We’ve been using our schedule now for about six weeks, and I want to highlight some of the things I’ve learned from the experience. For the most part, it is working as I hoped – sometimes even better. Here are the tips I would share with anyone else trying to make a major change like this.
Take baby steps
One thing I’ve learned repeatedly is that if I try to change everything at once, I will fail. I will burn out, get discouraged, and give up. I took a good 4-6 weeks to plan this schedule, and another 4-6 weeks to implement it. When I began living the plan, I started with getting up early and going to Jazzercise 3 days a week. My next step was to start getting the kids up at 7:15. I then added the morning group school. Once each piece became routine, I added a new piece. Because we were moving from an anything goes free-for-all to a day of expectations and requirements, I felt it was critical to go slowly. This helped me to feel successful instead of defeated.
Get up early
I know. Everyone says this. And it makes me groan too. I have been dragging my butt out of bed 3 mornings a week at 5:30 so I can get to Jazzercise by 6am. Hard, but so worth it. I love having that workout out of the way, and it wakes me up and gets me ready to face the troops when I get back home at 7:15. On Tuesday and Thursday, I’m up at 6 for some office/quiet time. I spend 5-20 minutes of this time praying, depending on the day. This is one of my favorite times of the day. It’s all about me.
I’m glad I started the schedule implementation by working on my own wake time. It was quite an adjustment, but what those all those annoyingly chipper bloggers say about getting up before your family is true. It really does make the day run more smoothly.
Go to bed early
I had been in the bad habit of staying up later and later each night because it was the only free time I had. The problem was, it was never really “free.” I was too damn tired from the day to do much of anything except maybe fold a load of laundry while staring blearily at a mild-amusing sitcom streaming on my Roku. Or I was taking care of a few last minute details for the next day. Or I was tucking naughty kids back into bed for the 457th time.
We’ve been getting the kids tucked in by 8 the last few days and it’s heavenly. I still have just enough energy to have a conversation with my husband, or read a little, or fold that laundry and enjoy a sitcom. And then I can go to bed at 9, be asleep by 9:30 and still get in 8 hours before my 5:30 Jazzercise alarm.
I will say that if you are a night owl and can truly use your night hours in a way that recharges you and still get up and face your family when you need to, then by all means ignore this. I will add though, my best friend, a consummate night owl, is the one who finally convinced me that getting up early is the way to go. She started doing it and talking about how great it is. This from the girl who cursed at the morning radio show host when my clock radio alarm would go off at 8 o’clock when we were in the dorms together.
Stay Loose – block scheduling might make more sense
Discipline and consistency are key
To really make this work, I’ve seen that I absolutely must stick to the schedule every day. When the kids know that this is what’s happening at this time and there’s no getting out of it, they’re much more likely to get with the program. They have all tested me. Because I’ve given up and thrown in the towel on things like this so many times in the past, I think they’ve all expected this to be one more thing they could get out of if they made it unpleasant enough for me. After a few weeks, they’re all getting the message that this is the way we do things now, and there’s no since in fighting it. An incentive program for my oldest has been especially helpful. Also, consistent expectations for my three year old during school time.
One of the things I changed after realizing this is we now do our morning group school routine at the kitchen table 3 mornings a week. I had planned to do school in the car on the way to my parent’s house once a week, but I found that doing at least an abbreviated version at home before we leave makes more sense.
Discipline applies to me as well. If I don’t get up early and do what I’m supposed to, the day doesn’t run as smoothly. If I don’t don’t plan meals or start dinner on time, bed time is a mess. The more I follow the plan, the more smoothly things run and the more fun and free time I have.
Plan ahead and be prepared
I’m using several curriculum resources that spell out exactly what and when to do things, and so I thought I could get away with just doing the next thing each morning without any planning ahead. However, I have found that the day runs much more smoothly if I write out exactly what I want to cover each day and put it all in one place. I’ve resisted lesson plans for 4 years, but now find them necessary. Sometimes I want to do more or less of something than is assigned for that day. Sometimes I forget some small but critical piece (like handwriting). Making a written lesson plan helps me feel more in control and less scattered. It also keeps me from just blowing something off for the day.
Screen time during school hours is a Bad Idea
At least in our family. Our original schedule had bits of screen time scattered throughout the day for each of the kids. I’ve done away with that. The new rule is that, unless it’s been specifically assigned for school, you may not use a screen before 4pm. I found that it was too easy for the kids to stretch the screen time – and for me to let them because it was easy for me. Then there would be fights about turning it off, and it made transitioning through our day too contentious. What was screen time for each kid is now free time. Once 4pm rolls around, they can pretty much glut themselves until about 6 when I ask them to do some chores before dinner.
For the most part, I’m super pleased with the way things are going, and I’m happy I stuck with it the bumps that came with making a big change. I feel much better about the way we spend our days, and my kids seem happier too.