I posted the other day about routines and habits, mostly in reference to habits. Today I have been grateful for routines because I just didn’t feel like doing school today. I didn’t want to corral the children and work through lessons, cook meals, wash laundry, and do all the things that must happen in a family with so many little ones. Thanks to our routines we did school anyway. It was easier to follow our Wednesday routine than to come up with something else for us to do. A few weeks ago I printed out little charts for each day of the week that remind us what our routines are. After making sure the routines were realistic I laminated them. They don’t photograph very well, so squint at the picture a bit and use your imagination. These are my lifesaver, my brain on these days when all I want to do is curl up on the couch and nap. Days when I just don’t have the energy I need.
At our house Monday/Wednesday/Friday are science days. All I had to do today was hand Makayla her assignment sheet and she headed off happily to learn more about her current interest – chimpanzees and Jane Goodall. She read a chapter in two books and created a lapbook piece with a venn diagram comparing and contrasting human babies with chimpanzee babies. (Amazing the things you learn – like a chimp gives birth in a tree! No thank you, I’ll stay firmly on the ground when I’m in labor if you don’t mind.)
I grabbed one of the activities I had printed to go with the younger children’s study of hermit crabs, two books from the pile we’ll be reading, and gathered the rest of my little ones around me to snuggle up, read, and create. We learned about a crab changing shells (why they do it, how, and that they need specific shells to fit their body’s curve). We read A House for Hermit Crab for a second time and then they made paper dolls for most of the characters in the book.
The children themselves thrive on routine. They know the day will be a balance of work, play, and food. Often they are the ones grabbing the laminated routine to see what we should do next. Their enthusiasm motivates me to keep going, to do the next thing. Today they pulled me to the couch for history, begging to get started because we were on the last two chapters of the story. Then they spent the next 15 minutes reliving the story and deciding what were the best parts.
Routine can sometimes equal boring but they also equal sanity in a large family with lots of little ones. Sanity is very important – just ask my children. They much prefer a nice, calm mommy instead of the crazy lady that appears when all our routines get dumped for more than a day or two.
Routines also offer us flexibility. I know that if we have been faithfully working through our routines for a while that taking a day off to play or huddle together during illness won’t put us in danger of drowning in dirty dishes. I know that we can let go of a science or history lesson to go with a real-life opportunity that has been dropped in our laps. I have learned to be the master of the routine, not the slave.
What do you do on the days when you just want to curl up and hide? Does your family run on routine or is everyone left floundering when mom is too worn out to direct the home?