Keeping a Large Family Organized-Routines vs. Schedules

I vividly remember my oldest son’s first babysitter. She was a very sweet person. When we first met with her she proudly showed me her VERY detailed schedule of exactly how his day would be spent. She had everything scheduled down to the minute, to include a whole 20 minutes of “rest time”. Even as a first time mom I had enough experience with siblings, cousins, and babysitting to know her strict schedule was impossible to maintain. I tried to tell her that my high maintenance 3-year-old needed a 2 hour nap every day. She assured me that each of her two kids had given up naps at two and he’d be just fine. I didn’t feel great about it, but I had to start work the next Monday and she really was my only option so we went ahead and agreed to have a 2 week trial run.

By Thursday my boy was out of control hitting, screaming, fighting, etc. To the point that she asked me to find another daycare for him. Why? Because her strict schedule did not allow for his needs. His need for alone time, unstructured play, and more than anything a nice long afternoon nap. Strict schedules may work for some homes, especially those with only a kid or two, but when you have a large homeschooling family it’s better to ditch the schedule and focus on routines. Having a strict schedule of lessons can really cause  LOT of stress for both mom and kids, because you will inevitable get thrown off thanks to sick kids, a broken down car, a friend dropping by unannounced etc. Strict schedules also hamper your ability to dive in and explore something that a child shows a passionate interest in.

Ditch the Strict Schedules adn Focus on Simple Routines | | Managing a Large Family | balancing flexibility with stability

Of course we schedule large or important events, but everything else is constantly flowing to best meet the needs of each member of the family.

We have four basic routines that our day centers around.

  1. First thing in the morning as each child wakes up they get dressed then take care of their assigned animal feeding responsibility
  2. After lunch the littles nap and the older ones can focus on more educational pursuits without mommy being distracted
  3. Right before dinner we work together to clean up the house
  4. Before bed we pajama, brush teeth, read scriptures, say prayers, and get hugs and kisses from mommy and daddy

Here is a great list of 20 tips to help you find routines that will work for your family.

Because we have these routines in place it is easy to be flexible and allow for our schedule each day to change. On Wednesdays we have park play day in the afternoon. It’s pretty simple to just shift lunch and naps a bit earlier or later to accommodate. If we want to go to a friends for dinner we can do our scriptures and prayers in the car, so that the kids are ready to pop right into bed as soon as we get home and brush their teeth. Because we have a scheduled general cleaning time each day, the kids jump right in and do their part. They know what is expected and that it means dinner is coming soon. They often remind each other to get dressed and do their animal job each morning, because they know that it is something that has to be done every day.

These simple routines are ones that we can carry throughout their entire childhood. Whether they are 6 or 16 having a routine makes everything run smoother for everyone. The kids know what to expect and when to expect it, but also can feel the freedom to explore their own interests. As a mom I have simple things to keep the kids on track when I need them and I avoid the stress of falling behind on my curriculum for the day or feeling like I have to say no to everything that isn’t on my carefully crafted schedule.

I didn’t used to be even a routine person. I like the freedom of spontaneity! With all these kids around, however, my life and house were a bit too chaotic. I love that routines allow me to still be flexible and impulsive while reigning in the chaos and giving the kids some stability to work with.

Are you a strict scheduler, routine person, or a tad bit chaotic? What kinds of routines or schedules work for you? How do you manage the balancing act of stability vs. freedom in your family’s schedule?

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