Finding A Rhythm to Your Days

With summer coming to a close, we are starting to think about getting back into a more consistent rhythm. My husband starts seminary classes on Monday and we are off to another full year.

With young children in the home, a routine of some type is extremely helpful. Not only does it help the days go more smoothly, but it is comforting to children to know what is coming next.

The type of routine you establish in your home depends largely on personality and individual circumstances. Some people like a more rigid, detailed schedule. Others prefer more fluidity. I am sharing today how we do things in our home, but please know that there are many, many ways to go about it. Finding what works for your family is key. 

I have tried the detailed schedule and it does not work for me. I felt stressed and tied to my sheet of paper and the clock. “What am I supposed to be doing next?” “Oh no! We’re running behind!” 

I quickly figured out that I did not want to live my life worrying about keeping up with a schedule that I had created. It has taken me some trial and error to find a balance between routine and fluidity that I am comfortable with. This is what is working for us now, but I know all to well that things like this can change very quickly as my children grow older or circumstances change.

I use three basic ideas in establishing the rhythm our days take. From there, there is a lot of variety and flexibility.

Time Blocks

Rather than thinking in hours and minutes, I like to think in time blocks. This keeps me from feeling tied to the clock, while still having some direction in my day. With young children this is really valuable. I use this as a framework for the day without dictating exactly what takes place within those time blocks.

  • Early morning. This is the time I take before the kids are awake. I typically get up early, but I never feel guilty staying in bed a little later if I went to bed late or I was up in the night with kids. I just make sure I am up before the kids are.
  • Morning. The kids are usually up around 7:00. This morning time consists of breakfast, getting dressed, some household chores, and reading with Stefan. We are generally all together during this time. The kids help me with cleaning or play near me, and we do some learning activities together.
  • Late morning. This is our most varied, flexible, creative time. Some of the things we do during this time include art or crafts, playing outside, having another mom over for a visit and some play time, a trip to the park for some time in nature, or alone creative play for the kids.
  • Early afternoon. This is nap and rest time for the kids. Stefan does not sleep every day, but he still does some quiet play time. Often he and I will work on something together, but he usually does about an hour completely by himself quietly playing.
  • Late afternoon. A lot of frustrating days have finally made me realize that this is not the time to send the kids off on their own. They are typically a little more needy by late in the day. We read together during this time, and then either they all come into the kitchen to help me with dinner, or I find a really fun, interesting activity to keep them occupied. This would be a great time for some more outside play, but in an apartment setting that isn’t always possible.

Anchor Times

I think of anchor times as those things that send the message to my kids that we are changing gears. These are much more consistent and are pretty intact even if we otherwise change the day up.

Breakfast, lunch, and nap time are the obvious anchors. They know exactly what is happening and what is next.

Our other two anchors involve reading. When we transition from our morning to late morning activities, we usually have our book basket time. This is when the kids and I read books that they choose. In the afternoon, right after nap time, we read our chapter book read aloud while they eat a small snack.

Familiar Routines

Children love routines. While our whole day is not a consistent routine, we do have some moments in the day that are very routine.

Morning routine: Our morning follows a predictable pattern. We typically eat breakfast all together before Daddy heads out for the day. We normally eat our simple oatmeal breakfast by candlelight which is a nice quiet way to ease into the day. I don’t know how long we will do this, but for right now, it is a nice, simple tradition.

Transition to rest time: I have been reading the older two a couple of poems right before they go down for naps. This has been a great way to transition into naps while also giving me an opportunity to read poetry which is important to me.

Our evening routine is the most consistent. One way to help your kids transition to bedtime is to have a good routine in place. Brian takes most of the getting ready for bed duties (hurray for sharing parenting duties!). We then have our Bible time which consists of reading a story, saying our memorized Scripture passage, catechism, and singing. Then it is straight to bed.

While many of the specifics of the day change, our basic time blocks, anchors, and routines are pretty intact. This, for us, is a great balance between a schedule and flexibility. And you should know that I always feel free to switch it all up on occasion!

Do you have a more structured or flexible day in your home?

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Comments

  1. When my daughter was just born a structured schedule made the most sense. Now that she is a toddler we have to have a lot of flexibility. Otherwise, we would all be pretty grumpy. I like your time block method.

  2. Steph says:

    I also tried a more structured schedule and it didn’t work for us. We have a flexible routine with basic ideas of what we’re going to do when. Our anchors revolve around eating and sleeping times with lots of flexibility in between. Like you our bedtime routine is the most consistent one which makes bedtime pretty smooth around here.

    • Johanna says:

      I am a believer in bedtime routines! We rarely have any issues at bedtime and I think the routine has a lot to do with that!

  3. Naomi says:

    I’m just curious–does it get easier to have a better routine when your kids get past the baby stage? We were doing well until he hit 4 months and now I feel like there is almost no routine. I LOVE a schedule (or a fixed routine) and the possibility of having a good one seems to keep evading me. ;-) Learning lots. Pressing forward. And trying to enjoy these days of “non-routine” :)

    • Johanna says:

      Yes, it does get easier! Hang in there! I feel like the baby stage is constantly in flux. Just as soon as you get a “routine,” they start teething, or changing nap schedules, or something! Give yourself lots of grace in the first year, and just go with the flow. It is better to mentally be prepared for constant change than to be super frustrated!

  4. A woman after my own heart. I totally call our schedule a rhythm. We have a rhythm to our days. They follow the same pattern, but exact times vary. I also find that late afternoon time to be the worst. I send the kids outside or have them read to each other, or even play the wii or watch a movie. It allows me to make dinner without being stressed.

    • Johanna says:

      Why is dinner time so hard??? I love to see that you are able to still keep a rhythm with homeschooling in the mix, too. Gives me hope. :)

    • Alicia G says:

      I found that afternoons are meltdown city for my 3 year old if I am doing anything but play with her. I came up with the idea (probably from a blog) to cook our dinner midmorning. We eat a “fresh” lunch then leftovers for dinner.

  5. Carrie says:

    I think you have sanctified good sense. :o ) In the summer we have more of a rhythm, but in the school year we have a very strict time schedule. (I have 2 in school and 2 littles.) Without it I was getting very stressed and not getting things done.

  6. Nina says:

    We have the same system as you but I call mine “pillars” haha. And they’re usually meal and nap times, so that we have snack, lunch, nap, dinner and bed time at pretty much regular times. But then there are the “fillers” where I plan activities in between those pillars. So in the morning, we might go to the park, and then come back for snack. It’s been helpful for me because then at least I don’t have to wonder what’s next, or forget to think that my kid is probably hungry!

  7. Your rhythm and routine is a lot like ours, but we do our Bible, catechism, prayer time in the morning during breakfast, usually without Daddy. Then we do Scripture memory at bedtime and we do a family worship time about once or twice a week. But I really need to work on that late afternoon time block. I try to make my kids do stuff on their own and it doesn’t work!

  8. Our rhythm is quite similar at our home right now. Though, like you, it’s fairly simple since we don’t have official homeschool in the picture. I am all for rhythm and routines, but schedules can be overwhelming for me at this stage (and probably for my kids, too, at their stage. :) )

    My oldest two don’t nap, but we do have an approximately 30-minute rest time. Each of them has only fallen asleep once during this time. :/ But the rest time is definitely a sanity-saver.

    We recently added “family cleanup” to clean the toy room right before bedtime, and my girls are loving it.

    • Johanna says:

      We do our cleanup before dinner usually so we only have a few things to put away before bed. I think because we do it as a family, the kids really love it too.

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  1. [...] mentioned before that we like to use anchors as part of our daily rhythm. It isn’t so much about what time something happens, but an anchor or flag post, if you will, [...]

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