Note: This is not another calendar for scheduling your kids while stuck at home due to COVID-19 or the Corona virus.
A schedule is not for everyone!
If your family is anything like mine (5 girls!, ages 9 months to 11 years) then you probably already know that having a strict schedule to keep your kids in order isn't playing its course the way you hoped it would. Do not panic!!! Do not worry! This is totally normal and totally fine. There's no law that says everyone must be the same, and as we all know, even the school system is not 100% suitable for everyone.
What I want to suggest is... that you create a 'Loose Schedule' - this is essentially a normal schedule, BUT the 'loose' part is just as important as the 'schedule' part. They go hand in had.
Having some sort of schedule is very helpful and effective. The schedule serves a few purposes, all of which are important and beneficial to all who are using it, in this case, kids and parents alike. Lets list some of those benefits:
It helps you set clear goals (this helps to compartmentalise the various tasks and lowers the pressure of getting it all done today - not everything is urgent for now)
Having tasks written down provides clarity, without which, you would probably be lost with all the various tasks that need to get done or get too overwhelmed and be lost in a sea of anxiety.
Children (and adults) need structure. And structure is imperative for children as it provides a sense of safety and security. The last thing you need in a situation like this are children who are lacking a sense of safety and security.
These are just some of the many benefits of a good schedule.
However, the struggle is to keep kids to the schedule! Given that our homes are not schools, most of us are not teachers, and our kids are not in their normal learning environment, it can be challenging to have them stick to any form of schedule. Now of course there some kids who naturally do better with this than others, but I'm guessing that many parents are finding some difficulty with this. I know I am.
ADD/ADHD? I got your back!
What I found works best for many kids, and especially kids with ADD or ADHD or kids with PDD, is to have a 'Loose Schedule'. You will create a schedule with them, because after all it is for them. The idea being that this is geared towards their own specific needs and capabilities, while taking into account that they are in a home environment.
I find it best to structure the day in a way that it ends earlier. This means having an earlier lunch (anywhere between 11:30-12:30) and an earlier dinner (starting even at 3PM and latest at 4:30PM). A snack can be provided later as needed. You'll see that your kids are hungry, actually that's probably all you are going to hear, ALL DAY LOOONNGGG.... Having proper meals for them at earlier times will plug this hole. Also, it will have a great impact on your personal schedule, given that you'll most likely be exhausted by around 2PM anyway. So having the 'day' end at 4:00-4:30, you can at least know that the rest of the day, whatever is left of it will be more chilled.
Now loosen up!
So what makes this a 'loose' schedule you ask? The following guidelines:
The order is not that critical (although I do recommend sticking to one form of morning schedule, which ever works best for you).
This schedule has more rigid parts to it, but also has plenty of 'free time', cause let's be realistic, neither they nor you will be able to maintain a full school schedule while at home.
And lastly, it is DYNAMIC! Whenever you see that your kids need a change in the schedule - switch it up! Remember, there are no rules of how to set a perfect schedule! Use this time to get to know your kids and see what works best for them (and you)!
This will provide the flexibility you need in order to manage multiple children of different ages simultaneously. Evidently, not the same challenge teachers face (not to diminish their super-hard work, which is now so much more appreciated - thank you teachers 😉).
Conquer the morning, conquer the day!
I recommend sticking to a similar morning schedule that your kids are used to (this will also help for when they return to their schools, hopefully sooner than later). This is important, because the rest of the day will naturally follow the way you manage the morning. So if you have to be rigid about any part, let it be the morning. For example, if your kids normally start school at 8, be sure to have them up and ready, yes preferably even dressed (not PJ's), at around 8 (doesn't have to be precise!). Don't worry, they won't be upset at you that you are destroying their vacation, because this is not vacation (I hope you have explained this to them already). Your kids are already familiar with a routine, use it and capitalize on it!
Keep it simple, take for example this morning routine:
Prayer/some form of meditation/breathing exercises etc.
Up to 1 hour of one of the more difficult subjects (this is of course subjective, and changes per child, for some its math, for others its English...)
Free-style physical activity (playing in the yard/porch or anywhere with fresh air and preferably sun light)
This is what works for me and my kids. And I'm sure many of you would find this helpful too.
But wait, there's more!
Now, although this only brought you till about 11am, you are off to a good start, in fact an excellent start!
Once your kids have succeeded in following the morning schedule, you will probably find how much easier it is for them to follow the afternoon part as well.
For the afternoon, I recommend the following:
Art/arts and crafts
Some form of sports/dance
Click on the image below to get a printable version (PNG/PDF):
Remember, this is a LOOSE schedule. So try it out, if it doesn't work out as planned, simply modify it to suit your kids needs, or just as importantly - your needs! Make it your own.
I'm sure you have noticed that 'screen time' was not mentioned. You can of course add this as you find necessary (even just for your own sanity), this is after all a 'Loose Schedule'. But I highly recommend you minimize this to short increments, maybe up to 15-20 minutes at a time, as to ensure they do not become dependent and addicted to this. This is a crutch!
Let me know if this was helpful.
Wishing you all the best and good luck!
M.A. Art Therapy