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’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.

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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.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.


Day 25: Anchors and Hot Air Balloons

B2S Day 25 Learning Balance Hot Air Balloons and Anchors 1

If you’ve known me since 2007 or before, then you’ll know that I haven’t always been a good planner. (I was reminded of this, and wrote about it in a Facebook status today actually.) I wasn’t a natural at motherhood either. After my oldest child was born, I was the type that was completely rocked by the amount of work from just one child. I never had a clean house, I struggled to make dinner every-single-night, and I hesitated to make any plans because I was terrified of the amount of work it required to make it out of the house.

Fast forward 8 years, and I feel like a different person. I sympathize with the woman I was, but I don’t in anyway want to go back to that place of disorderly chaos – inner and outer mess.

I haven’t achieved perfection in planning, nor have I simply copied and pasted someone else’s plans. I’ve worked long and hard at understanding how I function – and how my children function too – and this work has led me to learn balance through Anchors and Hot Air Balloons.

What are Anchors?

Anchors have 2 definitions in my life. #1 an anchor is the one thing a day of the week is known for – it’s the main quality of that day that gives it purpose and holds it to the week.

For example:

  • Monday: Prepare for piano and BSF
  • Tuesday: Library day
  • Wednesday: (HC)2 day
  • Thursday: Stay home day
  • Friday: Errand day

#2 an anchor is a full-stop and transition from one activity to the next within each day. There may be many of this type of anchor during any given day. So, from the morning free play to the morning lessons, there will be the anchor of snack time.

Anchor = full-stop, transition.

Something everyone needs (and wants) that is a neutral authoritative stopping point, like snacks times, meal times, bathroom breaks, outdoor time, quiet time, etc.

This type of anchor is flexible, and it is important to discern the use of a full-stop to change activities based on the personalities and number of people in the home. Some kids like them, and some don’t.

For instance, my daughter loves her freedom to learn and move through the different activities of the day – she doesn’t look forward to an external full-stop-transition that an anchor commands, but for my son he craves the distinct starts and stops that an external force puts into his activities. He doesn’t like the idea of having indefinite time to play with his Legos. He will nag me with words, begging for me to give him a time for a full-stop to do something else.

Instead of always giving him an anchor to look forward to like saying, “in an hour we will have a snack and then you can work on your Zolocolor” I will say something to encourage him to stay in the moment and simply enjoy what he is putting his mind and hands to. So, if he is playing with Legos I will create challenges for him to wrap his mind around in his building and designing, or I’ll praise him for taking the time to notice how the pieces fit together or the uniqueness of his creation. I don’t want to bring him down too soon.

This encouragement is what I think of as a Hot Air Balloon.

I help him stay in the height of an activity longer before coming down for a change.

Hot Air Balloon activities are the joyful extras in any day. I like to think of them as the surprise rewards of taking an extra 15 minutes to finish the chapter I’m reading in my current favorite book, or the spontaneous trip to the park, Dollar Tree, or grandma’s house just because we can.

For me, I tend to be like my son – I like to stay close to the full-stops. I don’t like to crash from the height of an activity so I limit my enjoyment of what I’m doing out of fear.

So as I plan for our quarter, I’m adding in the Hot Air Balloon idea to my weeks in order to stretch myself to grow in the areas that I’m weak.

3 practical things that will help me to more fully enjoy Hot Air Balloon moments are:

  1. Planning dinner the night before so that I’m not frustrated or pressured for time to come up with something at 3 in the afternoon when my kids are usually the happiest and most energetic. I want to be free to join in the dance party or run outside to take a deep breath with them – to be in the moment.
  2. Sticking with the major anchors of the week and not flexing on the essentials. I know that when I have wiggled around with our routine, I inevitably feel like a failure. Boundaries are meant to keep me safe. When I acknowledge and live within my boundaries (being sure not to create too many of them) I enjoy the safety and freedom of being well within.
  3. Writing out the schedule of what needs to be done for the next day every evening. Seeing the essentials on paper either limits or frees me depending on how much there is to do. If I don’t write things out ahead of time, I struggle with the fear of forgetting something, doing things in the wrong order, or beating myself up for some sort of false guilt. (When I don’t have clear boundaries – again – I tend to try to do all the things or be all the things to everyone. And then I need to go back to ending the struggle between good mom and bad mom.)

Anchors and Hot Air Balloons are my symbols (you can use them too) for balance.

For staying close to the ground and flying high in the sky. Balancing humanity and spirituality. Stewarding work and rest. Honoring highs and lows. Creating rhythm.

The challenge for this day in the #Back2School in #31Days series is to write out the Anchors for the week, begin to write out the Anchors in a single day (also known as our block schedule – post explaining this, coming soon), and record Hot Air Balloon moments.

This is Day 25 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

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Check it out today, buy it for yourself and a friend, and go through it together! The sale is so good, you won’t want to miss out. If you’re still not sure, 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.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.