I had a parenting and homeschooling epiphany recently:
Whether the day runs smoothly or is a complete disaster, it's
usually always my fault.
My kids are young (8, 6, and almost 4). If our days are out of whack, it's certainly not because they aren't planning properly and making sure we execute said plans in a timely and organized fashion.
I know things work out better if we have more structure. Not just for daily/weekly lesson plans (because, truthfully, "school" is a pretty small amount of our day time-wise) but for just making sure our home runs smoothly. When our days are all over the place, it's not pretty.
So, in spite of wishing for—let's just say too long—that we could be free-flowing and happy-go-lucky in our daily activities, we really need to have a plan. It doesn't need to be etched in stone, but it needs to be there and we need to follow it (even loosely) or we fall apart.
I should clarify here that I'm not talking about our educational approach . . . which tends to be fairly relaxed and interest-led. I'm talking about keeping our curriculum child-led and fun while fitting the actual doing it part into an overall more structured set-up.
Anyway, I created a simple list of guidelines for our day (and printed them out, because my oldest is like me in that she needs to actually see something in writing or it doesn't exist). We work the details around these anchors. Every day doesn't look exactly the same, but at least we have a starting point. Here are some things I included:
Wake/sleep times. These tend to fluctuate a lot for us, depending on the time of year, Dear Hubby's work schedule, and whether or not we're doing any outside activities that have a specific time constraint. The challenge here is that in order to make some other things fall into place, it would really help if we could move our wake up and bedtime by 30 minutes (earlier). It doesn't sound like much, but in reality it will be a slow adjustment.
(Can I just add here that it was another epiphany for me to realize that when you have more than one kid, and they need different amounts of sleep, it makes more sense—at least it does for us—to put them all to bed at the same time and stagger their wake-ups, rather than trying to get one or two of them to go to bed earlier?)
Meal/snack times. My kids like to eat. A lot. (Seriously. I wonder sometimes how we will feed these wolves as teenagers.) I find that while grab-whatever-you-want-when-you-want-it works sometimes, really we are all happier when we have set times and stick to them.
School time. As much as I thought I wanted us to be a Morning Homeschool Family, we. just. aren't. We concentrate best after lunch, so that's when we "do" school. Because the Agents are young (3rd grade, 1st grade, and preschool) it doesn't take more than a few hours total. We can get to everything we "need" to and still keep our mornings relaxing and our late afternoons/evening free. Win-win.
Outside activities. We don't go out every day (nor do we want to) but we do occasionally interact with other humans for time-dependent events. We also know that mornings are the best time for us to run errands (in spite of all the people who will ask, no school today?) so our mornings are flexible depending on what we need to that day.
Even considering these four points, our daily routine leaves a lot of space for free time, play, and reading. (Some folks might call this margin or freedom within boundaries.) This, of course, includes penciled in time for this super-introvert to recharge each day.