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As a mom, life can be crazy! Interruptions happen often and rarely do your days go as expected. If you’re working on a traditional time-based schedule, it won’t take long for things to go haywire. That’s why I use flexible routine blocks to get more done.
Because, when your schedule depends on the time, things like:
- Being up most of the night with a sick child
- A teething baby who is cranky and needs held more often
- Dinner taking longer than expected to cook
Can all throw your schedule completely off track.
One unexpected delay, and you’re back to replanning your ENTIRE schedule.
Then just when you think you have the rest of your day sorted out, another interruption happens. And you’re back to the drawing board.
It used to drive me crazy. I’d be constantly evaluating and prioritizing as the day went on. And all that extra thinking caused mental overload.
Soon I’d get so frazzled trying to figure out where I was on my schedule that I’d just throw the whole thing out the window and wing it.
Which typically meant very little actually got done.
Thankfully, I found a better way. A way to allow our daily schedule to flex around the unexpected.
Since ditching my schedule and implementing this schedule, here are four key benefits I’ve noticed:
- The kids know what to expect and are more independent
- My personal productivity has soared
- My brain no longer feels as overloaded because I’ve premade many decisions about the day
- Our days run more smoothly
I call it a Flexible Routine Block Schedule. This post will walk you through creating your own.
What Are Flexible Routine Blocks?
Flexible routine blocks are activities you do daily (or nearly every day).
Like an actual block, you can pick up a single piece of your day, and rearrange it as necessary. You can move it around, and know that whenever it happens, it will look the same.
They are also chunks of time where you teach your children what to expect. The goal is to teach your children what each of your blocks look like.
Then when you put your routine together, they will know what to expect AND how to do it.
Examples of Flexible Routine Blocks
Here are some of the Flexible Routine Blocks my family is currently using. Hopefully this will help paint a clearer picture about what I’m talking about.
Chores are a great candidate for flexible routine blocks. You can work with your kids to learn what they need to accomplish and teach them to ensure they know how. Then they can work more independently on them.
You’ll need to decide what you want your kids to do in the morning. During this time we:
- Get dressed and take care of personal hygiene
- Clean bedrooms and make beds
- Gather dirty laundry and start a load
- Do our assigned “bathroom chore” to keep the bathroom clean
- Feed and water the animals
It’s also the time I get the younger kids ready for the day and ensure they’re engaged in an activity so they aren’t making more messes while everyone else is cleaning.
After every meal, we take time for table chores. These include tasks like:
- Loading/unloading the dishwasher
- Wiping counters
- Putting food away
- Wiping the table and chairs
I’ve assigned everyone a task or two to help clean up. Then they keep their task for a year.
Everyone gets a book (or a couple) and sits down to read for a few minutes.
Then we share what we read and put the books away.
Family Writing Time
During Family Writing Time, I work on writing or tasks for my blog. My kids each work on an engaging activity such as writing a story, drawing a picture, playing with a literacy activity, or creating an animation.
When the timer beeps, we clean up and share what we did.
Family Play Time
My kids take turns picking an activity for us to do before Quiet Time. We play together and have a fun time.
The littles take a nap and everyone else works or plays quietly. Everyone is in a different part of the house to minimize squabbles.
My kids each have a list of quiet time activities they can pick from, so we don’t have arguments about what they can or cannot do.
I start our cleanup playlist, then grab a broom and start sweeping everything into a pile. The kids grab out the good stuff and put it away. Then I throw the rest away. If we finish before the music ends, we take care of other small cleaning tasks. (This method of quick clean has helped so much!)
End of Day Pickup
Before my husband gets home, we take a few minutes to:
- Get the day’s laundry put away
- Clear off the table for dinner
- Pick up the playroom and hallway upstairs
- Make sure dinner is started
Brainstorm Your Own Flexible Routine Blocks
Your day will look different from mine. You have different responsibilities and priorities. That means you can’t just take my routine blocks and expect them to work well for your family.
So, now it’s time to start building your own flexible routine block schedule. It’s time to brainstorm.
Think about the activities in your day. What ones would be good candidates to turn into routine blocks?
Remember these are the backbone of your schedule. You can fill in the rest of the day around these items, so you don’t need to account for EVERYTHING in your day.
Also, these are not set in stone. You can always revisit them and make adjustments as you figure out what works best in your household.
Teach the Blocks
Once you have some routine blocks figured out, it’s time to start teaching your kids what to expect during these times.
How you do this will depend on the age of your kids. Here are some suggestions to help:
- Use picture cards to show each primary step
- Write down reminders (this works well for chores – write down each one your child is responsible for)
- Use the I Do, We Do, You Do method
- Praise for good attempts and successes
- Remember to use age appropriate tasks so you aren’t asking your child to do too much
It takes a while, so don’t expect this to happen immediately. I typically spend a month each year teaching my kids the new annual routine blocks. This gives plenty of time to practice before I expect them to be independent. It’s what we’re doing right now, before jumping back into our new homeschool routine.
And once they get their tasks figured out, it’s important to still check that they’re getting them done. Because if the kids realize you’re no longer checking up on them, they might try to see how little they can get away with doing.
Having a bunch of routine blocks won’t do you much good if you don’t utilize them. So now it’s time to put your blocks together.
Since each day brings a different set of responsibilities, my family makes a plan of the day each and every day.
During breakfast, the kids and I gather around the table to talk about what needs done. This is when we get the basic order to our day figured out.
We might have a day that looks like this:
- Breakfast Table Chores
- Morning Chores
- Bible Time
- School Time (with assignments passed out during our plan of the day)
- Free Time while Mom works
- Lunch & Table Chores
- Family Play Time
- 15 Minute Cleanup
- Quiet Time
- Reading Time
- Family Writing Time
- End of Day Cleanup
- Dinner Prep
- Dinner & Table Chores
- Time with Dad
Other days, we might have an appointment in town and need to cut back. So those days might look like this:
- Breakfast Table Chores
- Morning Chores
- School Time (with assignments passed out during plan of the day)
- Leave for Appointment
- Eat lunch in town
- Get Home for Family Play Time
- Short Quiet Time
- 15 Minute Cleanup
- Dinner Prep
- Dinner & Table Chores
- Time with Dad
By planning each day as it comes, we can better fit in what we can. We can be proactive in cutting things out instead of always being reactive.
You only have a set amount of time each day, so make sure you get the most of it!
Prepare for a Plan of the Day
Before I meet with the kids, I spend a few minutes preparing. That way I have a better idea of what’s going on before I start getting the kids’ input. This makes our plans more realistic so I’m not saying yes to something we don’t have time for.
Here are four things to do while you’re preparing:
- Check the calendar
- Scan your email to make sure there aren’t any last-minute things you need to accomplish
- Make a list of your top three or five priorities for the day
- Figure out what’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack (I refer to my annual meal plan to make it simple!)
Then, when it’s time for the meeting, I’m prepared and can answer questions my kids have about the day more easily.
Our Plan of the Day Meetings
While the kids are eating breakfast, I transition the conversation to our Plan of the Day meeting.
I share my priorities for the day, plus any abnormal events for the day (appointments, dinner at Grandma’s, etc.).
I’ve learned the more I share with the kids, the better their behavior. When they know what to expect, I’m not throwing constant surprises at them.
Then I ask my kids what they need to get done. We talk about school assignments, chores, and other responsibilities (homework for Sunday School, write a letter to a pen pal, etc.)
I also ask what they’d like to do. Typically, their answers involve playing a certain game, riding a bike, or working on a puzzle. I encourage the kids to remember these things during Free Time or Quiet Time.
Then we work together to build that day’s routine. We talk through the order of events, and what needs to be accomplished. We also schedule in time for playing together, because that’s important for all of us.
And then once we have our day planned, we jump right in. Everyone knows what to expect and they can work independently on many of their tasks.
When Life Happens
No matter how much you plan, sometimes life happens and your plan falls apart. When this happens, I take a moment to regroup. I evaluate what blocks are left in our day, and what we can move around, shorten, or drop.
Then, I call the kids together and we update our plan.
When I forget to update the kids, it doesn’t go well. They get frustrated that what they thought we were going to do got scrapped, and they feel left out of the loop. It’s so much easier just to update them all at once and move forward together.
Here’s a whole post on what to do when you’re dealing with one of “those days” as a WAHM.
Let Flexible Routine Blocks Form the Backbone of Your Daily Schedule
Once your kids know what each routine block looks like, your days will run more smoothly. You won’t be barking out orders like a drill sergeant, or having to make so many last-minute decisions.
Now is when the benefits of this style of planning really become noticeable. They form the flexible backbone of your daily schedule.
You can move them around, and change their order, but they still look the same. No matter when we do a 15-minute cleanup, my kids know what needs done.
Feel free to move your blocks around throughout the week. If you have an assignment due at noon, add a free time block for the kids in the morning, and move morning chores to right before lunch. The kids can lounge in their pajamas and have fun for a bit longer, and you can get your work done.
If you have an afternoon doctor appointment, move your family playtime up to after morning chores.
Teaching your kids to be flexible like this will be beneficial for them throughout their lives.
So, if you’re struggling to get things done each day, I definitely recommend implementing some flexible routine blocks. They’ve been a game changer around here!
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