I love structure and my kids crave it, especially my kids from “hard places,” but I’m not a fan of summer schedules.
I used to love summer and look forward to relaxing after a long year of homeschooling. When our children from Ethiopia joined our family in 2007, our world changed dramatically.
Our lazy summer days evaporated and I soon realized that they weren’t going to spontaneously return.
To be honest, I grieved that loss.
I learned that my children desperately needed structure in order to feel safe. When they didn’t know what to expect, their anxiety led to challenging behavior.
I clearly remember Kalkidan repeating the events of the evening. It went something like this.
Mom, Mom! Dinner? Dinner, Mom? Teeth? Brush teeth? Pajamas? Pajamas, Mom? Story, Dad, story? Bed? Bed, Mom? Pray? Sing? Dad, Sing?
As she spoke, she looked closely at my face, her eyebrows raised, asking each question, touching her fingers one-by-one, waiting for me to nod my head or answer, “Yes,” in response.
Night after night, this was repeated. I recognized her desperate need to know what to expect.
This led me to experiment with schedules, but I soon learned that while knowing what to expect was helpful, forcing the kids into my pre-determined time slots added a layer of stress that resulted in more challenges.
By the time breakfast and chores were over, we were already behind and I was trying to figure out how to get us back on track.
My solution is creating routines, not schedules.
We don’t do things at exactly the same time each day, but in a certain order. Our routines have anchors that move us through the day, primarily breakfast, Russ coming home from work, dinner, and bedtime.
Back then our routines consisted of simple lists: morning routine, afternoon routine, evening routine. These were posted on the refrigerator for all to see, first with drawings, later with words.
This summer, the kids’ routine will include morning chores, Bible/read-aloud time, yard chores, silent reading, outside play time, screen time (my least favorite, but Circle helps control it), and when it’s hot, swimming at the pool. Of course, meals and snacks will be mixed in as well.
We’ll never fall behind, because we’ll just keep moving through our day. When necessary, some tasks will be left undone, and I’m okay with that.
Summer will be busier than I like, but I’ll take happy and busy over disorganized, anxious, and unhappy any day.
Question: What is essential to your summer routine?
Don’t miss my post, Top 10 Father’s Day Gifts (and the best marinade recipe ever). Cornell Chicken is a Qualls family favorite and I think you’ll love it too.
with hope and gratitude,