I gave a sigh of relief as I closed the door to my eldest’s room after kissing him goodnight.
It was finally me time. But not really.
I swept through the kitchen grabbing homework, snacks and water bottles and stuffing them into school bags. Then I rounded up my youngest’s swimming trunks and goggles for his lessons. Finally, I set the table for breakfast.
As I glanced into the living room I noticed my husband stretched out on the recliner watching his favorite TV program.
Something was wrong with this picture. My husband was already relaxing while I was still rushing around the house.
I entertained the idea of putting my husband to work, but knew he wouldn’t have a clue that my son needed to have his piano books ready for tomorrow.
Furthermore, it wasn’t really my husband’s responsibility. In fact, it wasn’t mine either!
If I wanted to raise my children to be self-sufficient adults I needed to hand over more responsibility to them.
As Harry Wong said the book, The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher:
The person who does the work is the only one who learns.
The Gradual Release of Responsibility
When I was a teacher I read the book, Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for The Gradual Release of Responsibility by Douglas Fisher & Nancy Frey.
The premise of this model was to gradually move from the teacher doing a task/activity to the student doing it independently. The steps were “I Do It”, “We Do It”, “You Do It Together” (by collaborating with peers), and finally “You Do It Alone.”
If my goal was indeed to raise self-sufficient adults (and free up more time for myself in the process), I needed to find ways to give my children more responsibilities around the house. The Gradual Release of Responsibility model provided the perfect framework for doing this.
I decided to start by introducing a calendar routine so that my children would learn how to organize themselves to be ready for a new day, a skill that would serve them well into adulthood.
Introducing The Calendar Routine
I Do It
First, I modeled checking my own calendar each night in front of my children. I pointed out all of the appointments and activities listed on the new day’s calendar square.
Then I showed them how I put all of the supplies I need for the next day by the front door the night before.
I picked up this routine from flylady.net. She calls the area designated for supplies the “launch pad”. My children liked the idea of having a launch pad by our front door.
We Do It
Next, I pulled out a school calendar and hung it up in my eldest’s room.
Together, we wrote all of his activities for the month on it.
Then, we listed any supplies needed for the activities on the preceding day’s calendar square. To keep it simple we used abbreviations like HW for homework, H2O for water bottle and SN for snack.
Finally, I updated my son’s bedtime routine to include a “check the calendar” task.
My eldest and I did the calendar routine together for a month.
You Do It (Together)
For the “You Do It” step I asked my eldest to go through the calendar routine with his little brother.
Together they checked the calendar each night and put their supplies at the “launch pad”. I watched over the process, but my eldest was good about helping his little brother complete the routine. I knew he was ready to try it alone.
You Do It (Alone)
Now my eldest completes his calendar routine on his own. I just make sure we update the calendar each month and he takes care of the rest.
I will continue to support my 5-year-old’s routine for another year or so, but by then he will be a master of the process.
And tonight — I plan to join my husband on the sofa for a TV show when the children go to bed.