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I love schedules.
My kids thrive when they have a schedule and, as a former early-elementary teacher, I do too.
Throughout the school year, my older children’s days are scheduled. They have set times for working their brains, exercising their bodies, and even combining the two. They look forward to their school days and enjoy telling me the special elements that make up each day.
I used to view summertime as a chance to break from the rigor, to settle into some unscheduled freedom. Yet, after a few days I would have squabbling, bored children who didn’t know what to do with themselves.
For us, too much unscheduled time can lead to problems.
If we are going to have a successful summer we need to start with focused planning, a merging of schedules, and a healthy dose of fun.
Last summer found me hugely pregnant with our youngest, my husband knee-deep in house renovations, and my time spent juggling our four children. We needed a game plan. After a family brainstorming session we agreed on some workable solutions that had everyone excited about our days together.
First order of business: the calendar. Doctor’s appointments, camp weeks, summer sports, family events - everything went on one calendar.
Free days were transformed into theme days. Mondays became Make it Mondays, Thursdays became Travel Thursdays and Fridays became Friend-day Fridays. Each day had some special element of fun while still fitting into the daily routine of both our big kids and little ones.
Our kids loved it and they still talk about the dinners they learned to cook each Monday, the trips we took on Thursdays, and the fun they had with friends each Friday. They have fond memories of our theme days and it gave us structured activities to look forward to each week.
Daily schedules helped to fill in the consistency that was lost when school ended. Although they weren’t set in stone they gave us a guideline for how we could spend our time.
The crazy realization from this experiment was that our kids were actually happier having some parts of the day structured than they were on days they had more “free” time to play!
The wild card with our schedule was my youngest, then fifteen months. How would I plan exciting adventures while keeping a consistent routine for her?
Merging baby and big kid schedules isn’t for the faint of heart. My husband and I try to preemptively problem-solve by talking through what we hope will happen as well as a backup plan if it doesn’t go well.
Throughout it all, we keep our non-negotiables in mind. A solid stretch of afternoon rest for all ages is a must in our house. Most days we allow for a break in the afternoon; a chance to recoup after so much togetherness.
Perhaps the best way to merge big kid schedules with that of baby’s is to give yourself some trial days. The weekends leading up to summer are perfect times for this. If it works on the weekend, it’ll likely be a good fit for your family during the summer.
We’ve found that, with practice, our family learns how to truly enjoy spending extended time together. This makes for a golden summer.
How will you transition your family from school days to summer?
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