We know that children thrive on predictable routines. They love creative activities, but are often more open to trying new things within a familiar context.
When I taught elementary school I would always write the schedule for the day up on the whiteboard. First thing in the morning my students would come in and read schedule. They loved being in the know and would get excited for certain activities. Not only did this encourage literacy (students were reading to find out information they wanted to know), but it also helped me keep on top of things by handing over some of the responsibility for the day to them. When children had special sessions with the speech therapist or parents called in with alternative going home arrangements, I would write these up on the board. I can’t tell you how many times the children reminded me when we were supposed to head over for school pictures or that Charlie was going home on the bus instead of being collected by his mother. I had so many things going on in my head it was easy to forget all of the extras. Our daily schedule helped me remember and it also taught the children some valuable organizational skills.
As a parent I quickly learned that life gets even more crazy when you have children of your own. I realized I needed to have a better at home organizational system. One Mommy’s Night Out, a mommy friend started to describe a system she found online for keeping the house clean in just 15 minutes a day. All of us stopped talking and tuned in because keeping a clean house with toddlers seemed an impossible feat. She told us about flylady.net. I went through the baby steps enthusiastically. Not everything stuck or worked for me, but her idea of posted morning, afternoon, and evening routines changed my life. I created my own and now, six years on, I still follow them.
When I struggled to get my two-year-old son dressed and out the door in the morning, I created a morning routine for him. I typed up his routine and added little pictures to remind him what to do. I put this in a plastic sleeve and hung it up in his room with blue tack so he could use a dry erase pen to tick off each task as he completed it.
At first, I helped him complete his morning routine. Some days he would do it independently and others we had to split up the jobs between us. I would put away his pajamas if he made his bed. Now that he is seven, he gets up and goes through his entire morning routine in about 10 minutes flat. When he is finished he comes into my room with his comb and water bottle so that I can smooth down his hair. I am still amazed how smoothly the morning goes with him. Now I am training his 4-year-old brother. Some mornings are tough, but I know we will get there eventually.
One of the most basic aspects to the Flylady routine is to check your calendar morning, noon, and night. It seems silly to write down something so obvious, but occasionally I forget and really regret it. One morning I got distracted, failed to check the calendar, and forgot that my son had a multi-sports session before school. He ended up missing it and he was already dressed for it! I had to have him quickly change into his school clothes in the car.
Now that my eldest is seven I have given him his own calendar to check in the morning and evening. He is responsible for preparing his sports clothing, scout uniform, or snacks the night before certain events and activities. We record when his homework is due on the calendar so that he can ensure it is in his bag the night before. Yes, I still have to remind him to do this and make sure he has completed his evening routine, but I am hopeful one day this will become automatic for him in the same way the morning routine has. I don’t want to send him off to college and have him fall apart because Mommy did everything for him at home.
I believe teaching my children organizational skills and preparedness will serve them well in the future, perhaps even better than cramming their heads full of facts. Isn’t that what Google is for….