Today is the first day of school for us. We wrapped up our last year in early May, so we’ve been eight weeks without lessons and, worse, eight weeks without structure. I always have good intentions going into summer that we will still stick to some sort of routine that will keep us all stable, but it never happens. Summer break is a break, and it probably should be. It’s probably good for us all that we start a new school year with a craving for structure and purpose, even if it’s short-lived.
However, it is still summer, even though we are beginning school, and we aren’t putting ourselves into a hole, pretending it’s September.
We structure our summer term days differently than the rest of the year, and it’s worked well for us for years now. We start off the day with our morning routines: breakfast, chores, Morning Time, math. Then, we break for the rest of the morning. If we are able to start Morning Time at 8 as planned, the kids should have their math wrapped up by 9:30 at the latest. Then we have all the rest of the morning to meet friends at parks, go swimming, build with LEGOs, or whatever else their hearts desire (within reason, of course). After lunch, the 2-year-old goes down for a nap and we put in another hour or two of work as the heat builds up outdoors and we all want to huddle ‘round the A/C vent anyway. Might as well huddle with a book or some Latin work, right?
It takes a huge energy leap for me to pull people into productive work after lunch, but in the summer it’s too hot to go outside after lunch. So, if I prioritize giving the kids plenty of outdoor opportunity (which I do), then the morning must be free of book work in the summer.
School Week Time Budget
So, rather than a strict schedule, I plan out our week in a spreadsheet form I call a “time budget.” If I don’t think in the categories of how many hours are in a day (or a week), then I end up thinking that what I can do is limitless. However, time is actually a limit, and one I need to think about as I decide what we can and cannot do.
Here is my basic time budget for summer term, not fancy and very predictable:
Yes, I put “hugs” on my schedule to remind myself because I’m that sort of mom – the kind that needs to be reminded to actually hug her children. But, I do what it takes to make it happen, so hopefully that counts for something. Also, “Convocation” is Morning Time, Circle Time, Morning Basket, whatever you want to call it. I’m graduating us up from preschoolish Circle Time to Latin-schoolish Convocation, because the word fits on multiple levels, and I love it when a word fits on multiple levels.
As I wrote in the Summer Term post, summer term is lighter than upcoming terms will be. It’s our easing-in period, when I also leave plenty of room for enjoying the season. Hopefully we’ll do multiple nature walks during this term, too.
I recorded a video last summer about how I make my time budgets. It’s a part of Simplified Organization: Learning to Love What Must Be Done (because I think this is an essential planning step, I go over it in greater detail there), but I thought I’d share it with you here:
I also chunk up the day into blocks. They are loosely tied to times, because when I don’t, I tend to think time expands to fit all I want to shove in. So, I list out my “blocks” and then I write up to 5 things that I want to happen in those blocks – those small things that I want to build as habits that will make our days run more smoothly.
This is my example for Summer Term, but I tweak it every break week:
These are the little tasks I am likely to neglect but I want built into a specific time-trigger so they actually happen. This way I have to tell myself, “No email until lunch” and then there’s a place there to deal with it. Likewise, I can say, “Don’t worry about the messy living room, it’ll all get put away at 5.”
A Day’s Flow Chart
Kendra Fletcher was the first one I heard referring to her daily plan not so much as a schedule but as a flow chart. I thought – once again – that she was brilliant.
Although I make the plan in time boxes, what we really implement in the moment is a flow chart. It is not, “breakfast from 7-7:30” so at 7:30 your bowl is removed out from under you. Nor is it, “chores from 7:30-8” and “start school at 8” so that if you finish your chores early you can play. That, of course, is always the children’s assumption, but logistically I have found that if once they begin a Good Play, there is only frustration and resistance on all sides if the school bell interrupts. Rather, first chores, then the next thing after that is to pick up your clipboard and choose something to begin. Usually, the kids will pick running or bike riding outside (exercise is on their list), and I think that’s a great way to begin. Oddly, having them choose that from their school checklist results in a different attitude about it than if they think they’re out there in free time and then I call them in for school. Before they head out, I give them an idea of how much time they likely have before I want to start Morning Time, and they get a fix of fresh air.
Here is a picture of our flow chart written up on the board for summer term:
I’m not sure if you can read that. It says: Morning Flow: breakfast –> morning things –> clipboard –> Convocation (Morning Time) –> math –> free time. And the next one says: Afternoon Flow: boys to clipboard, Ilse & Knox at couch w/ Mom –> Jaeger’s tutoring time –> Latin workshop –> Hans’ tutoring time. “Latin workshop” is just a more fun name for me sitting at the table with both Hans & Jaeger, with all three of us doing our Latin at the same time, so if anyone needs help, I’m ready and in that mode.
The flow is on the board, but I’ve found my readers all do better when they have a picture of what the day holds. So I do have a loose “schedule” up on the board, too. It’s purposefully not boxed, to show that these are loose time frames, always subject to adjustment due to toddler meltdowns, basement leaks, bad attitudes, and the like.
It works for me! This is the way I’ve been doing it for several years now and it’s definitely a good feeling to have a method that works, especially when it allows for copious tweaking within the same structure and approach.