask approximately one million questions. (Do we have more hot glue sticks? Can we use the camera? Why do we have to outgrow our favorite shoes? Can we have a turn with the iPad? Has anyone seen the paper cutter? When can we go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens again?)
After a while the five-and-under crowd is bored with all the talking, so they settle in for an episode of Curious George before lunch.
After we eat, Abigail settles into her room with a library book, Owen checks his favorite YouTube channel for any new videos on remote controlled airplanes, Audrey works with modeling clay at her desk, Sadie is reading, Eli has a turn being a Toca Boca Pet Doctor with the iPad, Evelyn goes down for a nap, and I am writing this for you.
We don’t need to be anywhere else this afternoon, so after Evelyn wakes up, we brew a pot of tea. I read aloud while the kids have their tea and snacks. And, okay, yes, cookies too.
Then we play and chat and get ready for dinner. Abigail tells me about the cool plot twist in the book she’s reading and Owen demonstrates his new plane’s maneuvers. Audrey braves the winter chill for one more round of scooter-ing before dark. Sadie and Evelyn play with the dollhouse again, and Eli is building a puzzle while firing off more wookiee-related questions.
My mom stopped by last week with a crate of potatoes in the trunk of her car. (Overzealous CSA delivery? Really, really good sale? Maybe she has a friend who is a potato farmer? I did not have a chance to ask.) Either way, we now have a lot of potatoes in our pantry, so I ask each of the older kids to scrub a few. We’ll roast them to go with dinner.
After dinner and cleanup, we think about the next day: what’s for breakfast, do we have clean clothes, what do we want to work on?
Next week, when we’ve finished our planning week and are on to regular routines and projects, I’ll pull out the kids’ spiral notebooks after dinner. We’ll write down what each person plans to work on for the next day, along with any chores or notes.
Spiral notebooks get left out on the breakfast table. In the morning, each kid can each check their notebook to remember how they intended to spend their time, and they can draw satisfying lines crossing out the things they finish.
And then, and then, and then: bedtime for kids!
We’re set for the morning. I’ll throw in more laundry after everyone’s settled, I’ll reply to email, we’ll have adult conversation and ice cream.
Do you have a rhythm of planning and doing? Do your kids help with the planning? What works best at your house?
How the days have changed: