Day 26: Our Block Schedule #Back2School in #31Days

Kid-ucation Graham and Joe

I’ve been studying our days for a long time.

How my kids spend their time when allowed to play however they please, taking note of their highs and lows – excitement and boredom. Ups and downs or I like to call them – anchors and hot air balloons.

I’ve experimented with timing and different levels of involvement, and through this I’ve learned that a strong routine is built upon the natural order of a person’s interests.

For example, my daughter almost invariably will begin her day already playing in her mind. She has a plan for what she wants to do first as soon as she comes downstairs. All she needs is a snuggle and breakfast and she’ll be set for hours. She not only wants this freedom, but she needs it in order to thrive, create, and discover. When I have tried to establish a morning routine for her, she not only resents me but it’s almost like she deactivates – all thinking, feeling, and working functions are turned off and she is very difficult to manage.

I am not saying that I let my daughter completely do whatever she pleases just because she will fight me otherwise. I guide her most definitely in the mornings, but in ways that she doesn’t discern as guidance. Making sure she has a rich learning environment in which to play isn’t created on accident, and I’ve learned that my best involvement with her environment is an unseen one.

My son, however, doesn’t want to eat right away and he wants to be told what to do first. He wants to know what things he needs to do in order to earn screen time. Most often screen time is reserved for the afternoons when the toddler is napping and the energy level for the day has lulled. His personality thrives when I establish a morning routine for him, this is how he best functions knowing that I am helping and enabling him to reach his other goals for the day. Otherwise, when left to himself in the mornings, he flounders and frustrates – himself and others.

So for today, when I show you what our block schedule is and what it means for us – I am by no means expecting you to copy and paste it into your day planner with fingers crossed and a prayer that maybe this will help keep everyone in your home happy.

Likely, it won’t work for any other family than just mine. And I’m okay with that.

What I do want you to glean from this post is connections between my children’s behaviors and the behaviors of the children in your life. We are all unique and yet strangely similar too.

Here is our current Block Schedule:

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 7.11.48 AM

You can see that our 3 main blocks have natural anchors for that time of day.

Breakfast, morning chores, snack time, lunch, dinner, and bedtime routine. Just announcing that it’s time for morning chores requires a full-stop from what they were involved in and a change in action.

Full-stops are so important, necessary, and crucial that I use them sparingly – and always couple them with eating or leaving (things the kids love naturally).

The reason a full-stop is so valuable is that it supports authority. When I announce that it is time for a full-stop, it isn’t a matter of “wanting to” for the kids.

I’ve learned that limited use of, but full confidence in my authority has safe guarded our home from the threat of wasting our days. And more than that, it has allowed me the freedom to more fully enjoy my kids and engage in their fun because I’m not secretly afraid that they will bully me into giving into their every desire. Oh how I’ve learned the hard way that giving them too much freedom to choose hurts all of us.

You’ll notice that I don’t use times in my blocks. It’s important to not tie times to these anchors for us. I’ve attempted to schedule based on a time on the clock and that’s only led to frustration for all of us. Just because it says 12:00 PM on the clock doesn’t mean my kids want to come in from outside to eat. Usually, we like to eat before noon anyway.

Timing is important, and learning to use a time budget has been life changing for me. But trying to time everything perfectly has made me too obsessive or too passive.

So when it’s time for an anchor, the kids know that they will be receiving instruction as to what they can do next.

Individual lessons: math, writing, activity books, reading, and lapbooking will be included here.

Group lessons: using our Five in a Row and Early American History, we will focus on 2 main subjects per day – I have written out a sample week, a bare bones plan for our days:

  • Monday: Science & Bible – Start Lapbook
  • Tueday: Math & Language Arts
  • Wednesday: (HC)2 – no group lessons
  • Thursday: Early American History & Art
  • Friday: Social Studies & Cooking Lesson – Finish Lapbook

All lesson specifics will be written in the Kids’ Bullet Journals – all chores, anything time sensitive, or places we need to go per day are included here. We’ve already started using them this week to get comfortable with the new habit, and so far the kids are working well with this layer. (Remember, I only add one new thing into our routine at a time.)

Bedtime routine: We started doing the LifeAsMom.com’s Bedtime High Five years ago. Those of you who visited our home way back when JoeAnna was 3-4 years old will remember the construction paper hand taped to the back of our bathroom door.

This routine, and the simple phrase “let’s do our high five” has had a lasting impact on our bedtime efficiency. Teaching our kids from an early age to do the same things every night before bed has created strong habits that build security into their lives.

Why Block Schedule?

I’ve learned from trying to do too many good things in a single day that this pushes us too far. The best things get rushed or skipped while the new things suck all our time and energy.

Taking the time to fill a block only with the essentials leave us with room to breathe, room to make mistakes and start over, and room to simply enjoy the hot air balloon moments in everyday.

This is the beauty of a home education. A tutorial education, one that is fit to the individual.

I hope today’s challenge in the #Back2School in #31Days series inspires you to study your days too. To see and discern what times are best for the people in your life, and to see growth and fruit from your intentionality.

This is Day 26 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

You can still get access to the course:

Crystal Paine’s #MakeOverYourMornings course has been one of the most inspiring sources of help-to-change for me, and I hope it will be for you too. Join me and a group of friends as we go through this course now! Comment or contact me if you want in on the group encouragement.

Read my post detailing the 5 things I needed most from the course, and how this course was the catalyst to some really great changes in my life.

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Intentional Summer: December is coming.

What a dooms day, Debbie-downer title. Right?

I don’t mean to rain snow on anyone’s summer parade, but being helpful is what I do – encouraging change and growth. So, as I write the winter portion of the seasonal planner I’m working on (mentioned here, your continued patience in the publishing of said resource is appreciated) I want to share some of the thoughts with you now – while you can still use them.

As a parent, sometimes December takes me off guard.

Usually, I have established a big “Back to School” ideal. We prioritize, plan, prepare, and purchase everything we need to set up a learning environment that suites our needs.

Kids thrive with a balance of healthy change and routinesLife feels like it could go on like this forever. We have had our fill of summer and September has brought a fresh change.

Fall arrives, the plan goes into motion and I coast. It feels right for a few weeks, but then the texts, emails, church bulletins, and family engagements start filling up the calendar.

October has slowed our pace and by November my kids are sick of the routine, they are in great need of physical exercise, and I am in need of tasting some good fruit from all my effort.

December isn’t a time for tasting fresh fruit (at least not in Michigan and not in the symbolic way either), but winter’s atmosphere can still be sweet.

I have to intentionally create an anchor atmosphere for every season, or my mindset will be carried with the wind.

Two things I need for my intentionality to continue to thrive (and for my sanity):

  1. Planning ahead
  2. Preserving
Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

Planning ahead: the rebel in me doesn’t like to see “Back to School” displays in July, but that is when stores start to promote it. Sure, they are motivated by profit, but the reminder is free.

Procrastination hurts intention every-single-time. Don’t be a fool for the lie again – that you can do the work later. This is the lie that says that July is too soon for planning to change the routine. Planning ahead does require work, but a little bit of it today will go a long way when it comes time for the routine to change.

Taking time to consider the winter months today will smooth the transition. You will have already done some of the work which builds momentum.

Planning ahead allows for a different perspective. Sometimes it feels impossible to change a season’s atmosphere. So it’s important to learn from the past seasons and begin to apply the changes you’d like to see.

To do this: look at a calendar for the whole year – and next to each of the winter months, jot a single word that usually summarizes your feelings in that month. Then write one word that summarizes the deeper purpose you commit to prioritize.

For example, my December would look like this:

Feeling: Overwhelmed
Purpose: Family Time

Now, when those months start to approach begin to plan your weeks holding the second word close.

If it’s “family time” then start crossing out blocks of time that will be reserved for family – making those urgent requests for more of your time an easy “no, I already have plans.”

Or if it is, “rest” then you can start listing activities that help you relax and start penciling them into your weeks. Also, begin to take note of things that make you feel overwhelmed – try to eliminate those activities during this month by taking the time to plan to accomplish some of the important tasks now. (Like ordering Christmas cards.)

Trust me, even if you’re thinking – I have small kids, so they would be written on my list of things that are overwhelming and I can’t cross them off my list. I know it’s hard to manage self-care and child-care. But habit training is possible, and you can teach your children to be calm. It is possible for them to honor your need for rest.

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

Preservation: just as canning fruits means I can enjoy them year round, so living well in every season preserves my spirit.

A misconception of planning ahead is that one is always looking forward and not fully enjoying the present. Not if you can balance it with preservation.

The amount of time it takes to be intentional pails in comparison to the amount of time I’ve wasted on living week-to-week. What I’ve gained from discipline and follow through is a full well of memories that I can draw from when I’m feeling drained.

Preservation is another means of self-control.

If I want to have blueberry smoothies in December, then I can’t gorge on the berries that I pick in July. I have to weigh the joy these berries will give me in December as heavier than the fleeting pleasure of eating one more handful now.

Preservation is also a way of respect. I honor the choices I make today and live fully within them. Not looking back in regret, nor forward in fantasy. I measure my days, make the most of them, and save them as proof of fruit from a life lived with much sowing.

Respect has a way of balancing by setting limits.

Write a letter to your winter-self from your summer-self. No, I’m not into predicting the future – that isn’t the purpose for this. Set aside a list of things you accomplished with the time you were given in the summer. Be honest about the trials you endured – great and small. Give credit to the lessons you faced that are unique to this time of year. Preserve a little bit of the feeling of the summer months to compare and contrast the atmospheres.

Then when winter comes, make a second list of things that anchor you to this season.

No season is “perfect,” but every season has purpose. With these suggestions, I hope you can see what atmosphere you are able to create within each month and enjoy the benefits of living with satisfaction in every season.

Some resources for further reading:

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