Monday, September 17, 2007

Differentiating the Days

I'm not very big on schedules or routines. So when I first left my job to home/un preschool my twins full-time, the days just tumbled one after the other in chaotic succession. We did a ton of traveling, went on a ton of outings, did lots of activities. But there was no particular rhythm to any of it ... and I felt pretty overwhelmed and exhausted most of the time.

Worse, I'd find I couldn't begin to remember what I done the week or month before; the days all seemed the same, and I could sense I would soon be feeling lost.

My first step in getting a better handle on my time was setting up a big dry-erase calendar, partly to keep track of upcoming events, from playdates to nights out, but just as importantly to keep track of what we had done. I jot down a few things about each day -- "playdough, car painting, Camel Playground, pizza with Amy and Efrem" -- just enough to fix each day in memory. It helped immensely: I no longer seemed to be drifting from one undifferentiated day to another, and I could look back over what we had done with much more clarity.

This fall I'm going two steps farther. I'm building a few regular weekly activities into our schedule, and I'm sketching out more ideas in advance of what else to do each week. We're still very loose by anyone's standards, but suddenly both I and my kids have much more of a mental road map to go by: Tuesdays are when a whole passel of kids and parents come over to play; Wednesdays we go to music class in the morning; Thursdays we generally take a day trip somewhere. Perhaps the key to the whole set-up is the regular event I've scheduled for Mondays: a babysitter, to give me a chance to get organized, catch my breath, and have some precious chunks of time to myself.

Spending the preschool years with your kid(s) full-time can be delightful and transformative for everyone involved; it's also grueling. Giving a bit more form to the days and weeks, I've found, makes it all a crucial bit easier.


Why Take a "Break"? said...

Leslie--I *love* your blog. I'm passing it along to some friends with younger kids. I'm sure they'll find some great inspiration here.

Izzy's Mama said...

Not only is differentiating the days important for you but it is also essential for your children. They do thrive on routines and this enables them to look forward to certain activities and rituals.

CE said...

I really enjoy this blog. I have a toddler at home and we're unschoolers. I've been looking for ways to foster her own exploration and learning into our routines, especially with big brother's many activities.

Keep up the great posts.

Leslie Kauffman said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. Lynn, it was really great running into you the other day -- I've checked out your blog, too, and it makes me wish I had time to cook! (Mac n cheese and pesto pasta don't count.) Somehow twin "helpers" make complex meal preparation more stressful than relaxing ...

But to follow up on your comment that children thrive on routines, this is something I've heard people say many times. I always wonder, though, what they really mean.

Do you think that routines make children happier and more creative? Enable them to learn better? Do routines make them more secure, or is it mainly that they make them more manageable? Are there any studies about the effects of routines on child development?

I dunno, maybe I should just do a post on this question ... I'm definitely finding *some* routine to be helpful for me, and my kids, but I always wonder how much of the "kids thrive on routine" advice actually derives from the fact that adult wage slaves are forced to adapt to routine....

Izzy's Mama said...


I don't know of any studies regarding children and routines, however my experiences as a teacher and with my son have led me to that conclusion. I believe that routines provide comfort and security for children and without them the world can feel chaotic. The routines need not be rigid and can certainly be altered by occasional detours and surprises.

As a teacher it is impossible to guide learning without creating a routine for the children. Once they are comfortable and know what is expected in the classroom, they have more freedom to explore and work with one another.

With my son I feel that planning our days is more satisfying for both of us. We both awake with anticipation for what is to come. I certainly hope that the routines I create with Izzy don't resemble the 9-5 adult world and instead allow him to be a grounded and content child.

As far as cooking with twins, you need not do anything complex. Izzy and I mostly cook rather simple things. If you approach cooking the same way you seem to do with other activities, I think you and the twins will cook up some delicious meals!

Anonymous said...

hi there,

i bumped into your posts today , and i'm immediately hooked :)

i have started to work on a website for preschoolers , and i would definately love to have more varied thoughts like yours.