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We humans have been shaped over the millennia by the rhythmic rotation of the earth, by the diurnal dance of day and night.  We have been formed by the rosy shadings of light at dawn, and by nighttime's reply as scarlet and violet descend into velvet black... Day by day our world shifts imperceptibly, moving inexorably from spring's first blossom toward a world glittering in ice diamonds.  Both the rapture and the travails of this cycle have formed our human psyche... Our children, who live closer to basics than we do, are profoundly affected by the life rhythms we determine for them.  Many problems we experience with our children can be addressed by setting a simple daily rhythm that allows their needs to be met in a timely way.
                                                                                                                                                         -Sharifa Oppenheimer

Finding a Rhythm

Children thrive on repetition.  Having a steady rhythm is also an important foundation in our own lives and leads to a more peaceful home.  When Yummy was a baby, our days were often formless, since I didn't really know what to do to entertain a baby.  Other than having a consistent nap schedule, we drifted spontaneously through the days.  This wasn't such a big deal while Yummy was crawling around, but as she got older I could see that we would benefit from more stability.  

Two parenting books encouraged me to create a routine for our family: Steady Days by Jamie Martin and Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer (links at the bottom of this post!).  I could relate to what Jamie Martin says in Chapter 6, "I noticed that my day with my children quickly turned to chaos if I didn't have a plan...I became frazzled and less patient with them -I didn't like myself that way... My motive behind [my routine] is not to control my children, but to give them my best."  Both books are excellent resources not only for how to implement consistent routines, but they both also have lots of ideas of what you might like to schedule into your routine (household chores, structured play, bedtime stories, etc).  

Daily Rhythms

Now that the busy-ness of summer and harvest have passed, we are getting back into our weekly rhythm around here.  After reading Steady Days a few years ago, I've used the free Steady Routine worksheet from Jamie Martin's website to mark out our daily schedule.  Having a separate column for me and each of the kids is a bit of a dream for a brain like mine that thrives on obsessive organization.  We don't always stick to the schedule (I don't think that is possible with kids; life can be unpredictable), but having it laid out like this reminds me of the goals I have for me and my kids and makes sure I have opportunities to pursue them (like making time each day for outdoor play -both me and the kids are SO much happier when we get out into the fresh air at least for a few minutes).

A Day In The Life

Here is a peek at what we do all day at our house.  And yes, I totally schedule in free play. 
Having a weekly schedule gives our stay-at-home lifestyle a sense of rhythm, as well as room for change and spontaneity.  I also head into town once a week to get groceries, and since that day seems to change every week, that activity is just skipped over for the week.  Here is a simple version of our weekly schedule (the one I share with Yummy):

A Week in The Life

Monday: Art Activity & Dance Lessons (in town)
Tuesday: Mom's Group (and supervised playtime for the kids)
Wednesday: Games & Storytelling
Thursday: Sensory Play & Bathroom Cleaning
Friday: Exercise
Saturday: Workroom Time
Sunday: Church
Helping me clean the bathroom with their own spray bottles (water & sweet orange essential oil).

Easy & Low-Prep Activities

Sometimes I plan specific activities for these days, ones that take planning and preparation.  For example, I plan a painting project for Monday, introduce a new game I've assembled for Wednesday, or create an outdoors Scavenger Hunt for Friday.  But to make this weekly routine do-able and sustainable for me, I make sure there are lots of easy, low-prep activites for each day as well.  Here are some of those:
Art Activities: colouring book pages, cut and glue pretty paper, Melissa & Doug fashion design kit
Games: Memory, The Very Hungry Caterpillar Card Game, The Rainbow Fish Lotto
Storytelling: read books together, use the story dice I made for Yummy's birthday
Sensory Play: pre-made sensory bins, play-dough, special bath time(coloured or scented water)
Exercise: go for a walk, have a dance party, printable Volcano Shape Game, dance with theJust Dance 2 game on our PS3

Playing The Rainbow Fish Lotto                                            Painting in Art Journals

My Goals for My Kids

If you are wondering how these kinds of activities meet the goals I have for my kids, I have some examples for you!

First of all, my goals (not an exhaustive list!):

I want my kids...

...to love and/or appreciate art and making things
...to be able to interact with other kids and form healthy friendships
...to be able to be apart from me for a while now and then and not freak out
...to be happy and confident with who they are 
...to be creative and imaginative
...to love reading and understand what a great way it is to entertain themselves
...to have responsible and know how to take care of themselves and where they live
...to have strong and healthy bodies
...to get along with each other and value their brother-sister friendship
...to play and work on their own things beside me while I work 
...to know and love God

How do the activities fulfill the goals?

I chose activities to fill our schedule that I know will directly link to my goals.  We make art at least once a week, because I love it and I know that making things will develop their creativity and confidence.  I make sure we have extra reading time (other than those precious bedtime stories) to encourage that love of stories, imagination, and independency.  Games help them learn to take turns and share which is important in building friendships (and they also learn about colours, directions, matching, follow instructions, etc...).  Sensory play encourages them to learn with their senses and understand their bodies.  Exercise will help make those bodies strong and healthy.  And the Saturday workroom time gives them a chance to play and work independently while I have a bit of time to do my own work.   
Developing this routine has taken a few years and, like I mentioned, we don't always stick to it 100%.  If you don't have a daily or weekly rhythm yet, don't feel overwhelmed!  To get started, just try adding one thing into your day or week, then let it fit into your life for a while before adding in something new.

If you do have a daily or weekly rhythm, leave a comment: I'd love to hear how you fill your days!  I am always curious how other people make it through the days with their kids (since I am not always sure how I get through my own -ha!).

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Ducks 'n a Row

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