We’re down to the last few days of distance-learning, thankfully. Though we’re happy to transition from the end-of-the-school year to summer break, we aren’t going to ditch our quarantine routine. No way, not happening. As much as I would love to have a free-for-all summer where my kids happily occupy themselves for three solid months, I know that will absolutely not pan out.
We currently have a routine in place that not only works, but my kids and I thrive on it. Why would we give that up just because the school year is over and we turn the calendar page to June? If it isn’t broke, why fix it? I spent a solid month coming up with and teaching my kids how to implement a balanced routine where they understood what was expected of them, when, and why. There’s no way I’m going to uproot our system just because it’s warmer outside and school is out.
The day before our schools shut down, I got out a notebook and wrote out what each kid would need to do and when. It was ridiculously detailed and unrealistic, but at the time, it made me feel like I had some control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. A few days into e-learning, I realized my routine was unattainable. We then opted to simplify it, drastically, without eliminating it. Yes, we struck a happy and necessary balance. Kids (and moms with anxiety, like me) thrive on predictability and structure.
As a mom of four, there are really two options for our family. We can either let everything go, giving in to a home that resembles a chaotic circus, or we can create a routine. There really is no in-between. I want my kids to be able to glance at the routine, which is hung up on our pantry door, and follow it fairly independently. I wasn’t down with running some sort of boot camp for kids where I laid out what they should do every minute of every day. No, thanks.
It has taken us over two months to get comfortable and acclimated to our routine, but it’s working. My kids know each morning starts with breakfast, teeth brushing, and getting dressed. After that, they need to start on their school work. In the summer, we will move from school-issued activities to some learning skills they each need practice. After a short work session, we have “recess,” where we go outside and ride bikes and play basketball. They usually have a popsicle, too.
After we get some serious gross motor in, we pop back inside for chores. Yes, my kids do chores. They are each assigned two tasks a day, which are also hung up on the pantry door. They are totally doable. I’m not the family maid, and I cannot possibly do everything for everyone. Chores teach children responsibility and teamwork.
If we have time, we squeeze in a little more school work before lunch. As soon as we clear our places, we have more “recess.” Kids who do too much sitting often have trouble focusing and can become irritable. No, thanks. After “recess,” we read for a half hour. Because we haven’t been able to go to the library as we normally would, my kids are swapping books with each other. This is sacred time, because for the first time in years, I’m plopping my butt down on the couch to read, too.
After this, we do another chore and wrap up school work before afternoon snack. My kids are like sharks unless I have a meal and snack times set up. Our snacks, mind you, are basically meals. My kids eat a lot. They eat, then we close down the kitchen to have recess again. In summer, this means water play. When it gets too unbearable to go outside, as it will here in the Midwest, we do yoga or dance videos.
My kids are usually showered, in pajamas, and ready to chill by 4:30 or 5:00 each evening. Only after they’ve completed their daily responsibilities do we allow some screen time. I thought I’d face a lot of resistance to this, but they actually love it. They know exactly when they get some screen time and how they can make that happen for themselves. My husband and I work on dinner while the kids happily zone out. We have dinner together, and then it’s time for a movie and then bed.
Yes, I would love to be one of those moms who does everything on a whim, but with four kids, some of whom have special needs, it’s not happening. Predictability via a routine helps us all feel safer and more stable. Plus, without the usual running around due to extracurricular summer activities being canceled, it’s up to us to entertain the kids on our own. It’s a big task, but we’ve had two months of training so far, preparing us for the long summer months.
Despite the routine, my kids are still going to bicker, they’re going to complain about snack options, and I’m going to struggle to find time to get my work done. Our routine isn’t some sort of magical unicorn providing us with all-things-peace-and-productivity. But does it help? Absolutely. It helps a lot.
This entire COVID-19 situation has stressful and challenging, but we’re trying to make the most of it. The alternative is to be miserable and live in a state of chaos which doesn’t make any of us happy. Our quarantine routine has provided our family with the stability we crave and thrive on.